The context in which we find ourselves – heart-wrenching scenes from Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, West Africa, Ferguson, MO, etc. – has led me, once again, to ponder how our communal praying and our lived lives in this world intersect. One of the “liturgical lacunae” I have worried about for a while now is that we seldom, if ever, take seriously Jesus’s command to pray for our enemies (Mt 5:44).
A prayer text I was sent during the last Triduum brought this home for me forcefully. The prayer was a solemn intercession that a priest, who is both friend and colleague, had felt compelled to insert into the Good Friday intercessions, in obedience to Jesus’ command. The prayer intention was for “enemies of all that is good” and went something like this: Let us also pray for all those who refuse to love and be reconciled, those who inflict violence and sow enmity, those who destroy peace and profit from war, those who shed blood and disregard human rights. The prayer itself then essentially asked for the grace of conversion for these enemies, for the strength to turn away from evil and toward the good.
I wish we would add such a prayer to our Sunday intercessions. I know one of the persons I would hold in prayer: the young hooded British man who beheaded the photojournalist James Foley.