We all know that we are called to love one another with all of our minds, souls, bodies and hearts (cf. Luke 10:27). We also know that when we are in relationships love is the binding force that brings us closer and closer together.

In Christ, we find that this love takes on a new character, and a new effect. Saint Maximos the Confessor explains these two aspects in this way: “The Lord says, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you” (Saint Maximos the Confessor, 400 chapters on love, Chapter 61 of 400).

This simple exhortation from Saint Maximos is so striking because it cuts to the core of spiritual difficulties, the most daunting being loving those whom we hate, or who are our enemies, or those who persecute us. It is when we purposefully turn our love towards the most difficult people or situations that a whole new level of growth happens in our spiritual lives. The effect of this type of love is “so that he might [be] free…from hate, sadness, anger, and grudges.” (Ibid)

A perfect love, a love that extends to those whom we have the most difficult time relating to, is a love that leads to freedom. When faced with difficult relationships, we are called by Christ to turn to love, through doing good and praying for those who we may be in adversity to.

Interestingly, when love is approached this way, by extending it to those who bother us, we gain the “greatest possession of all, perfect love” (Ibid). To possess a perfect love would be the greatest possession of our lives. To be able to extend love through good deeds and prayer to those with whom we are in confrontation would be the greatest display of Christ-like love. It would be akin to what Christ did on the Cross, extending His hands to take on the sins of the world.

As we face difficulties, trials, and tribulations, we have love in our corner. A love that is beyond describing. A perfect love that faces the tumult of this world and embraces it with perfect self-denial…rather, an other-accepting. Through accepting the other, embracing the other, we find ourselves in true freedom. A freedom full of love, where no evil or negativity can penetrate. A realization of heaven, of the embrace of God, the bosom of Abraham.

May He who loved His enemies so much so as to give up His Body for their salvation, Christ our True God, enlighten our hearts and minds to show love to all of those that we encounter, and thereby find the purest of loves, and the purest of freedoms from the travails of life. Glory to Your Forbearance O Lord! Glory to You!