This Gospel is one of the times when Christ's words let me off easy. “Love your enemies” - I don't really have any. Some people who dislike me, sure, but that's not quite on the same level. “Pray for those who persecute you” - no problem, after I finish laughing off their trick-question “proofs” against Christianity. This one comes easy. Nothing to it.
Nothing to it...until I stop and look at a Cross. At the One who loved His enemies even as they crucified Him, and prayed for His persecutors...whom I stand among; a point made explicit in Holy Week liturgies. Or I read of people such as Immaculee Iligabiza, a Rwandan woman who survived the genocide while her parents, her brothers, her friends were brutally murdered – who survived it intact, body and soul, by praying for and truly loving those who sought to find and kill her. And I know I do not, of myself, have that strength. This is where I get off, this is what I can't do, this is what I subject myself to Lent in order to learn. Lent is not something undertaken as self-hatred or self-punishment, it's a time of grace, to learn to love as Christ loved us.