Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Love of Neighbor (Lenten Meditations Part 1)

Meditations by St. Anthony Mary Claret

Composition of Place – Imagine you see Jesus Christ in the company of His Apostles and disciples and saying to them: “Love one another as I have loved you…By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:34-35). “As long as you did it to one of these brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mt. 25:40).

Prayer of Petition – Grant me, Lord, that spirit of charity whereby I would love my neighbor as myself – more than myself – that I may love him as Thou loved him, even to the extent of Thou giving Thy life for him.

First Point
You should know, my soul, that God is Love itself; God is Charity. This virtue is the greatest of virtues. It is greater than faith and hope. It is like the sun among the stars, like gold among the metals. It gives life to all the virtues. Without it no act has value for reaching Heaven – no, not even the most heroic works.

This Love, or Charity, is like the center from which rays emerge. It is like a vertex from which two lines originate, one of which leads to God and the other to one’s neighbor. These two lines and these two Commandments contain whatever the Prophets and the Law have said.

If one truly loves God, that is proof that there is love for neighbor, and the love one has for his neighbor discloses the love one has for God. He who says he loves God and does not love his neighbor, does not tell the truth, because it is impossible to love one whom we do not see, who is God, if we do not love one whom we see, namely, our brother.

Concerning this love, or charity, for your neighbors, my soul, you need to consider unhurriedly three things:

(1) What this charity is – Charity is an all-extensive virtue which embraces everyone; fellow countrymen and foreigners, friends, and enemies. It extends to everyone, embraces all, and does good to all. Therefore people who limit their love to those of their own area or those of their own nation, to those of their own sentiments, or to their friends or relatives, and are not careful to love the rest of men – such people do not have true charity.

(2) What the quality of this virtue is – The Apostle explains charity thus: “Charity is patient, is kind.” (1 Cor 13:4). It rejoices in another’s good fortune as though it were one’s own. It is resentful toward no one and speaks ill of no one. It does good to all and has sympathy for everyone. As much as is possible, it remedies the needs of all. It achieves and promotes what is good, and with all its power it hinders evil. In a word, charity encourages and cheerfully practices all the works of mercy – corporal and spiritual.

(3) By what spirit are you animated when you love your neighbor? – This is something you ought to examine, inquiring whether it is the love for God that moves you, or whether it is rather self-love. Perhaps you will find that you do not really love your neighbor. Maybe you will discover envy instead of charity, spite in place of love. See whether you grieve at your neighbor’s good fortune and are gladdened when he suffers ruin and trouble. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” says Jesus Christ.

Thus if your heart is full of love and charity for your neighbor, you will speak well of him; but if it has been emptied of charity and harbors some evil feeling of envy, spite or ill-will, you will be quick to speak ill of him; and sometimes you will grumble against him, another time criticize, another time ridicule, or exaggerate his faults, or your will downgrade his merits when you do not entirely deny them, or you might attribute them to a bad intention.

The person who is envious or uncharitable is like a spider which draws poison from the same flowers from which bees draw honey. Envious persons who are destitute of charity are like those large flying insects that are ever hunting for someone’s sores, and when they come across one, they linger on it with pleasure to suck out the pus.

Thus envious, uncharitable people are recognized by the way they pry about their neighbor’s faults and murmur about his failings. Such unhappy persons take pleasure and delight in going over such sordid affairs. You see, my soul, that you must have charity, and thus you will imitate the bee. Fashion a rich honeycomb which will be a great profit to you, an edification to your neighbor, and will serve God’s greater glory.

Affective Acts

My God, I give Thee my word that I will do all the good I can for my neighbor by offering alms, good counsel, prayers, and good example. And besides, I will meekly and humbly put up with his frailties, his peculiar traits and everything that can annoy me, and never will I grumble about offenses he may do to me. I will forgive him and pray for him, in imitation of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and My Sovereign Master, Whom I want to follow and imitate.

(to be continued...)

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" - John 15:12-13

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