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Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius Loyola
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Watch these Franciscan Friars’ moving new cover song

Matthew Becklo - published on 12/09/16 - updated on 06/07/17

Can we look into the face of our enemy and see our brother?

In recent weeks, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have made their faith-filled mission known in both the music and film worlds – and they show no signs of slowing.

The friars just released a powerful new video, produced by Spirit Juice Studios, featuring a live cover of . The guitars and congas are a familiar sight, but here the brothers are accompanied by piano, strings, and vocal backup, resulting in a rich and moving expression of love and forgiveness:

When I look into the face
Of my enemy
I see my brother
I see my brother

Forgiveness is the garment
Of our courage
The power to make the peace
We long to know

Open up our eyes
To see the wounds that bind
All of humankind
May our shutter hearts
Greet the dawn of life
With charity and love

When I look into the face
Of my enemy
I see my brother
I see my brother

As I listened to this performance (which will be available on iTunes soon), I couldn’t help but think about the Christian imperative to love your enemy, and just how radical an idea that really is. Naturally, we strive to love our fellow citizens, our neighbors, and our families, to wish and work for their good. But the idea that we should love those who actively seek to hurt and even destroy us runs completely counter to some of our deepest instincts. This wasn’t something the primitive or ancient worlds conceived of (much less lived by), and it’s easy to see why. To love your enemy seems to mean working against the surviving and thriving of your own nation, your own tribe, and your own self. From a purely naturalistic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense.

Even today, over 2,000 years later, these three words are difficult ones for us to accept, Christians included. We talk about whether the commandment is oversimplified into naiveté, or really only applies to personal relationships, or whether (and when) defensive violence against an enemy is ever justified. These are good and important questions; but it’s as if, at bottom, the issue is that we can’t accept letting the words mean what they mean, or dare to think we should let them define our lives.

One man did – the one who first uttered them – and if anthropologist René Girard was right, his life is the center of all of history for just this reason. Girard argued that, from the beginning of human history, social conflicts between enemies resulted in the blaming and killing of a mutual victim, a “scapegoat,” to maintain social order. But Christian revelation stands athwart this pattern. In Christianity, an innocent Scapegoat becomes the means to reveal and subvert scapegoating itself, and a single Victim vindicates all victims. To follow the way of the Cross, then, means to step out of the endless cycle of enmity and violence that has always bedeviled human society.

Seen from this angle, the commandment is more than just radical or difficult (though it is that). It’s also unequivocal and all-encompassing. It’s not only a challenge to us to be more welcoming to people in our lives that annoy us. It’s a division of all of human history into two possible guiding forces: endlessly finding and fighting new enemies, and forgiving and loving all enemies in imitation of Christ. It’s about more than just how humanely we’re willing to live our lives; it’s about the fate of human life itself. “History, you might say, is a test for mankind,” Girard said in one interview. “But we know very well that mankind is failing that test… We must face our neighbors and declare unconditional peace.”

Seeing a brother in the face of the enemy seems so impossible, because it means loving the unlovable. But with God, all things are possible. And this is more than just an afterthought or an exercise in idealism. It’s at the heart of what Christianity wants to tell us about life, both in this world and the promised world to come.

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