Jesus asks us to love our enemies. Love of enemies has always been considered a typically Christian virtue.
It is common to love the one who loves you. The law of mutually regulates love in society: I love you, if you love me; I will be grateful to you, if you treat me well.
However, Jesus wants us to break out this “coercion of mutuality.” He wants us to love in all circumstances, to love those who do not love us, yes, even the ones who are against us. Perhaps a former friend has turned away from me. Perhaps this person has stopped loving me; still, Jesus wants me to love him or her.
Just as we used to talk about unilateral disarmament, we should be able to talk about unilateral—one-sided—love, that is, a love that doesn’t expect anything in return. In this sense, God’s love for us is often one-sided. God loves and loves while we don’t love him in return.
It is not superhuman to love in situations where you only encounter hate? Yes, it is superhuman. It is divine. But Jesus will teach us how to interact with one another in a divine way. He has come to reveal God’s “lifestyle” to us, and he wishes for this lifestyle to become ours as well. He wants us to love as God loves, who lets the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and lets it rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mt 5:45).
~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
Faith is a gift of God. Only he can bestow it, and it is a gift that he passionately desires to give us. However, he can only give it to us if we ask for it.
When we ask for faith, we are turning our face towards his face, and he can look into our heart. He loves to see us facing him, but we for some reason try to avoid this. Even while begging him for favors, we close the eyes of our soul, so as to avoid looking at him. Yet he is always looking at us, with deep love.
It is faith that allows us to enter peacefully into the dark night each of us faces at one time or another. Faith walks simply, like a child, between the darkness of human life and the hope of what is to come, “for eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God reserves for those who love him.” Faith is a kind of folly, a folly of God himself.
Faith breaks through barriers. When our face is turned to God in faith, our eyes meet his, and each day becomes more luminous. The veil between God and us becomes thinner until it seems we can almost reach out and touch him.
~ A Meditation by Catherine De Hueck Doherty
“For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38-39
There are those who wonder why Christians must talk about contemplation and mysticism when the Bible itself says nothing about it. The answer is that the Bible says a lot about contemplation. The yearning to have God show himself is a reoccurring theme in the Bible.
“Make your face shine upon your servant” (Ps 119:135). “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42:2). Or in Psalm 27: “Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.” All these texts express a yearning to behold, to contemplate God. In the New Testament, Jesus promises that he will show himself to the one who loves him and keeps his commandments (Jn 14:21).
Heaven promises to be an eternal, contemplative beholding of God. But for the one who lives a life of prayer it is possible to taste some of the happiness of this contemplation already in this life.
Still, it is not the most important thing that we get to behold God. Long before we could even fathom what it is to see God, God has seen us and let his light shine upon us.
The gift of contemplation is none other than human beings having their eyes opened to meet God’s gaze, which has rested eternally upon each one of us.
~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
When encountering suffering—whether in ourselves or in someone else—the important question is not “How can God love us when these things are allowed to happen? but rather “We know that God loves us, so what is God’s meaning in allowing such sufferings?”
‘Why doesn’t God, who is almighty, interfere?” many ask. But God’s power is the power of love. And “love” is patient, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Cor 13:4, 7).
God refuses to be dragged into the spiral of violence. If God were to use power and authority to end all evil in the world, he would be no better than we are. God does not dictate; he respects us.
God has given us the unfathomable honor of letting us be collaborators in the work of creation. He has shared his intelligence and freedom with us and let us participate in the completion of creation. That God has taken a great risk in doing so is something we experience daily.
But God has esteemed us so highly as co-creators that he doesn’t hesitate to pay the price.
If God wasn’t love, it would be easy for an all-powerful God to take away our freedom and reduce us to marionettes and mechanical puppets. Then everything in the world would be perfect. But we would also be robbed of our dignity.
~ A Meditation by Father Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.
O Lonely Christ of Charing Cross
O lonely Christ of Charing Cross, Rue de la Paix, Boulevard Anspach; O lonely Christ of a thousand celebrated thoroughfares and foreign-sounding streets. Why is it that I have to meet you here, so far from home, When I have seen you lonely, too, in Harlem and Fifth Avenue? In Edmonton, Yukon, and Portland, Oregon; in Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Kalamazoo, you were lonely too.
O lonely Christ of everywhere, why stand you there and here, so still, so sad, looking at the hurrying crowds who pass you by—Why?
Why are your eyes so full of hunger, longing, pity and compassion? Why do you lift your nail-torn hand and then let it fall again with so much sadness, as though you were a beggar about to beg, alas?
Why is it that I have to meet you across all continents, all celebrated thoroughfares, small, dingy streets and palatial avenues, as well as wild and distant places?
You answer nothing. You just look. O Christ of Charing Cross, so lonely, you weep because the multitudes are hungry for your love and know it not. And because you hunger to be loved by those who know you not.
Give me the key, Beloved, so that I may open your loneliness and, entering, share its weight. Behold my heart that you have wounded with your love. Make it a door for all to come to you. Give me your voice and words of fire that I may show them you.
We bear a tremendous responsibility for one another.
Each of us is a minister of Christ.
Each of us has to witness to him.
Everything we do, say, or even think has either a positive
or negative effect on others.
Nothing is neutral.
Bad example, carelessness about faults, lack of charity;
all these things effect the purity and love of a community.
And following from that weaken the charity of the whole Church.
St Paul entreats us no to trifle with the precious grace of God.
This grace, which is nothing less than God offering himself is available now.
Now is the acceptable time,
Now is the significant time.
If we had a lively faith, grasped this fact, we would indeed give no offence —
put no obstacle in another’s way.
Do not trifle with the precious gift of God.
~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.
For a Proud Friend, Humbled
In that least place to which all mercies come I find you now, settled in peace, at home, poor little one of Yahweh.
On your face only response of love lies, with no trace or drifting hint of what had brought you low.
Down steps of like unworthiness I go weighted with heart (and how heart can oppress!) to see you humbled into gentleness (and into innocence) so utterly.
Pray me, my blessed, into your company.
~ A poem by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (Jessica Powers), O.C.D.
It is only meaningful to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey him if he speaks.
Does God really speak to us? Are there not many people who, instead of hearing God speak, feel they are encountering absolute silence? And among those who do hear him speak, are there not a good many who are merely hearing themselves, their own thoughts and fantasies?
There are people who, no matter what they do, feel affirmed by God. If they have success, it is clear that God is with them and blessing their plans. If they have opposition, it is even more clear that they are doing right. Everything that comes from God should be marked by the Cross, they say. Did not Jesus himself fail . . . ?
Are you hearing your own voice or the voice of God? Is it you who are speaking to yourself, or are you listening to God speaking to you? Perhaps the question is not nuanced enough. It need not be a question of either/or. God can speak through your own self. And that is usually what he does, provided that you stand before him in all honesty and live from the basic attitude of wanting to do his will. As soon as you want to listen to the Holy Spirit, he becomes active in you, for no one can begin to listen to God on his own initiative. The will to listen is already a work of the Holy Spirit. “It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16), so the Spirit speaks together with our spirit about what God’s will is. The Spirit uses our deep, true self to make understand what God wills.
I am often asked the question: “Does God want me to enter a monastery?” My immediate reply is: Do you want it? Do you have the desire to enter a monastery, not only with a theoretical, abstract desire, but are you drawn there, do you believe you will be happy and find your home there? If you truly want it, it is likely that God wants it also, that he wills it through you. Then it remains to be seen if you have the necessary qualities of physical and psychological health, common sense, and a certain spiritual maturity, and if the religious community to which you are drawn wishes to accept you. A vocation consists mainly of these three elements:
(1) a personal desire; (2) the capacity to live the life; (3) a religious community that opens its doors to you.
God seldom speaks directly with audible, perceptible words. He speaks, for the most part, indirectly, via your own deep, truth-seeking will. I say “deep” will. For alongside the deep will there are many superficial “wills” , namely, all the small opposing desires that often drown out the deep will.
God also speaks through events, circumstances, encounters with other people, and through books. Much of what is happening around you contains a secret message from God. It is a question of deciphering and interpreting it. In everything that happens, you can gradually learn to recognize a You. The impersonal becomes personal. Apparently random events become personal messages from God.
God speaks uninterruptedly. He instructs, encourages, challenges, and comforts. He truly walks in our garden of Eden (cf. Gen 3:8). Yes, our life becomes again something of a paradise when we continually meet God.
If we read the Bible, it is, among other things, to learn this fact: that God is constantly speaking to us. “And God spoke to Moses and said. . . ” How often we read that phrase! It does not mean, of course, that Moses constantly heard God’s voice. But he was so in harmony with God, so completely on the same wave-length, that he thought the same thoughts as God. For the most part, we deserve this mild reproach from God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts” (Is 55:8). But that can change! We can come to the point where we think God’s thoughts, where God thinks with our understanding and loves with our heart.
We can eventually receive “the mind of Christ” (see Phil 2:5) and, like him, encounter the Father in all things. When he admired the lilies of the field and saw how the birds were fed without sowing or reaping, he saw in this the Father’s love and care (Mt 6:26-29).
When he heard talk of the collapse of the Tower of Siloam (Lk 13:4-5), he saw it as a call to conversion. In everything he met a You.
It would be wise to take few minutes each day to examine one’s conscience and ask oneself: What has God wanted to teach me today? Where have I encountered him, or where should I have encountered him?
If you object that one should consider one’s sins during the examination of conscience, I can answer that this is one of our greatest sins: that we do not recognize God, who walks in our garden.
Because people do not love, the world is a very cold place. There is lust. There is temporary commitment to what appears to be love. But real love is something else entirely.
Love is God. Love is a Person. Love is stronger than death. The heart of God calls us to give him our heart, which means to give him ourselves. We must hold nothing back. It is by loving God in the nitty-gritty routine of our daily life that we make up for the coldness of others hearts.
~ By Catherine de Hueck Doherty
“All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, the light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.” ~ John 1:4-5
Many people aren’t particularly interested in God. But there is probably no one who is not interested in love. This interest may be distorted—love can be sought where it can’t be found. Still, it is love which, more than anything, occupies us in all that we do and are.
Literature, art, theatre, movies—everything focuses on love, and it can’t be any other way. The human being has an innate longing for love; to be human is to long for love.
God is love. Where love is found, there is God. It is God who stirs this human hunger, and it is God alone who ultimately can satisfy it.
Even where God is not known, love between human beings can be deep, true, faithful. In this case, it is divine and has its origin in God. Still, the human heart can never find complete rest until it has come to know the source of love.
The source is inexhaustible. In God there is always more love to be had. And it is precisely God’s infinity that can satisfy our hunger for love. No matter how great and beautiful human love may be, it only attains its true value if we have found the origin of love.
God will not close our hearts to human love, friendship, tenderness, intimacy. But he will open your heart to the love that will never be extinguished or die, and that love exists in him.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that just as the bronze serpent was an instrument of healing, so too will the Son of Man be the source of salvation when he is lifted up on the Cross. ~ John 3:14-21.
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” This image refers to the time that God sent Seraph serpents among the people as a punishment for their complaints against God and Moses. Those who were bitten but still lived begged Moses to intercede for them. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. “And everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live” (Nm 21:9). Why would looking upon the bronze serpent bring healing? Because it symbolizes acknowledging the consequences of one’s actions. It means looking upon what we have done to ourselves and to others. This is the first step in healing. The serpent mounted on the pole is a symbol of Jesus upon the cross. On the cross we see what our sins have done. We have killed Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. As we grow older, the cross is set before our eyes more and more as our sinful past looms up before us and we see the damage that lies in the wake of our lives.
But more that an icon of our sins, the Cross is the manifestation of God’s infinite mercy. It is God’s promise that the final judgement upon our lives is mercy and forgiveness. “Christ’s death on the cross is a judgement of judgement, ” Maximus the Confessor puts it (Clement 49). How can this be otherwise? Jesus, who allowed himself to be murdered, offered his murderers forgiveness as he hung dying. In the Cross God reveals completely unmerited forgiveness.
If, when we look upon the Cross, we see only our sins, we are not looking deeply enough. Sin, which is an offense against God, cannot be separated from God’s forgiveness. Such a myopic way of looking at sin can result in what Saint Teresa considers one of the great dangers of the spiritual life—discouragement. If we look at our sins isolated from God’s mercy, we do not perceive them correctly. Teresa tells us that we should look at our sins against the backdrop of God’s mercy, as if we were looking at a black dot against a white background. Excessive introspection upon one’s sinfulness is dangerous because we see only the black dot. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “The belief that Jesus is referring to is trust in God’s mercy.
Love, I think, is an arrow shot by the will, and, freed from every pull of earth, flying straight at God with full force, it infallibly strikes His Majesty. Once it has pierced the Heart of God, absolute Love, it rebounds with immense graces…
O secrets of God! We must silence our understanding admitting that, never of itself can it fathom the greatness of God. Let us remember here Our Lady the Virgin, how she, in her great wisdom, surrendered in this way, and to her question to the angel, ‘How shall this be done?’ , received the answer: ‘The Holy Ghost will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’
~ Saint Teresa of Avila, ‘Conceptions of the Love of God’