Do all you can to love everyone. If you are not yet able to, at the very least don’t hate anyone. Yet you won’t even manage this if you have not reached detachment from the things of this world.
You must love everyone with all your soul, hoping, however, only in God and honouring him with all your heart.
Christ’s friends are not loved by all, they sincerely love all. The friends of this world are not loved by all, but neither do they love all.
Christ’s friends persevere in their love right to the end. The friends of this world persevere only so long as they do not find themselves in disagreement over worldly matters….
This is the Love about which it is written: “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and have all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing.” [I Cor. 13:2]
Whoever has love has God, because God is love. [1 John 4:16].
–Maximus the Confessor, Centuries on Charity
I found this wonderful bit of wisdom in the reading for today in Thomas Spidlik’s book, Drinking From the Hidden Fountain. I have previously written about Maximus the Confessor (see here), and won’t repeat that discussion in this post. I have, however, always found Maximus to be a source of great wisdom.
Perhaps no part of the Christian life challenges us more than Jesus’ injunction that we are to love all of God’s children. This means loving the clerk in the grocery store who really perturbs me, the fellow in the gym who seems so full of himself, and the horrible gossip at Church. It means loving the people who’ve wounded me, even those who remain unrepentant.
The Christian life demands that we love without regard to the question of who deserves our affection, without regard to their kindness, without regard to their history, and without regard to their merit. That’s no small part of what underlies the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and it certainly provides the foundation for Jesus’ teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” Matt. 5:43-46.
Those of us who follow Jesus walk down a difficult path, especially the road of loving our enemies. Too often, I hear people make the Faith sound easier than it is. Following Christ is hard; it is as hard as the nails on the Cross. St. Maximus urges us take the discipline of the Christian life seriously. I need to hear his voice more often.
I wish you a safe and happy holiday, and may the peace of Christ disturb you profoundly,
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis
In one sense, I think it’s a word that evades definition, and must be lived out rather than conceived, but if pressed (and I sense you would), I would say at a minimum it means a commitment to another’s well-being, joy and growth.
Peace on you and your house,
Many hardships and pain have been visited upon people disguised as “love.” Your definition sounds altruistic enough. Too often, love comes shackled to each person’s expectations (in which case, it is not love but bribery). It is easy to blanket humanity with an all-encompassing love from the safety of distance, remaining incognito while spewing platitudes of love thy neighbor, forgive their trespasses, etc. It is easy to love wonderful others, pleasing faces, and melodic voices. Jesus showed us how to love submerged in the dirty and fierce ugliness of ignorance, pride, and fear. It’s a tough act to follow.
I think you’re right, Barbara. It’s much easier to love humanity in the abstract than to be nice to someone who’s mean-spirited. Loving the hard cases, that’s where the real challenge of Christianity (and humanity) lies.
Amen, Princess, amen.
I am struck that when scripture, the Fathers, and Mothers, speak of love they do not speak of “unconditional love.” Love by definition is unconditional otherwise it is not love. It is all or nothing. We either love or we do not. As you say, “Following Christ is hard.”
Yes, I’m afraid love is a bit like something Yoda said: “No. Try not. Do or do not….there is no try.” By it’s very nature, we love unconditionally, or we do not love.
Thanks for your thoughts.
God watch over thee and me,
I’m so glad you liked it, Linda.
Are we both on the same drugs this week Brother with our blogs? Ha ha! love love love
My dear Sister,
Having read your post, I think we are of one mind. This should trouble you, more than it does me (wry grin).
God watch over thee and me,
James I appreciate and enjoy your blog. Just wanted to let you know that I loved your closing statement “and may the peace of Christ disturb you profoundly,” Oh how I wish more of us would be disturbed with His peace, instead of simply ignoring or not recognizing it. Lord bless you.
My inheritance from my Irish great aunt, whom I loved very dearly, was a stone on which that phrase was painted. That peace has disturbed me richly, and I pray it will always.
The Lord bless you and keep you,
I have to remember that love is not a feeling (though it can be), but an attitude. I struggle with this because I often do not want to love. Love and hate are so often so close together, sun and moon, brother and sister.
I think you’re exactly right. Love is not necessarily a feeling; it’s an attitude, it’s an act of the will, and it’s a commitment.
God’s great peace on you and your house,
I struggle with this because, especially as a younger woman, thinking I had to love everyone got in the way of my feeling my real emotions and being authentic. However, I truly believe that the root of most of my spiritual and emotional dilemmas, it my conscious mind . .. my trying to think my way through things, instead of allowing deeper wisdom to guide me. Opening, and continually reminding myself now, to quiet the mind and let my greater self open to Holy Spirit.
I can understand the struggle for authenticity. Opening ourselves to the movement of the Spirit presents all of us with a great challenge. I’m inclined to believe that within the Spirit’s movement, we will discover our true concrete self (our authenticity).
God bless you in this struggle,
This is a beautiful post. I think of what Christ said about loving our enemies, and then “be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” To love indiscriminately is truly evidence of the indwelling of Christ. Thank you for this reminder.
My dear Olive,
Thank you so much! With regard to that passage, I believe that is the precise meaning of it. Jesus was telling us to love perfectly, as we are perfectly loved. We are to love indiscriminately, recklessly, and fiercely. It’s good to hear from you.
God’s great peace,
Br. James… a ‘disturbing peace’ you’ve given us here (pun intended). To emulate Jesus’ love, I find impossible, but it does help recognizing He did just this for me. He loved us when we were unlovable. Thanks for the great words, good friend.
I thank you for your thoughts, and most of all for your friendship. The more I think about it, “Loving the unloveable” should be a slogan for the Church today.
Pax et bonum,