Charity Adapts Itself to Everyone
Presence of God – O God, who adapted Yourself to my misery to the point of becoming man, teach me to adapt myself to others.
Charity has no rigid requirements; it does not expect, and even less pretend, that others should adapt themselves to it, but it is always ready to accommodate itself to the neighbor. God adapted Himself to us when He became man; yet, we do not know how to come down from the little pedestal of our personality to adapt ourselves to the mentalities, preferences, and needs of our brethren. We excuse ourselves by saying, “They are wrong; they are rude and ungrateful, they do not understand my needs, my sensibilities….” How we deceive ourselves! How petty we are in our demands on others! Let us look at the Son of God, the eternal Word, who did not disdain to put Himself on our level, to the extent of taking on our mortal flesh and living a human life in the midst of us. During His earthly life, He did not choose for His companions intellectual men of refined education; He chose ignorant fishermen of rude mentality, men of simple tastes who knew very little about the refinements of life. He lived with them and adopted their ways quite naturally, without any singularity aside from His unlimited charity.
Certainly, we cannot conform to the desires of our neighbor when there is question, however slight, of something in opposition to the honor of God and the observance of His law. To do so in such cases would be culpable weakness. But there are many other occasions when it is simply a matter of not insisting upon our personal feelings, our point of view, our own tastes, but of effacing ourselves, and considering the mentality and tastes of others. Then condescension is solid virtue, and far from being weakness, it is a beautiful proof of moral strength, of that strength which knows how to overcome self and sacrifice its ego for the love of God. Lasting charity and perfect harmony are not possible without this flexibility which makes us capable of adapting ourselves to others. When we have firmly resolved to overlook all differences of temperament, mentality, education, and tastes, when we are determined to give up our own ideas to accommodate ourselves to the ideas and desires of others, then only can it be said that the goal of fraternal charity has been attained.
“O my God, it is impossible for me not to love Your creatures, since You have commanded me to do so. You are Love, and love made You create man, so that he, too, might share Your love. We were all created out of love, by love, and with love, so that we might enjoy You, O God, who are Love. How then can I help loving this neighbor of mine?
“Tell me, I beseech You, O Christ, in what way should I love my neighbor. You give me the lofty ideal of loving him as You Yourself have loved him. For human creatures You left, at least in appearance, Your Father’s bosom; You left, or rather, You hid, Your power, wisdom, and infinite purity to live in contact with the impurity of creatures. And I also, for my neighbor’s sake, must leave myself and my love for creatures, and be ready to shed my blood for their salvation if necessary.
“O charity! How beautiful and pleasing to God you are! Like the pelican, you give your own blood, not only for your children but even for your enemies. Yet, in truth, he who possesses you considers no one his enemy but esteems them all as his dearest friends and would give his very life for the soul of his neighbor if he sees it necessary.
“O love of neighbor so little known! O God, who can read our hearts, You know whether they are filled with love or hate when we pretend to love our neighbor while we offend him. Oh! how different Your judgments are from ours! You teach me that, for love of my neighbor, I ought to know how to sacrifice my comfort, listen to the little and the poor in their bodily and spiritual needs, and answer them peacefully and with meekness” (St Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
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Art: Detail of Sea of Galilee (Lake of Tiberias), photographer unknown, between 1890-1900, PD-US published in the U.S. prior to 1 January 1923, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.