Bless My Enemies, O Lord


It seems that, as recently as the 1950’s, the tiny island of Guam was home to a number of native birds who were to be found nowhere else in the world. Today, most of these species are extinct. Why?

Guam became an important stop for trading ships plying the Pacific. Some of these ships came from Australia and New Guinea. Hidden inside their holds was a dangerous predator. The brown tree snake. He was offloaded with some of the cargo. With no natural predators, the snake thrived on this unsuspecting island. His principle source of nourishment?

Eggs.

These birds were not victims of a malicious attack. They fell prey to ignorance. A villain that was unseen could not be thwarted.

I am very like these ships. Inside me lurk villains, capable of hurting those I love. Anger, bitterness, regret. I am unaware of them. Until I’m injured. Then, they come festering to the surface. And must be dealt with.

In his remarkable book, Giver of Life, Father John Oliver says I should be thankful for people who bump up against me. Who hurt me. And provoke me. Because they help the toxic sludge find a way out. And I can be made right. If I am willing.

He’s right, of course. But I have really struggled with this over the last couple of days. So I return to this prayer. I am ashamed to admit how often I need it. It is not who I am. But, it is who I would be. Perhaps, if you find yourself in a similar place, it will be helpful to you…

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.
Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.
They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.
They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.
They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself
They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.
Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.
Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.
Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.
Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.
Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

 Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return
;
so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger
;
so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;
ah,
so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.
It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand.
But a son blesses them, for he understands.
For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen

~St. Nicolai of Zica

 

*The story at the top of the post is also excerpted (and abbreviated) from Father John Oliver’s book, Giver of Life. I highly commend it to you.

**The beautiful bird in the photo is the Mariana fruit-dove, one of the species who no longer breathes upon this earth. Lord, may Your Kingdom come. Make all things right. Amen.