Today’s readings have one obvious theme that the Church, in her wisdom, asks us to reflect on immediately before we begin the holy season of Lent: hate, love, and forgiveness. 

The Old Testament book of Leviticus, the book of the Law, gives the command from the Lord through Moses: 

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, 
do not incur sin because of him. 
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. 
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

This is, of course, easier said than done. All of us have people whom we do not like, no matter how open and kind we try to be. How do we deal with the people whom we simply don’t like? What do we need to get by? Recognize the dignity that each of us have as being created in the image and likeness of God, be humble and be patient.

Recognizing that each of us is created in God’s image and likeness, despite the presence of original sin — washed away through the sacrament of baptism — and actual sin, both personal and social in our fallen world, we know every human being is fundamentally good. Even the people who annoy us and who have hurt us are still made in the image and likeness of God.

People are generally good. On this, Pope Francis says: “From my point of view, God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us.” Recognize the presence of God within us.

The second thing we need to do is be humble. No one is perfect, certainly not me! Who drives us crazy and why do they drive us crazy? How much of their behavior is actually offensive, or how much are we projecting? That is not to say that some people are not nasty and antagonistic; some people are annoying. We can’t be best friends with everyone — we don’t have to like everyone; but we do have to love them.

There is a tremendous difference between liking someone and loving someone. Liking someone means finding something appealing and attractive about them; loving someone means willing the affective good for them. 

Sometimes people in our lives can be occasions of sin; I’m not speaking about lustful temptation, but some people can bring out the worst in us. Be kind, be courteous and keep moving might be the best advice in dealing with these people. 

However, sometimes the problem isn’t with the other; it’s with us! Sometimes we don’t like someone because they remind us of ourselves, of things we don’t like about ourselves and we project this onto the other person.

Sometimes people whom we dislike might remind us of someone who had hurt us years ago, someone from our earlier life. We’re not perfect. Listen to the words of Pope Francis: “If we can develop a truly humble attitude, we can change the world.” Do you want to change the world? Be humble!
Finally, be patient, both with ourselves and others. What’s at the root of impatience? Two things: first, a desire to control, and second, a lack of trust in God’s plan. We all desire to be the master of our own destiny. What is at the basis of original sin? Failure to remember that God is God and we are not, and thank God for that! God’s in charge, not us. Again, Pope Francis tells us: “Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

At the root of impatience, I think, is a lack of trust in God that comes from fear. We can be afraid that God doesn’t have our back. Nothing can be further from the truth! Be not afraid. 

If we recognize the dignity of each person, and practice humility and patience, our relationships with God, others and self, will be so much richer!
May the words of Dr. Martin Luther King resonate in our hearts and minds this week:

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from “Loving Your Enemies”)”