The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The expanded heart

NOTE: Words of wisdom from St. Thérèse of Lisieux--a commentary on today's Gospel (Matthew 5:38-48) that was read this morning at Vigils in the Archabbey Church. -- Br. Francis


The Lord, in the Gospel, explains in what his new commandment consists. He says in St. Matthew: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies…pray for those who persecute you.”
No doubt, we don’t have any enemies, but there are feelings. One feels attracted to this [person], whereas with regard to another, one would make a long detour in order to avoid meeting her! And so, without even knowing it, she becomes the subject of persecution. Well, Jesus is telling me that it is this [person] who must be loved; she must be prayed for even though her conduct would lead me to believe that she doesn’t love me: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you have? For even sinners love those who love them.”
And it isn’t enough to love: we must prove it. We are naturally happy to offer a gift to a friend; we love especially to give surprises; however, this is not charity, for sinners do this too. Here is what Jesus teaches me also: “Give to EVERYONE who asks of you, and from HIM WHO TAKES AWAY your goods, ask no return.”
Giving to all those who ask is less sweet than offering oneself by the movement of one’s own heart; again, when they ask for something politely, it doesn’t cost so much to give, but if, unfortunately, they don’t use very delicate words, the soul is immediately up in arms if she is not well founded in charity. She finds a thousand reasons to refuse what is asked of her, and it is only after having convinced the asker of her tactlessness that she will finally give what is asked, and then only as a favor; or else she will render a light service which could have been done in one-twentieth of the time that was spent in setting forth her imaginary rights.
Although it is difficult to give to one who asks, it is even more so to allow one to take what belongs to you, without asking it back. I say it is difficult; I should have said that this seems difficult, for the yoke of the Lord is sweet and light [Matthew 11:30]. When one accepts it, one feels its sweetness immediately, and cries out with the psalmist: “I have run the way of your commandments when you enlarged my heart” [Psalm 118:32].
It is only charity that can expand my heart.
O Jesus, since this sweet flame consumes it, I run with joy in the way of your NEW commandment. I want to run it in until that blessed day when, joining the procession [of saints], I shall be able to follow you in the heavenly courts, singing your NEW canticle which must be Love.
--St. Thérèse of Lisieux
from Story of a Soul

Saturday, February 22, 2014

God's providential dispensation

Peter was to be entrusted with the keys of the Church, or rather, he was entrusted with the keys of heaven; to him would be committed the whole people of God. The Lord told him: Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Now Peter was inclined to be severe, so if he had also been impeccable what forbearance would he have shown toward those he instructed? His falling into sin was thus a providential grace to teach him from experience to deal kindly with others.

Just think who it was whom God permitted to fall into sin—Peter himself, the head of the apostles, the firm foundation, the unbreakable rock, the most important member of the Church, the safe harbor, the strong tower; Peter, who had said to Christ, Even if I have to die with you I will never deny you; Peter, who by divine revelation had confessed the truth: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The gospel relates that on the night that Christ was betrayed Peter went indoors and was standing by the fire warming himself when a girl accosted him: You too were with that man yesterday, she said. But Peter answered: I do not know the man...

Again the girl said to him: You too were with that man yesterday. Again he answered: I have no idea what man you mean

A third time she repeated: You too were with that man yesterday, but a third time he denied it. Finally Jesus looked at him, reminding him of his previous assertion. Peter understood, repented of his sin, and began to weep. Mercifully, however, Jesus forgave him his sin, because he knew that Peter, being a man, was subject to human frailty.

Now, as I said before, the reason God’s plan permitted Peter to sin was because he was to be entrusted with the whole people of God, and sinlessness added to his severity might have made him unforgiving toward his brothers and sisters. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord’s forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them.

This was God’s providential dispensation.

He to whom the Church was to be entrusted, he, the pillar of the churches, the harbor of faith, was allowed to sin; Peter, the teacher of the world, was permitted to sin, so that having been forgiven himself he would be merciful to others.

--Homily by St. John Chrysostom (d.407)
 (Matthew 16:13-19)

Friday, February 21, 2014


NOTE: The following is a homily given by our Fr. Meinrad Brune, O.S.B. on Thursday, Feburary 20, 2014, in the Archabbey Church at Saint Meinrad. He is reflecting here on the Mass readings for the day: James 2:1-9 and Mark 8:27-33. I thought it was worth sharing. -- Br. Francis


Salty, old St. James was a good psychologist. He describes very well how we show our real values and feelings by the way we treat others. When the rich or important man or woman enters the room—especially when they are people who can do something for us—and when the beautiful girl or the handsome man comes on the scene, we are all eyes, ears, and heart. We are truly caring, open, and all the other nice words.

But the less educated, the uninteresting person, the one who is hard to talk with, and the person with whose opinions we disagree: these get the attention we think they deserve—not much. We tend to write them off or put them down.

The Gospel, too, shows a way of writing people off. Peter did it even to Jesus—who did not like it.  Here, it is a case of simply concluding—off the top of our head—that somebody does not know what he or she is talking about. Their suggestions, theology, politics, opinions, abilities, and tastes are simply of no value to us.

Every walking being, every monk, is a walking mystery (or sacrament), which means that something is revealed and something is hidden. Nobody—even monks and friends who are close to me—can completely understand my feelings, how I arrived at my present frame of mind, and the particular way fear and idealism work in me. Such monks and friends take me as I am and try to understand me. They may not agree with my opinions, but they do not write them off as silly.  They do not try to make me over, as Peter did Jesus.

At the same time, though, it is a case of live and let live. I know what life is for me—mysterious, wonderful, painful, angry, and upsetting. It is that way, deep inside, for others, too. I have to be sensitive to all.

Through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have been given the freedom and power to grow into the unique persons God wants us to be. Our spiritual life is enhanced only to the extent that we exercise our freedom and power to accept others in the community—to see each other as having been chosen by God for fulfillment as a uniquely human person.

The people outside this monastery need us, and also the monks within this monastery need and deserve each other, because it is God’s community we are serving, God’s monks we are serving—each of us, according to his given ability. Let us write off or put down no one in our community. Amen!