My Friend, the Enemy, Rappahannock River, Va., December 25, 1862,
Painting by Mort Künstler (born 1931),
Painted in 1989,
Oil on canvas
© Mort Künstler, all rights reserved

 

My Friend, the Enemy, Rappahannock River, Va., December 25, 1862,
Painting by Mort Künstler (born 1931),
Painted in 1989,
Oil on canvas
© Mort Künstler, all rights reserved

 

Gospel of 20 February 2022

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you

Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

Reflection on the Painting

I think it would be fair to say that when we read today’s Gospel reading prompting us to ‘love our enemies’, many of us think, ‘Oh well, I don’t really have any enemies, so the reading is not applicable to me’. I always think of enemies in this context simply as people I don’t particularly like. We all have them, and that is normal. We always warm more towards certain people, and towards others less so. We still have to love these people according to today's reading, by willing the good for them. Loving them is by not gossiping about them, wishing them good health, thriving careers, praying for their families and wishing their every success. That is why in the end loving our enemies is not such an impossible task. Loving our enemies is to choose the right intention towards the people we like less. It is not simply ignoring them or staying away from them; it is actively willing the good for these people. 

Our painting is by American artist Mort Künstler. Mort specialised in painting historical events, especially of the American Civil War. He was a child prodigy who, with encouragement from his parents, became a skilled artist by the time he was twelve. In our painting we see two enemies having a friendly chat. Countless episodes of enemy soldiers helping each other occurred during the Civil War. The artist describes that for these soldiers the war was the real enemy, and not each other. Hence after the war, the veterans came to call each other ‘My Friend, the Enemy’, the title of our painting.

We see the two soldiers being cautious but trusting towards each other. Set on Virginia’s Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, they are seen drinking together and smoking. Confederate troops exchanged Southern tobacco for the coffee ration issued to Northern soldiers. We see one drinking coffee, the other smoking a pipe, probably after having exchanged goods. These two enemies bonded as they knew that everyone has something good about them. They willed the good for each other. 

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