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Hatred and Love: A Reflection

June 29, 2021
A Celtic Cross at our friend John’s cabin in Mentone, AL where we spent last week on retreat.

Hatred and Love… they are polar opposites; yet both phrases are dangerous when misused or misdirected. Love can quickly become sappy… can you really love chocolate in the same way that we are called to love God and neighbor? It can also become dangerous when what one person calls “love” is actually possessive, demeaning, and narcissistic.

Hatred is often projected onto a caricature of a person or group of people. In the days following the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the US, hatred for Muslims grew despite the fact that the majority of those who “hated Muslims” had never met a Muslim or even knew a Muslim who was equally as horrified by the attacks on that day.

In this increasingly polarized world, love is often replaced by “loyalty” or “blind allegiance” while hatred is often directed against anyone who doesn’t look like or think like “us.”

It is in this context that I have been contemplating my sermon (It Isn’t Easy Being a Prophet!) for this coming Sunday based on the story from Mark 6:1-13. Jesus was respected and admired by so many of the “common folks” whom the political and religious operatives ignored or condemned. Yet when Jesus came to his hometown, the reception wasn’t exactly welcoming. He said that Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house. (verse 4)

As the prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures could attest to, being a prophet or challenging the status quo wasn’t always easy. The prophets often found themselves quickly on the receiving end of hatred from a fearful people.

These words from Thomas Merton have given me much to contemplate as I explore the fear which can lead to hatred in my own heart. They also reveal a way to look at a response in love, even in the most difficult of situations.

Hate is the seed of death in my own heart,
while it seeks the death of the other.
Love is the seed of life in my own heart
when it seeks the good of the other.

from “Honorable Reader”: Reflections on my Work as found in Thomas Merton: Essential Writings (p. 89)
  1. clemencylucinda permalink

    A powerful reflection Michael, thank you.
    The older I have become, the more I realise that so much ‘hatred’, comes from a place of ignorance, fear and woundedness. And in turn, this is a symptom of alienation from our true selves, which leads on to feeling alienated from others and from the world around us.
    It is conversely the same with love. If we are unable to love ourselves in a compassionate and healthy way, we are then going to struggle to give others a compassionate and liberating form of love.

  2. This past year has been difficult to move beyond the divisions, when some of the decisions people were making, were putting other people at risk of dying or getting seriously ill from Covid. Blessings as you navigate the waters of truth and speak it in a way that reaches people.

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