O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only-begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven: Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect for Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent
Once in a while, a collect will strike the heart of the one praying in a new and thought-provoking way. So it was today for me with this prayer. It says, with great care and superb economy, that by recalling the reconciling love of God in Christ, we are given the tools to love properly again. This makes it possible to love for the right reasons and in the right way. No longer do we love our friends or our ideals somehow in a separate category from our love for God, but in and because of that love. This will challenge anything in us that wants to love another apart from God… the beginning of idolatry.
This collect also gives us a limpid lens through which to learn to love our enemies, or those we have come to call “our enemies,” for most of our enemies are really of our own imaginings. We will only be able to do this “for Christ’s sake.” Not as a cry of being fed-up (“now, for Christ’s sake, listen to me!”), but as the way to gain freedom from the prison of our own unforgiveness. This is what is at stake, as the Lord’s Prayer makes perfectly clear, when it reminds us that our being forgiven depends on our being willing to forgive the other. When such forgiveness is truly costly, truly profound, there is but one source big enough to overwhelm our sorrow, our loss and sense of violation: the complete love of God in Christ on the Cross. This collect returns us to this, the Throne of Mercy, the one balm for the broken soul.