Friday, January 6, 2012

Devotion for today: Resolve to love your neighbor

This is our final day for making resolution, and taking inventory of our souls. Monday, on the feast of the Baptism of Christ, we will offer up our good intentions to the Lord, as St. Francis de Sales recommends.

Scripture for meditation: 1 Peter 1:22
By obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brothers; therefore, love one another constantly from the heart.

Christ tells us: Matthew 5:43-48 
 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

St. Francis de Sales exhorts us, in “An Introduction to the Devout Life”: The Christian should love husband or wife with a calm, tranquil, firm and constant love, chiefly because God desires and enjoins us to do so. The same reason applies to children, relatives and friends, each one according to his rank. But as a general thing, what is the state of your heart with regard to your neighbor? Do you love him from your heart and for the love of God? In order to prove this, you must call to mind certain disagreeable, troublesome individuals; for it is with these that we practice the love of God toward our neighbor, and still more towards those who do us any injury either in word or deed. See whether your heart is clear with regard to these, and whether you have to force yourself to love them? Are you slow to speak evil of your neighbor, especially of those whom you do not like? Do you never injure him either directly or indirectly? A very little reflection will easily satisfy you on these points.

Prayer: Jesus, Prince of Peace, you have asked us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us. With the help of the Holy Spirit, may all people learn to work together for that justice which brings true and lasting peace. To you be glory and honor, forever and ever. Amen (

My thoughts: Ouch. This one hurts. St. Francis de Sales says marital love must be calm. I can think of a resolution I need to make right now. How about loving troublesome individuals? Does he really mean the guy who cuts me off in traffic, or the lady who waits until all of her groceries are bagged to start rummaging around in her purse for her wallet? How about the man at the table next to me in the restaurant who is completing a business deal with loud and invasive laughter? Really? Yes, really. He means everyone. The parochial vicar at my parish, Fr. Stephen Holmes, said today in his homily that loving each other is our duty in life. Not a choice, mind you, but he said it was a duty, one that God expects us to fulfill as He did. And we all know He loved us to death. This is a good day to take inventory on our attitudes towards mankind in general, and family, friends, and co-workers in particular. In truth, we can only be loved as much as we are willing to love. That takes humility, and a desire to be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. Remember, we must love the person. We don’t have to love everything they do!

Our prayer to God: Probably the best resolution we can make in the New Year is to tame our tongues. It is one thing to feel anger toward our neighbor, and it is another to verbalize that frustration and anger to anyone who happens to be around. By resolving to love those who drive us crazy, and by resolving to let gentle words guide our day, we are amending two faults at the same time. Now that is a good start to the New Year! “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine. Amen”

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