Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love of Neighbor (Lenten Meditations Part 3)

Third Point

Consider, my soul, the means that you must take to suitably practice this virtue of charity or love for your neighbor.

(1) Do not of set purpose dwell on his faults and defects – On the contrary, consider the good with which God has favored him. If you do not see something in him that can move you to highly respect him, consider that he is an image of God, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ and made for Heaven.

Consider perhaps in Heaven he will have more glory than you, and that even if today he may be evil, perhaps he will become converted, will do penance, will become fervent, and will gain more merit than you will – as happened with St. Paul, with St. Mary Magdalene, with the Samaritan woman, and others.

(2) One must distinguish the sin from the sinner – Sin should be abhorred, but the sinner should be loved. When you see someone who has committed a crime, reflect that if you had been placed in the temptation he was in, you might have committed the same sin as he, and that if he were in your position, assisted by the grace with which God assists you, he might be better than you are.
Therefore do not murmur about your neighbor. Fear God. Reflect that the weakness one person has, another can have, and that you will fall into the sin into which your neighbor has fallen if God does not help you in a special way. Moreover, not seldom does it happen that God permits us or our immediate kinsmen to fall into the same fault which we censure in others. Thus we should treat other as we would want to be treated if we had fallen into those faults.

(3) To preserve charity we must also fulfill the obligations called for by our state in life, our office, and our power to do good – It is not seldom that displeasure, quarrels, and abusive remarks come about from failure to meet obligations. In this way we trouble our parents and superiors, our equals complain, and people under us murmur and grumble when we do not fulfill the duties that pertain to us.

(4) We must also respect the interest of other people – One must not take nor desire what belongs to another. A man is more sensitive about the way he is treated as to his pocketbook, than about his blood. It not seldom happens that ties of close kinship are ruptured by a little property dispute. The same thing should be said about ties of friendship. Oh, how many friendships have been broken by petty property and money matters! How many associations began in the name of God, and due to a sordid concern over temporalities, ended in the name of the devil, who engineered a thousand lawsuits wherein charity was abandoned, peace was forfeited, and even the wealth of the persons concerned was lost.

Therefore Jesus Christ tells us in His holy Gospel not to put up resistance to the injury. If someone wants to sue us and take our tunic, we are to let him take our cloak as well. If someone strikes us on our right cheek, we are to turn to him the other. Let all be lost rather than charity…Let us leave everything in God’s hands, Who is well able to give us more than we give up and is just in seeing that our honor is restored. Let us not desire revenge. On the contrary, all who do us harm we should commend to God in imitation of Jesus.

(5) To preserve charity, not only must we respect other people’s temporal interests and their persons, but also their honor – treating everyone with politeness and thoughtfulness, not offending anyone by rudeness, inappropriate speech, nicknames, and ridicule; for such behavior is not only against charity, but discloses a spirit that is cheap, ill-bred, and unworthy of human society.

Affective Acts

I will never be angry with my neighbors. If I might sometimes feel anger, I will be silent until the trouble passes. I will never speak ill of anyone. I will not listen to those who speak ill of their neighbor. I will do what good I can to all, with the help of our Lord and the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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