Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Kind of Christian Prays For His Enemies?!

Yesterday I changed the way I eat and exercise, with the intent of making myself healthier. Taking reasonable steps to stay healthy is okay, by the way. I checked. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2278, 2279, 2288-2291)

I've written about health and medicine before. (March 4, 2010, September 22, 2009)

But even if I got down to a 'perfect' weight and maintained a rigorous exercise regime, eventually I'm going to die. Barring some remarkable incident like the one recorded in 2 Kings 2:11. While you're at it, check out 1 Kings 1:12.

Pray? For Them?!

God is loving and good. (Catechism, 385, 2084) On the other hand, the Almighty has standards. (Catechism, 1794)

The Catholic Church teaches that we're not supposed to hate people. (Catechism, 2303) Torture is on the no-no list, too. That rule goes beyond our personal behavior: "...We must pray for the victims and their tormentors." 2298)

That "and their tormentors" part is where I think Catholic teachings start getting hard. And yes, I know: you read about the Spanish Inquisition or the Jesuit Ruling Priests of Baal, or something. I don't expect to convince a zealot, but I do suggest reading 2298 in the Catechism.

'Love Your Enemies? Who Said That?!

My Lord was, I think, fairly clear about what He expects from folks who follow him:
"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors 28 do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 29 So be perfect, 30 just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
(Matthew 5:44-48)
Clear, yes. Easy, no. In my opinion.

While I'm thinking of it, about that "tax collectors" thing. I've known some quite nice, helpful folks who worked for the IRS. That's not, I'm told, the sort of "tax collectors" my Lord had in mind. Moving on.

Prayers for the Dead

Praying for the dead is very much part of Catholic life. (Catechism, 1032, 1056, 1371, for starters) In my parish, not many Sunday Masses go by without a short prayer for a deceased parishioner.

That's the easy part, I think. Folks tend, in my opinion, to feel neighborly toward folks who lived in their neighborhood - and didn't do anything bad to them.

Like I said, that's the easy part. Jesus didn't say "pray for those who gave you warm fuzzies," though. And He didn't say "hate your enemies as much as you like."

Which brings me back to death, judgment, Heaven, Hell, all that. I'm not perfect - not even close. I'm not looking forward to my particular judgment. (Catechism, 1020-1022, 1051) And I've gone over that before. (July 27, 2010)

I rely on God's mercy. (Catechism, 1422-1473, 1846-1848) Then there's the man who prayed "...'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' " (Luke 18:13, Catechism, 2616)

Praying for Our Enemy?

A remarkable prayer request made it into yesterday's news. A tip of the hat, by the way, to thomaspringle, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this:
"Prayer request for Osama bin Laden at Catholic Church in West Palm Beach"
Marissa Bagg, (May 17, 2011)

"The name of Osama bin Laden appears in the Holy Name of Jesus Sunday bulletin. There's a cross next to it.

"A parishioner made a prayer request for the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack on America...."
The article explains why Borga, the parishioner, made the prayer request:
"...The face of Osama bin Laden is one that incites anger and hate, but Borga says, 'He needs forgiveness and compassion from God.'

"Borga says he also prayed for the families and victims of 9/11...."
Maybe this sounds corny, but I think Matthew 7:12 applies here. If I want someone to pray for the repose of my soul after I'm dead - I'd better recommend that folks do the same for others.

And do some praying, myself. Excuse me a moment, please.

For whatever it's worth, I've now prayed for the repose of Osama bin Laden's soul.

Here's why the parish priest in West Palm Beach honored the prayer request:
"...Father Gavin Badway admits many in his congregation are unhappy. But he says the church has never turned down a prayer request before. He says making the right decision isn't always easy.

" 'Their hearts are troubled because they're thinking emotionally about what he has done and he has done a lot of evil. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us, love and forgive,' says Father Badway, who is the church pastor.

"There are some Christians supporting Father Badway's decision to honor the request and pray for bin Laden's soul.

" 'I can see why they'd want to do that since the Bible does say to love your enemy and pray for those who hate you,' says Aaron Wormus...."
Father Badway's decision may not have won him praise and popularity:
"...'I think it's totally wrong, he doesn't belong in the Catholic religion. For what he did to Americans, he doesn't belong anywhere,' says Lois Pizzano, a Catholic Church member. 'It's unconscionable, it's sacrilegious,' said Pizzano....

"...If I wasn't a Catholic I wouldn't think it was right. He doesn't belong there, he doesn't belong with the American people," says Pizzaro."
But, like I wrote yesterday, being popular and being right aren't necessarily the same thing.

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