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