20 February 2016

Love calling us into vast distances

Province of St. Martin de Porres 2016 Lenten Reflection
Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Deut 26:16-19 / Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8 2 / Matt 5:43-48

"It is also good to love: because love is difficult . . . it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances." - R. M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, no. 7, 1904.

Love ain't easy. I mean, the sort of love that demands that we not only think and will the good of another but that we also do the good for them. It is difficult enough sometimes to love those we are hard-wired to love - mom, dad, brothers, sisters, our children. And those we have chosen to love - friends, wives, husbands. But for Christ to lay on us the near-impossible task of loving those who hate us, who seek to hurt us . . . well, that is just sacrificial.

And it is meant to be a sacrificial demand, a demand that requires sacrifice. What do we have to sacrifice to will and do the good for our enemies? At the very least, we must sacrifice the very notion that we can have enemies. Others can hate us. Seek to harm us. We may be enemies for them, but they can only be enemies for us if we return their hatred and seek to harm them.

Jesus denounces the habit of loving only those who love us in return. He asks, "Do not the pagans do the same?" Lent is a time of repentance and sacrifice. What better season to examine closely not only who we love but also how we love? Ask yourself: what is specifically Christ-like about the way I love? Is my love nurturing my growth in holiness? Is my love leading me to daily conversion, to the Way of the Cross?


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