Forgiveness, Love, and the Eucharist
Father Henri Nouwen
I find it difficult to conceive of a more concrete way to love than by praying for one’s enemies. It makes you conscious of the hard fact that, in God’s eyes, you’re no more and no less worthy of being loved than any other person, and it creates an awareness of profound solidarity with all other human beings. It creates in you a world-embracing compassion and provides you in increasing measure with a heart free of the compulsive urge to coercion and violence. And you’ll be delighted to discover that you can no longer remain angry with people for whom you’ve really and truly prayed. You will find that you start speaking differently to them or about them, and that you’re actually willing to do well to those who’ve offended you in some way…
Whenever you receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist his love is given to you – the same love that he showed on the cross. It is the love of God for all people of all times and places, and religions and creeds, all races and classes, all tribes and nations, all sinners and saints.
On the cross Jesus has shown us how far God’s love goes. It’s a love which embraces even those who crucified him. When Jesus is hanging nailed to the cross, totally broken and stripped of everything, he still prays for his executioners: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus’ love for his enemies knows no bounds. He prays even for those who are putting him to death. It is this, the enemy-loving of God, that is offered to us in the Eucharist. To forgive our enemies doesn’t lie within our power. That is a divine gift. That’s why it’s so important to make the Eucharist the heart and center of your life. It’s there that you receive the love which empowers you to take the way that Jesus has taken before you; a narrow way, a painful way, but the way that gives you true joy and peace and enables you to make the non-violent love of God visible in the world.
Father Nouwen (died 1996) was a Dutch priest who lived a number of years in the United States and Canada and who wrote many best-selling books on spirituality.)