"My commandment is this: love one another as I have loved you."
Today's antiphon from Morning Prayer helped to crystallize what should be
for me a daily prayer: Lord, help me love others as you have loved me.
Our pastor recently left for his first assignment as an ordinary; he is now the Bishop of El Paso. Reflecting with friends on what he left as a legacy to our parish, and no doubt to the whole diocese where he has resided for 40 some years , I concluded that his ability and desire to love people, even if they don't love him back, stands alone.
No one is perfect: no pastor, no vicar, no Bishop, no parishioner, and God help me, I am certainly not perfect.
But my weaknesses are magnified when I can't love the people who show me where I fail. I prickle and bristle, and like the three cats who live in our house, I want to hiss when I feel threatened. Or worse. I want to strike back.
But Jesus told us to love one another. Jesus loved until he took his last dying breath; "Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do."
I used to marvel at the way Bishop Mark could do that. And his love for others has at last begun slowly to illuminate my way. It has been the way of the cross all along, and perhaps I have been avoiding the cross. Bishop Mark once told me that there is never any way around it. He said it calmly and with a smile on his face. And I used to wonder how he could be so calm in the face of daily difficulties.
But lately I have begun to realize that he is right. And the way to carry the cross of Christ is to begin by praying for those who are the most hurtful, or damaging, patronizing or demeaning. Pray for the ones who use verbal sticks and stones to wound, who devise means of gaining the upper hand or who seek to destroy whomever stands in their way. Pray for the ones who simply don't like you and never will. Pray for the saints and the sinners, for Paul and Peter and Judas Iscariot, for the thief on the cross next to yours, and ask God to help you if you are too weak to begin.
And then the cross becomes more bearable.
The cross is truly a means to closeness with Jesus.
I am thankful for those who have been the means of showing me how little I have loved, and I am thankful to our Lord Jesus Christ for showing me how to begin again.
Pray for me, please.