Lord, When Did We See You Hungry or Thirsty or a Stranger or Naked or Ill or in Prison?
brother in that work of authentic solidarity, Peter Maurin. He once wrote with utter simplicity and searing honesty: "We cannot imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to get all we can. We can only imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to give all we can".
Another great Christian woman of the same age, Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the ecclesial movement Focolare, expressed the heart of this call to love in deed and truth:"Yes, love makes us be. We exist because we love. If we don't love, and every time we don't love, we are not, we do not exist ("Even what he has will be taken away"). There's nothing left to do but to love, without holding back. Only in this way will God give himself to us and with him will come the fullness of his gifts.
"Let us give concretely to those around us, knowing that by giving to them we are giving to God. Let's give always; let's give a smile, let's offer understanding, and forgiveness. Let's listen, let's share our knowledge, our availability; let's give our time, our talents, our ideas, our work; let's give our experience, our skills; let's share our goods with others so that we don't accumulate things and everything circulates."
"Our giving opens the hands of God and He, in his providence, fills us with such an abundance that we can give again, and give more, and then receive again, and in this way we can meet the immense needs of many."
The beloved disciple John wrote as an old man in his letters to the early churches dispersed because of persecution: "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him."
"The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth." (I John 3: 14-18)
I knew a woman in Virginia Beach, Virginia named Brenda McCormick. She touched my life and challenged me to the core concerning this truth. She was not an easy person to be around. Prophets rarely are. She went home to the Lord years ago. She once wrote these words to me:
"In the end, there are two kinds of poor people: those who already know they are poor and those who don't know yet. Here is the crisis: If the latter don't discover this before they leave this planet, they are doomed to be poor forever. What can those of us who already know we are poor do for those who don't know yet? Love them."
As we enter into Lent I am reflecting again on what it means to love in deed and in truth; and how it can open the Hands of God. It was said of the early disciples that they "turned the world upside down" with their preaching (Acts 17). Well, they still can; if we learn how to love as he loved. We are invited to learn to love with His Love.
Like the Master whom we follow, we are invited to become the least of these. The late Fr. Henri Nouwen once warned of what he called the "lure of upward mobility" and referred to it as the greatest sin of the age. He spoke of God's extraordinary love, revealed in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as an alternative, a "downward mobility."
How extraordinary is this love of God. How hard it is to comprehend its invitation. The God of the entire universe came among us as a man. He emptied Himself and took upon Himself our humanity. In His sacred humanity he lived a full and complete human life, walking in intimate communion with His Father. He now makes it possible for us to do the same.
Because He was fully God, Jesus accomplished for us what we could never have accomplished for ourselves, he redeemed us, set us free from the punishment merited by our sin, bridged the separation caused by sin, and capacitated us to live our lives differently by grace. He defeated the last enemy, death and overcame the evil one. He did all of this because He is Love Incarnate and He can do nothing else but love in word and in deed.
He now invites us to walk in His way, the way of "kenosis". This is a Greek word which cannot really be translated in English. It is a self-emptying love. Jesus invites us to become the least of these. St Paul writes of Jesus "Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself" (Philippians 2) This emptying the Apostle refers to is "kenosis" in Greek.
Pope St Leo the Great once wrote of Jesus: "He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he, who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself."
God became the least of these. Will we? Will we allow the truth revealed in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ to become our pattern for daily living? Will we cooperate with the grace of conversion and be emptied of ourselves for others? We are invited to experience this mystery of faith and to make it real during this Lent.
When we empty ourselves, He comes and takes up His residence within us. Then, we can become His arms, embracing the world; His legs, still walking its dusty streets; and His Heart, still beating with the Divine Compassion manifested in Jesus Christ, the One who became the least of these in order to bring all of us into the full communion of Love.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: poverty, poor in spirit, holiness, Dorothy Day, henry Nouwen, matthew 25, last Judgement, holiness, Chiara Lubich, Catholic Worker Movement, Focolare, Lent, holiness, Deacon Keith Fournier
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