January 5, 2012 by eneubauer
Here is an excerpt from No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton, “The truth I love in loving my brother cannot be something merely philosophical and abstract. It must be at the same time supernatural and concrete, practical and alive. And I mean these words in no metaphorical sense. The truth I must love in my brother is God Himself, living in him. I must seek the life of the Spirit of God breathing in him. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart.”
It is so easy to intellectually affirm the idea of Christian love. On its face what Christian would argue against the idea of loving our brothers and sisters? For even Christ affirmed this in Matthew 22: 36-40 in reply to an inquisitive lawyer’s question, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’” Again, Christ not only affirms the call for Christians to love – but to love in such a way as to emulate how we would normally care for ourselves. Obedience to the Great Commandment is a call to the selfless life (not easy).
However, what really motivates me from the Merton paragraph is this idea that Christocentric love is much more than an obedient acceptance of the way things ought to be. Merton highlights the idea that Christian love is beyond the “philosophical and abstract.” It is a call to ACT on the love which Christ has so lavishly given to his children. The acceptance of the selfless life is a call to SEE others the way Christ sees them, to LOVE others the same way we love ourselves and to ACT on His love by sharing it with others in a tangible way. Love in action is not something we do via an event or special activity it is a way of life. It is the WAY of a disciple.
As a disciple of Christ, when we accept the call to apply the Great Commandment to our lives we are immediately changed. We are no longer satisfied sitting on the side lines of life while others struggle, suffer, or remain on the margins of society. We become keenly aware of other’s needs. There is a sense, in the life of a disciple, that we can and must do something to ease the pain so many feel. This reality causes us to rethink how we manage our time, treasure and talent. We reorient God’s gifts, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be used for the sake of the common good. It is in taking these and other practical steps that we begin to embrace Christ’s call to the selfless life and begin to make a tangible difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters.
As I stated before – this selfless life is not easy. There are a million and one philosophies that are all competing for our attention and allegiance. However, the clarion call to ensure that God’s love (which resides in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit) is “supernatural and concrete, practical and alive” for the sake of others is the only path to true satisfaction and is part and partial to God’s salvific plan for the life of all believers. Let me close with this story – as I remember it. Mother Teresa left the Loretto Convent in India to begin her life living among the poorest of the poor. It was during this time that she experienced some transformative encounters. In the beginning she went to poor, discerned their need and immediately began to beg for food – as many were malnourished. Once she obtained food she began to distribute that food for their use and consumption. What she encountered were families, with members who were (basically) starving actually sharing their meager portion of food with neighbors who were in a similar situation. What Mother Teresa did for one, two and three families had an immediate multiplier effect. However, what is even more important is the fact that the instinct of the poor and malnourished to share with others is a perfect example of how God’s love, through Christ, is actually supposed to work in and through the life of a disciple. May we take this story to heart!
Today, you can be Christ’s outstretched hands of love to a hurting and needy world.