He makes them better by loving them

It’s midway through Lent.  You may be wanting to give up.  Here’s a reminder of what Lent is all about.  Read it for yourself . . . as well as for others.

Jesus loves as a pure gift, for the sake of nothing; he gives by taking the initiative, gratuitously . . . 

He makes others better by loving them.  Not only does he not accuse their mediocrity, although it is his full right to do so–infinitely more than we could–but he takes up their defense and gives his heart, his time, his trust.

Against Simon the Pharisee, Judas, and Martha, he defends Mary Magdalene, as he defended the Samaritan woman and Zacchaeus against public opinion or his Apostles.  He knew that if such people were weak, small, mediocre, it is precisely because they lacked the love to grow and because others did not love them enough.

What does our Lord do?  He calls forth, arouses, renews the best part in man, the part that is good and filled with hope and is always hidden in each and every person.  Because Christ loves, and shows his love in creating new and good things–and for no ulterior motive–everybody who meets him once again begins to believe, to have trust in God and in themselves.  His love is above all a pure, gratuitous gift, and in this way he manifests the Father and shows us that the first step in love is to be a source of life, and that only he who loves shares in the life of God.  “Experience has shown me too late that we cannot judge people by their vices, but on the contrary by what they hold intact and pure, by the childlike qualities that remain in them, however deeply one must search for them.” (George Bernanos)

Not only does Christ give, but he does so by making himself smaller than we are; at Christmas an infant, at the agony a beggar, and before the Samaritan woman, Zacchaeus, and Mary Magdalene, with the washing of the feet.  At every moment, Christ puts himself on a lower level than those he loves, accepts the fact that he needs them, not for the sake of some strategy or clever calculation, but to evoke in such people the best part of their being–their heart, their generosity–in order to make them capable of giving in their turn.

Fr. Bernard Bro

A kind twist

It’s time for Amy Carmichael:

“Sir Robert Ball, the astronomer, began when he was old to write the story of his life.  He made this rule for himself: ‘Try to give everything narrated a kind twist.'”

How would our lives look to us if we practiced doing that?

She goes on to say:

“Isn’t that such a beautiful rule?  Let us ask the Spirit of God to search us about this matter of giving a ‘kind twist’ to what others say and do.”

Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.

Our high calling

Luke 6:28  Pray for those who abuse you.

In these days where we find ourselves unliked as Catholics for our stance on so many things, we would do well to heed Amy Carmichael’s advice regarding this Scripture passage–actually this is good advice regarding anyone we may find difficult:

Are there any who are making your burdens heavier than they need be?  Sometimes very small things can make our burdens feel heavier.  The temptation always is to resent this, and feel ruffled.

The Lord Jesus says to us, “Pray for those who compel you to carry burdens.”  Don’t talk about them to others, unless that talk will bear the scrutiny of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t talk about them to yourself.  Look up to your Father for them.  Pray that their burden may be lightened.  (Perhaps they have some of which you know nothing.)  Pray, and as you pray, love will flow into your heart for them.

Loving with Mary

This morning as I woke up, I began thinking again about contemplating our Lord’s Passion with Mary.  I was immediately struck by the thought of how much of her time and love was spent through these difficult days in loving those that Christ loved.  Peter would surely have flown to her after his denial.  How lost John must have felt after his flight in the garden.  Mary Magdalen and Mary and Martha (and Lazarus) of Bethany would have faced their own devastation.  There was the bitter anger at Judas that pervaded them all.  And so on with all of them. But just as Jesus gave her to us through John at the Cross, so He would have been urging her in the same way (by His Spirit) to go out to those He loved so much.

Perhaps your Triduum will be filled with the demands of others and you would rather be focusing more “directly” upon our Lord.  Perhaps it is His Spirit urging you to go where His Mother is going.  In following her and loving whomever she is loving, you will in fact be loving our Lord who loves them more than you do.

Over the camels

I just discovered a new collection of Amy Carmichael writings that I had not known about.  (I hope none of you are groaning. 😉  My disclaimer is that I write most of these posts for myself . . .  I always experience such wonder at what she discovers in Scripture and such hope from her words.  Here’s the first of a series of three.  This one makes me smile.

1 Chronicles 27.30 Over the camels was Obil the Ishmaelite

Have you to try to help people who are rather like camels?  You want them to go one way, and they go another.  You try persuasion and they turn sulky.  It is difficult to be patient with an animal that never looks pleased.  It is very difficult to be patient with human camels.

But God knows all about you and your difficulties, and your name is not forgotten to Him.  He htought the name of a camel driver who lived three thousand years ago worth writing in His Book.  The names of thousands of great kings are buried and forgotten, but the name of David’s camel driver is remembered to this day: Over the camels was Obil.

Obil means “driver” or “leader.”  I expect he sometimes found leading better than driving, and so sometimes shall we.  God give His Obils patience to deal with their camels.


The Difficult Love (5)

Back in January I started a series on “the difficult love”: loving those whom we find difficult to love.  The ultimate test, of course,  is loving our enemies . . . which Christ has indeed commanded us to do.  I have been reading the life of Richard Wurmbrand, a Jewish Christian pastor who was imprisoned and tortured in Romania during the Communist regime there.  His wife’s entire family, who were Jewish, had been killed.  Years later, in God’s providence, the man responsible for the killing of Sabina’s family, friend of their landlord, ended up staying in the same apartment building where they were living.  When Richard discovered this fact, he spent the entire night in prayer and fasting to prepare himself for meeting him.  He made no mention of any of this to Sabina. Richard sought him out with the intention of bringing him to Christ.  The man resisted, becoming very angry.  The landlord had to forestall a potentially ugly scene. As the conversation progressed and moved in other directions, Richard discovered that the man had a love for Ukrainian songs.  Richard, who knew those songs and could play them on the piano, thought, “The fish has entered my net!” He invited him back to his apartment and played some of the songs for him–softly, because his wife was asleep in the next room. He couldn’t help thinking of the power of David’s harp playing over Saul’s troubled spirit.  Richard then said to him–Borila was his name–“I have something very important to say to you.”  He proceeded to tell him his wife’s story.  I’ll let him tell the rest:

He jumped up, his eyes blazing, looking as if he were about to strangle me.

I help up my hand and said, “Now–let’s try an experiment.  I shall wake my wife and tell her who you are, and what you have done.  i can tell you what will happen.  My wife will not speak one word of reproach!  She’ll embrace you as if you were her brother.  She’ll bring you supper, the best things she has in the house.

“Now, if Sabina, who is a sinner like us all, can forgive and love like this, imagine how Jesus, who is perfect Love, can forgive and love you!  Only turn to Him–and everything you have done will be forgiven!”

Borila was not heartless: within, he was consumed by guilt and misery at what he had done, and he had shaken his brutal talk at us as a crab shakes its claws.  One tap at his weak spot and his defenses crumbled.  The music had already moved his heart, and now came–instead of the attack he expected–words of forgiveness.  His reaction was amazing.  He jumped up and tore at his collar with both hands, so that his shirt was rent apart.  “Oh God, what shall I do, what shall I do?” he cried.  He put his head in his hands and sobbed noisily as he rocked himself back and forth.  “I’m a murderer, I’m soaked in blood, what shall I do?”  Tears ran down his cheeks.

I cried, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command the devil of hatred to go out of your soul!”

Borila fell on his knees trembling, and we began to pray aloud.  He knew no prayers; he simply asked again and again for forgiveness and said that he hoped and knew it would be granted.  We were on our knees together for some time; then we stood up and embraced each other, and I said: “I promised to make an experiment.  I shall keep my word.”

I went into the other room and found my wife still sleeping calmly.  She was very weak and exhausted at that time.  I woke her gently and said, “There is a man here whom you must meet.  We believe he has murdered your family, but he has repented, and now he is our brother.”

She came out in her dressing gown and put out her arms to embrace him: then both began to weep and to kiss each other again and again.  I have never seen bride and bridegroom kiss with such love and purity as this murderer and the survivor among his victims.  Then, as I foretold, Sabina went to the kitchen to bring him food.

. . .

Borila’s happiness was very moving.  He stayed with us that night, and when he awoke the next day, he said, “It’s been a long time since I slept like that.” (In God’s Underground, pp. 224-225)

Richard & Sabina Wurmbrand

What does this love look like?


Thinking a little bit more about yesterday’s post and the importance of overcoming the world with God’s love. . .   I think the hardest expression of loving is forgiveness, don’t you?  Charles Williams, reflecting on the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” has this to say: “No word in English carries a greater possibility of terror than the little word ‘as’ in that clause.” God calls us to a high standard.  A dying man’s words are chosen carefully.  According to Luke, the words most prominent in Jesus’ mind and heart as He was dying were: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  If you haven’t had a chance to read this article mentioned in a previous post, it’s worth the time.  This priest’s ability to forgive comes only from the Holy Spirit.  And God promises the same Spirit to us, as long as we ask.