The Measure of Fraternal Charity
Presence of God – O Lord, make me understand the full meaning of Your words: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 39).
When Jesus gave the precept of fraternal charity, He Himself set its measure: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). This measure is so great that it would be difficult to exceed it, when we consider how much every man is inclined to love himself. The good that each of us desires for himself is so great that if we could succeed in desiring just as much for our neighbor—for any neighbor—our charity would be truly magnanimous. Jesus has said, “And as you would that men should do to you, do you also unto them in like manner” (Luke 6:31), which, in practice, signifies that we treat others exactly as we wish to be treated ourselves; for example, showing, toward our neighbor, the same consideration of thought, word, and deed, as we would desire for ourselves; serving and pleasing others, accommodating ourselves to their wishes, as we ourselves would wish to be served, pleased, and condescended to. Alas! our self-love incites us, instead, to use two different measures: one, very large—even exaggerated—for ourselves; the other, very small—even miserly—for our neighbor. The attentions we receive from others always seem to be so trifling, and how easily we complain that we are treated thoughtlessly! Yet how very far we are from showing such thoughtfulness toward our neighbor; although in retrospect, we always think we have done too much. We are very sensitive to the wrongs done us; and even when, in reality, they are slight, we consider them as almost unbearable; whereas we consider as mere nothings the things by which we offend others so freely. The greatest enemy of fraternal charity is self-love, which makes us too sensitive and demanding in what refers to ourselves, and very careless in what refers to others. For the sake of virtue we should force ourselves to cultivate the same thoughtfulness toward our neighbor as we instinctively feel is due to us, and this, not so much for our neighbor himself, as for God, who wills that we act in this way and whom we must see in our neighbor. If we were really convinced that God is present in our brethren and that in them He is awaiting the delicacy of our love, how could we think it too much to love them at least as much as we love ourselves?
“O most merciful Lord Jesus, love for our neighbor is well-ordered when he is loved for Your sake, because You have created him and have commanded that he should be loved with a proper, well-regulated love. If we love our parents and the members of our family more than we love You, our love is not well-ordered, and anyone who loves like this is unworthy of You. We have received a twofold commandment: to love God and to love our neighbor; but although the commandment is twofold, only one love is prescribed, for the love with which You are loved is not different from the love with which our neighbor is loved for Your sake; nor can he love You who errs in the way he loves his neighbor.
“O Lord Jesus Christ, if I want charity to be well ordered in me, I must love both You and my neighbor; I must love You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and my neighbor as myself, in such a way that I shall not do to others what I would not want to have done to myself and I shall give to others the same benefits that I desire for myself.
“Teach me, O most benign Lord, to meditate on these truths, to remember them, and to practice them with all my strength. By my love for my neighbor I shall know whether I love You, O Lord, for he who is neglectful in loving You, does not know how to love his neighbor either. O most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, what shall I say and what shall I do, who on account of the hardness of my heart do not love my neighbor for Your sake; I have often sinned, trying to get something I thought I needed for myself or in trying to avoid something disagreeable. Thus there is no true love in me. Deign to help me, O merciful Lord Jesus Christ, You who are the source of charity and true love, genuine love; pardon my sins and in Your mercy give me a share in Your immense clemency. Oh! help me to be converted entirely to You, so that I may live with You in ordered charity, eternally! (Ven. Raymond Jourdain).
Note from Dan: This post on fraternal charity is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.
Art for this post on fraternal charity: God is Love – A cross in a heart formed with candles, photographed by Wingchi Poon, 13 March 2010 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.