By Rev Albert Joseph Mary Shamon
All the passages below are taken from the book “Love People” by Rev. Albert Joseph Mary Shamon.
"Love is patient; love is kind.
Love is not pompous, it is not inflated.
It is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things...
So faith, hope, love remain,
but the greatest of these
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The mission of the Church, said Paul VI, is to create a "civilization of love."
Our Lady at Medjugorje has come precisely to bring peace to the world; and peace is the fruit of love. Again and again, Our Lady has emphasized the primacy of love in our lives.
“Love. If you do not love, ...you are not able to witness, neither for me, nor for Jesus." (6/6/86).
"I beseech you, dear children, live love within yourselves." (7/10/86).
" , .. dear children, decide also in favor of love. May love prevail in all of you. .." (11/20/86).
“Begin to love your enemies. Do not judge or slander. Do not scorn. Do not curse. Only give your adversaries love.. ." (1986).
In her message to the world, June 25, 1988, Our Lady said:
"Dear children, I am calling you to that love which is loyal and pleasing to God.
"Little children, love bears everything bitter and difficult for the sake of Jesus, Who is Love. Therefore, dear children, pray that God comes to your aid, not however, according to your desires, but according to His love. Surrender yourself to God so that He may hear you, console you, and forgive everything inside you which is a hindrance on the way of love. In this way God can move your life and you will grow in love.
"Dear children, glorify God with a hymn of love so that God's love may be able to grow in you day by day to its fullness.
"Thank you for having responded to my call."
Our Lady speaks of love in this message eight times!
In the light of these requests, I think no passage of Scripture is more deserving of our study and prayer than Paul's hymnic description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
In 14 words he describes Christian love. I have given those 14 words in their original Greek, together with their dictionary meaning and the translation rendered in the Revised New Testament.
Doing this has helped me to discover the revolutionary meaning of Christian love. May it help you also to make the same discovery.
August 31, 1990
Albert Joseph Mary Shamon
Following is the source for references used in this Introduction.
B = Barclay, Wm. Daily Study Bible. The Letter to the Corinthians, p. 130 (Philadelphia, Westminister Press, 1956).
A = Anchor Bible. Orr, Wm. and Walther, James. 1 Corinthians, Vol. 32, p. 289 (Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1976).
N = New Testament Messages. Murphy-O'Connor, 0. P. 1 Corinthians, Vol. 10, p. 123 (Delaware, Glazier, Inc. 1979).
C = Cambridge Commentary. Thrall, Margaret. First and Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, pp. 91 ff. (Cambridge University Press, 1956).
RNT = Revised New Testament.
S = Shamon, my translation.
* * * *
"Love is patient; love is kind.
Love is not pompous, it is not inflated.
It is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
AGAPE (ah GAH pay), Christian love is not an emotion, but an act of the mind and the will: to love as God loves---UNCONDITIONALLY---and so to love the loveless and the unlovable.
Paul uses two words to describe what love is;
eight words to describe what love is not; and
four words to describe what love does.
* * *
WHAT LOVE IS
1. makrothumEI = (passive) means to be longsuffering toward one, patient. It is directed to persons, not circumstances; it means bearing the shortcoming of others.
RNT: Love is patient.
S: Love is patient with people.
2. chrestEUetai =(active) means to behave kindly, be kind or merciful.
RNT: Love is kind.
S: Love is kind to people.
* * *
WHAT LOVE IS NOT
3. zelOI means to strive after, to have zeal for one's own status.
RNT: Love is not jealous.
C: Love envies no one.
B: Love knows no envy.
A: It is not jealous.
S: It is not jealous of people.
4. perperEUetai means to boast or vaunt oneself, to be a braggart.
RNT: Love is not pompous.
C: Love is never boastful.
B: Love is no braggart.
A: It does not brag.
N: It is not boastful.
S: Love does not brag.
5. phusiOUtai means to puff up, make proud.
RNT: Love is not inflated.
C: Love is not conceited.
B: It is not inflated with its own importance.
S: Love is not puffed up with pride.
6. aschemonEI means to behave unseemly.
RNT: Love is not rude.
B: It does not behave gracelessly.
A: It does not behave unpresentably.
N: It is not arrogant or rude.
7. zetEI means to seek for, seek after.
RNT: Love does not seek its own interests.
C: Love is never selfish.
B: It does not insist on its rights.
A: It does not seek its own advantages.
N: It does not insist on its own way.
8. paroxUnetai means to provide, irritate, excite.
RNT: Love is not quick-tempered.
C: Love is not quick to take offence.
B: It never flies in a temper.
A: It does not seem irritated.
N: It is not resentful.
9. logIzetai means to reckon, calculate, compute.
RNT: Love does not brood over injury.
C: Love keeps no score of wrongs.
B: Love does not store up the memory of any wrong it has received.
A: It does not calculate evil.
10. adikIa means a wrong, an offence, injustice.
RNT: Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing.
C: Love does not gloat over other men's sins.
B: It finds no pleasure in evil-doing.
A: It does not rejoice in injustice.
alethEIa means truth.
RNT: But rejoices with the truth.
* * * *
WHAT LOVE DOES
11. stEgei means to cover closely, to fend off, keep off.
RNT: Love bears all things.
C: There is nothing love cannot face.
B: It can endure anything.
A: It keeps all confidences.
S: Love tries to cover up for people.
12. pistEUei means to believe, trust in, put faith in, confide in, rely on a person.
RNT: Love believes all things.
B: It is completely trusting.
S: Love has unshakeable faith in people's goodness.
13. elpIzei means to hope, expect.
RNT: Love hopes all things.
B: It never ceases to hope.
S: Love always hopes for the best for people.
14. hupomEnei means to abide patiently, endure, stand one's ground, stand firm, uphold, support, maintain.
RNT: Love endures all things.
B: It bears everything with triumphant fortitude.
S: Love is never dismayed by people, no matter what.
In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy says to Charlie Brown: "You know what I don't understand? I don't understand love!"
Charlie: ''Who does?"
Lucy: "Explain love to me, Charlie Brown.”
He says: “You can't explain love. I can recommend a book or a poem or a painting, but I can't explain love."
Lucy retorts, "Well, try, Charlie Brown, try."
Charlie says, ''Well, let's say I see this beautiful, cute little girl walk by.''
Lucy interrupts: "Why does she have to be cute? Huh? Why can't someone fall in love with someone with freckles and a big nose? Explain that!''
Charlie: ''Well, maybe you're right. Let's just say I see this girl walk by with this great big nose. .."
Lucy: “I didn't say GREAT BIG NOSE!”
By now Charlie has had enough; he sighs and says: "You not only can't explain love, you can't even talk about it."
Well, St, Paul talked about love. He even tried to explain it. He set down a poetic masterpiece on the subject, a passage of surpassing beauty and power. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, Paul talks about love---Christian love---the love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us (Rom. 5:5).
The church at Corinth had been split wide open, because a self-seeking competitive, condemnatory spirit was rife in the Christian community there. The Corinthians had been specially gifted with charisms by the Holy Spirit. These gifts were meant to build up the Christian community. Instead, they spawned division and dissension because of the boasting, elitism, rudeness, self-seeking that resulted. These gifts gave rise to everything but Christian love.
Without this love, Paul declared, nothing is worth anything; all is zero! The gift of tongues, prophecy, almsgiving, even martyrdom---all are worthless without love.
So, right in the middle of the charismatic gifts which the Corinthians were enjoying, Paul planted his magnificent description of Christian love. In fourteen words, he explains Christian love. He takes only two words to tell what Christian love is; eight words to tell what it is not: and four words to tell what Christian love does.
I suggest that we take Paul's passage (1 Cor. 13:4-7) and read it every day for 14 weeks. Each week focus upon just one word, one facet of love. For instance, the first week could be spent on ''Love is patient'': the second week on '`Love is kind," etc. After 14 weeks, note the effect on your life.
Before going into each aspect of love, the word "love" itself needs clarification. Today love is a generic term; like a ragbag, it includes everything from Hollywood love to heavenly love. So it was in Our Lord's day.
Christians, as a result, almost had to coin a new word for Christian love. In English we have only one word to express all kinds of love. Greek, however, has at least four words.
The Greeks used the word eros to express love between the sexes, that is, erotic or sexual love.
They used the word storge to speak of family love---the
love of parents for children and children for parents.
The most common Greek word for love was philia---love of friendship. It is used of the love of Jesus for Lazarus (Jn, 11:3, 36).
But all these words---eros, storge, philia---deal with emotions and feelings. They generally come unsought. We fall in love. We cannot help loving our kith and kin.
Christians, however, needed a word that would go far beyond the often selfish and emotional desires designated by those three words. They needed a word that would express their experience of God's love. God's love is UNCONDITIONAL; He loves the unlovable and the loveless. Such, too, must be the Christian's love.
A word was needed to express this attitude of Christians to one another---a word that would reflect a love that had the quality of God's love, which is unconditional, unselfish and unseeking. So the New Testament writers picked out from Greek literature a word, not a brand-new one, but a rare, literary and uncommon word: agape (pronounced ah-GAH-pay). Paul uses this word in his prose poem on Christian love---the immortal 13th chapter of First Corinthians.
There is no good English word that translates agape. The word---“love'' may be used, but that is an omnibus word, carrying all kinds of connotations. "Charity" may be used, but that too smacks of "handouts."
Agape, on the contrary, is far more. It is not just an emotion. It has to do with our mind and will. It is something we make up our minds to do. And we do it! It is a conquest, a victory, an achievement. No one ever naturally loves one's enemies or the unlovable or people one does not like.
Of course, we cannot love our enemies or those we do not like with the same love we have for those nearest and dearest to us. That would be humanly impossible. Rather, we are to have at all times a certain attitude of mind and a certain direction of will toward all persons, no matter who they are whereby we wish the best for them all.
Agape means to love as God loves. He makes His rain to fall on the good and bad alike; His sun to shine on the just and the unjust. With God, it matters not who one is; be one saint or sinner, God seeks nothing but the highest good of all, even sinners.
Agape is the spirit that says: ''No matter what anyone does to me, I will never seek to harm him. I will not seek revenge. I will seek only his highest good." That is Christian love: unconquerable benevolence, invincible good will! It is not just a feeling. It is a deliberate conviction of mind, a policy of life, a victory, a conquest of the will. It takes the whole person to achieve Christian love---not just the heart---but mind and will as well, and the grace of God.
Today, persons do not understand each other. Communications have broken down between people, because love has been lost. This breakdown in communication has been reflected by modern art and literature, hard rock and "music," in a considerable degree. They communicate nothing from one person to another. For existence without love is absurd and therefore art and literature, hard rock and "music" must express absurdity.
The only disposition that makes communication (interpersonal relationships) possible is, as Paul points out, Christian love! For Christian love accepts the other person as one who exists in his or her own right; listens to what the other person is saying; communicates to the other person in language which he or she can understand; is goodwilled, aimed at the welfare of the other.
Let Paul now tell us what Christian love, what Godlike love, is. Learn what it is; then live it!
2. Love Is Patient (1 Cor. 13:4)
The Greek word Paul uses for patience is makrothumei. This word means patience with people, not patience with circumstances, like sickness, poverty, or death.
Paul was writing to the Corinthians---to people who needed to have patience with other people. Therefore, to his classic description of love, we can add a preposition plus people to each of his 14 descriptive words for love. Thus, love is patient---with people; love is kind---to people; love is not jealous---of people, etc.
Charlie Brown once said: "Mankind I love; people I hate." But it is people we have to contend with. When people get close together, there is bound to be personality friction, for no two persons are alike. Rub two pieces of wood together, and you will have fire. Put people together under the same roof, in the same office or in the same parish or in the same house, like husband and wife, parents and children, and you will have plenty of fuel for a good fight.
A feuding married couple went to a priest for counseling. The priest sat at his desk, and the couple sat opposite him, and a cat and dog sat placidly by the desk. When the priest had finished his counseling, he concluded with these words: "Joe and Mary, why can't you get along like this cat and dog?" Joe quipped, "Father, tie them together and see how long they'll stay that way."
As cars need a lubricant to keep parts that rub against other parts, like the pistons in the motor, from freezing fast, so people need a lubricant to keep them living smoothly together. That lubricant is the virtue of patience.
Our blessed Lord asked us to imitate His patience. “Learn from me," He said, “for I am gentle and humble of heart'' (Matt. 11:29) . Our Lord, as far as we know, never had any physical ailments. He did not have to put up with bodily sickness. But He had to put up with people.
People afflict us in two different ways: some afflict us unwittingly, and some afflict us by their behavior. I often think of how hard it must have been for Our Lord to have had only the apostles for companions. He was the Word of God, divine intelligence. They were illiterate fisherman; goodwilled, indeed, but often so obtuse when it came to understanding Him. Right up to the night before He died, He did not seem to get through to them, To Philip He said, “After I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me?" (Jn. 14:9). The same misunderstanding surfaced again after the Last Supper when He was talking to them about their mission. So, with divine patience, Jesus finally says, "Enough" (Lk. 22:38). Always, He was so gentle with them, for "love is patient.''
How often we may have thought that the people around us are stupid or do stupid things. Have you ever said, "He or she drives me up a wall!" "He or she means well, but they get on my nerves." Or you complain, "Why they would make holy Job lose his patience.'' You are really losing yours when you so think.
Then there are other people who afflict us just by their behavior. They are arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental, like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector (Lk. 18:9-14). They look down on others, are snobbish, condemn others, spurn them, speak evil against them. That was the way most scribes and Pharisees treated Jesus.
He could have hit back, but He did not. And that is what patience really is.
Patience means accepting, enduring, suffering (that is where the word came from: patiens means ''suffering'') the slights, injuries, hurts inflicted by people---suffering them for the love of God.
What makes patience a virtue is its motive: love of God. "Love is patient," that is, true Christian patience has to be an expression of love, of love of God.
A salesman puts up with all kinds of abuse---just to make a sale,
Indians used to endure frightful tortures---just to become ''a brave.''
Stoics suppressed their feelings---just to be considered “manly.”
Such endurance may be laudable, but it is not necessarily virtuous,
"Love is patient,'' that is, true patience must be an expression of love, of love of God. It is that motive which makes all endurance a virtue. It is not what we do that counts, but why; not the mountains we move, but the motives that impel us to move them.
True Christian patience puts up with others just as God puts up with us. He lets His sun shine on good and bad alike and His rain fall on the just and the unjust. (Cp., Matt. 5:45). With God there is no favoritism (Rom. 2:11).
Christian love must be like that. God loves all and always has their highest good at heart. Our Lady at Medjugorje repeatedly answered, when asked about her love for a particular people or nation, that she is the Mother of all and loves all and wills the salvation of all peoples. Christian patience must be like that---an expression of a love that is Godlike and Marylike.
We need patience just to survive---for people are people. Some will be inconsiderate, some will be downright mean and selfish. And we shall inevitably run into such people. Their meanness and inconsideration could make us sad, depressed or discouraged. If we let that happen, life for us will come to a standstill. "Sorrow," said Paul, “brings death'' (2 Cor. 7:10). Sirach said it does no good to yield to it (30:23). Shakespeare called sorrow the enemy of life.
Patience, on the contrary, does not just endure hurts and injuries; rather it embraces them with love and so sucks out the venom in them. Instead of sorrow, there is joy---joy in knowing that evil has been turned into good.
Without patience we will not survive in life. I remember flying from Chicago to Kansas City one summer. It was the bumpiest ride I ever had. The wings flapped like a seal before breakfast. I thought the plane would fall apart. Later, I learned that elasticity had been built into the wings on purpose. Had the wings been rigid and inflexible, the sudden stresses and strains from wind and air pockets would have snapped them.
On their drawing boards, engineers call this give and take "tolerance." Tolerance is the amount of stress a wing can take before it snaps.
What engineers build into the cold end of an aluminum wing, we must build into our hearts. How many homes have been broken up, because there is no tolerance---no give or take, no patience.
Aesop has a fable titled, “The Oak and the Reed." In a mighty storm the proud Oak said, "I will not bend before the wind." Then a sudden strong gust of wind came and uprooted the unbending Oak. As the Oak lay prostrate on the ground, it saw a tiny reed swaying in the storm. The Oak asked, “How is it that I who am so mighty have been uprooted, whereas you who are so frail still stand in the storm?'' The Reed answered, "I give in a little to the wind." How often just to give in, to say, “I'm sorry,” has saved many a relationship.
Patience is not weakness; it is not becoming a door mat. It is an experience of such great love that it wins over people. No person ever treated Abraham Lincoln with greater contempt than Edwin Stanton. He called Lincoln a "low cunning clown." He nicknamed him "the original gorilla." Lincoln said nothing. Instead, when he needed a Secretary of War, Lincoln appointed Stanton, because he was the best man for the job. He treated Stanton with every courtesy.
The years wore on. The night came when Lincoln was assassinated. The body of the murdered President was taken to a little room. That night, Stanton looked down on the face of Lincoln in all its ruggedness; and, through tears, Stanton said: "There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen." The patience of love had conquered in the end.
It is only patience that will help people become better than they are and make us better than we are.
Like the shaft of water hitting the turbines at Niagara making them move, so love not striking back moves people toward God and toward one another.
I do not want
The bravery of those
Who, gun in hand,
Rush forth to slay their foes.
Not hatred, greed,
Or glory of conquest,
Would I find rooted
In my human breast,
But this, 0 God, I ask:
"Please make me strong
To offer love to those
Who do me wrong.”
3. Love Is Kind (1 Cor 13:4)
Our Lord said, ''Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart'' (Matt. 11:29).
Gentleness expresses itself passively by patience and actively by kindness.
Patience puts up with afflicters; kindness reaches out to the afflicted. Both virtues are the fruit of the Holy Spirit---the products of His work in our souls (Gal. 5:22).
Perhaps no virtue is so winsome as kindness. Everybody loves a kind person. A smile, a kind word, a helping hand---these can draw a person to religion more surely than an eloquent homily. The heart of Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, was won by an act of kindness, a drink of water, given him by the gypsy girl Esmeralda.
St. John Bosco, the founder of the first Boys Town, based his Salesian system of education on what he called the ''Preventive'' System. Like a three-legged stool, the Preventive System was built on reason, religion and kindness. Don Bosco believed the adage: A drop of honey can attract more flies than a barrel of vinegar.
For the wellsprings of kindness are esteem and sympathy. An act of kindness says, "I think a lot of you. I care about you."
St. Jerome called kindness “the benignity of love.” Benignity is a word worth tearing apart, because it can shed wonderful light on what kindness is. According to some dictionaries, benignity is made up of two Latin words: bene meaning well; and ignis meaning fire. Benignity means being on fire to do well for others. That is not a bad definition for kindness.
Kindness is good will toward others. It seeks to ease another's pain or to soothe another's anxieties, fears or anger. It positively strives to make others happy. Isn't that wonderful? And what a wonderful world this would be if everybody were just kind!
Kindness is a characteristic of God. The Psalmist wrote: "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works" (Ps. 145:8-9). God's sole concern in sending His Son to earth was to eliminate suffering and bring joy. How accurate are the words of the Christmas carol: "Loving-kindness shed abroad at Christmas." The Incarnation was an act of God's kindness: love stooping down to lift up.
The entire life of Christ can be summed up in the one word "kindness." Jesus was the kindest person Who ever walked this earth. When the sick were brought to Him, He healed them. When lepers came to Him, He cleansed them. He wept over the dead and restored them to life. He multiplied loaves and fish to feed the hungry. He did not spurn the tears of Magdalen nor the woman caught in adultery. He was moved by Peter's tears and the penitent thief's prayer. In His Passion He spoke only three times---to help. After that, He remained silent rather than become unkind. On the cross, His first words were, "Father, forgive them." His final act was to die that He might send us His Spirit to give us patience, kindness, and generosity (Gal. 5:22).
When Our Lord's kindness was attacked in the seventeenth century by the Jansenists, He appeared to the Visitation nun, St. Margaret Mary, and showed her His heart, burning with love for all. Our Lord told Margaret Mary, “Behold the heart which has loved mankind so much.” So that mankind should never again forget His loving kindness, He asked that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be instituted in the Church. And it has been, the Friday after Corpus Christi.
The Sacred Heart is a heart of love. A loving heart is a kind heart. Love is kind. Thus whenever we are kind to others, we are most like Christ.
Kindness manifests itself in four ways: by compassion, generosity, graciousness and friendliness.
Compassion was the first thing that God put into our hearts to make them most like His. A kind face cheers the sad. A kind word uplifts the discouraged. A kind act removes fear on the part of someone who might feel all alone. Such compassionate kindness makes life worth living---makes a Heaven of earth.
A kind heart is also a generous heart. And generosity is kind when it is delicate: not done to be seen by others; when it is unselfish: not to seek anything in return; and when it is sensitive: considerate of the dignity and feelings of the recipient.
In The Vision of Sir Launfal, when Sir Launfal starts out on his quest on a bright day in June, he meets a leper begging at his castle gate. "This blot on the landscape" causes Sir Launfal to cringe in loathing. Yet from a sense of duty, he tosses him a piece of gold in scorn. The leper did not pick it up from the dust. "Better to me the poor man's crust,'' said the leper.
"Better the blessing of the poor,
Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives nothing but worthless gold
Who gives but to give.
What counts is---
"Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three---
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me."
True kindness is gracious. Graciousness implies courtesy, consideration toward the feelings of others: it is the salt that flavors generosity. St. Francis de Sales always wore a smile and his face always shone with a love that colored all his words and acts. St. Vincent de Paul declared that he had never met a kinder man in all his life than Francis de Sales. Even God loves a cheerful giver.
In The House of the Seven Gables, the street corner philosopher. Uncle Venner, gave Hepzibah this advice on making her penny store a success: "Put on a bright face for your customers, and smile pleasantly as you hand them what they ask for! A stale article, if you dip it in a good, warm, sunny smile, will go off better than a fresh one that you've scowled upon."
Finally, a kind heart is a friendly heart. Kindness means being a friend. One of the great pains of modern people is loneliness, to be friendless. It is the difference between an empty house and a home filled with loving people. Jesus came to call us friends. He shared with us all that He heard from the Father (Jn. 15:15). One greatest act of kindness is to extend to others the glad hand of friendship, to share with them.
The true friend develops a genuine interest in others and their concerns. The true friend is thoughtful---remembers special dates with a drop-in or a card. The true friend is loyal, sensitive to moods, sympathetic and grateful,
One thing the kind avoids is criticism and jokes that hurt other people. Francis de Sales felt about the shortcomings of another as that other felt about his own shortcomings. He always gave the best interpretation. We may be mistaken, but ten thousand mistakes are better than one rash judgment; for mistakes are not sins, rash judgments are. Ben Jonson, England's first Poet Laurette, gave a good piece of advice when he said: "God defers His judgment till Judgment Day; let us do likewise." We are so ready to excuse ourselves, let us not be so ready to accuse our neighbor.
If we could only see the way he came,
With all its jagged rocks and crooked ways,
We might more kindly think of his mistakes,
And only praise.
If we could know the heartaches he has felt,
The longings for the things that never came,
We would not misconstrue his erring them,
Nor even blame,
Kindness is a double blessing: it blesses him who gives and him who receives. There is no happiness like that of a person whose heart is filled with good will toward others. And there is no joy like that of a person who feels he is esteemed and loved by another.
After Portia had saved the Merchant of Venice's life, and she and Nerissa were returning home, she saw a candle lit in a window, put there by her servants to light her way home. Pointing to the light, Portia said to Nerissa:
"How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world."
Make up your mind to be kind. Then encourage every feeling of good will toward your neighbor. Do not listen to criticism nor give in to harshness.
Francis de Sales, the gentleman saint, and St. Vincent de Paul, the apostle of charity, both prayed long and hard to get rid of harshness and ungraciousness. For unkind feelings, unexplainable aversions, baseless jealousies, sudden fits of anger, surface when we least expect them---for these are the weeds of our fallen nature.
One of the greatest sources of kindness is the Sacrament of Love, the Holy Eucharist. Love has to be put into us, as we put gasoline into our car. And this sacrament is the service station of love. Gradually, communion with Christ will make us Christlike---loving and kind persons. Where Christ is most present, man is most humanized; where Christ is most absent, man is most brutalized.
Kindness pays even here and now. If ever you go to the Thousand Islands, in upper New York State, you will visit Boldt's Castle. It was built by George Boldt for his wife. George Boldt was a night clerk in a third class hotel in Philadelphia. One night two tired elderly people came into his hotel and pleaded, ''Mister, please don't tell us you don't have a room. My wife and I have been all over the city looking for a place to stay. We did not know about the big conventions that are here. The hotels at which we usually stay are all full. We're dead tired and it's after midnight. Please don't tell us you don't have a place where we can sleep.''
The clerk looked at them a long moment and then answered, "Well, I don't have a single room except my own. I work at night and sleep in the daytime. It's not as nice as the other rooms, but it's clean, and I'll be happy for you to be my guests for, tonight."
The wife said, "God bless you, young man."
The next morning at the breakfast table, the couple sent the waiter to tell the night clerk they wanted to see him on very important business. The night clerk went in, recognized the two people and said he hoped they had had a good night's sleep. They thanked him most sincerely. Then the husband astounded the clerk with this statement, “You are too fine a hotel man to stay in a hotel like this. How would you like for me to build a big, beautiful, luxurious hotel in the city of New York and make you general manager?''
The clerk didn't know what to say. Naturally, he thought there might be something wrong with their minds. He finally stammered, "It sounds wonderful." His guest then introduced himself. "I'm John Jacob Astor."
Within two years, Astor built the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the night clerk became, in the years to follow, the best known hotel man in the world.
In 1976, the 47-story Waldorf Astoria in New York City had served three-quarters of a million guests in its 1,900 rooms, George Boldt became a millionaire through an act of kindness.
Never fear to be kind. Kindness will do you no harm, cause you no regrets, bring you no bitterness. Kindness will make you most like God and will make the world a better place in which to live.
4. Love Is Not Jealous (1 Cor. 13:4)
Thus far, Paul has described love in two words: love is patient; love is kind.
Next, he lists eight undesirable qualities of love; eight things that love is not!
Topping his list is the most unlovable vice in the whole gamut of undesirables: jealousy. The word Paul uses is zeloi, meaning "zeal.'' Jealous and zealous not only sound alike but they are very much alike. Both words mean to pursue something eagerly and energetically. There is nothing vicious about that. In fact, Paul uses jealous in this good sense when he writes: "Set your hearts (zeloute) on the greater gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31),
Moses speaks of God as a jealous God---“I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God" (Ex. 20:5). Jealous, because He desires our love and obedience exclusively. A husband wants his wife's love exclusively, and she expects his exclusive love. A father cannot be indifferent to the love and obedience of his children. Neither can God be indifferent to the love and obedience of His children. Asked Francis Thompson:
"Ah! Is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?''
Because He is a jealous God, He pursues us eagerly, energetically, relentlessly. Thompson dared call Him “the Hound of Heaven." He comes after us:
“with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed peace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy.. ."
For He is jealous for us, lest we be betrayed by false gods; lest our hearts' desire---the love and happiness that can be found in Him alone---escape us.
But jealousy also has a bad and an ugly side. It can mean to envy. When Paul writes that love is not jealous, he means love does not envy.
Jealousy, or envy, is a vice nobody likes; it is so unlovable that when a person has it, he or she tries to conceal it. Somebody said jealousy is a respectable vice: it dresses like virtue and talks like a religious. Our Lord branded the scribes and Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs, beautiful to look at on the outside but inside full of filth and dead men's bones" (Matt. 23:27).
Ugly as it is, jealousy is everywhere, like a weed: in the young and in the old.
Jealousy is a normal reaction in children, a sign of growing up. Self-assertion is needed if a child is to grow up and not become a door mat or a perpetual Yes-man. It is normal for a 2-year-old to be jealous of the new baby or the 5-year-old to envy the other kid's toys. These are not harmful if we grow out of them and not grow up with them.
And you grow up with your jealous reactions when you belittle the person in your office who gets a promotion by telling everyone else, “It's nice to have a pull." Or when you all of a sudden find you have no time for a committee when your "friend" has been elected chairman.
Envy is the mark of a poor loser. It is a defense mechanism we use to avoid facing up to the fact that we are not number one. It is thwarted pride. That is why it usually stalks the successful. As a shadow follows those who walk in the sun, so envy dogs those who excel others. No sun, no shadows; no prosperity, no envy. The tornado spares the reed, but woe to the oak!
St. Thomas tells us that envy is sorrow about another's good fortune. Another's virtue vexes the envious person. Another's praise sickens him. Someone said of an envious person who one day was unusually sad that either some great misfortune had befallen him or some great good fortune had happened to his “friend.”
Envy is the one vice that has not a shred of pleasure in it. It destroys peace of soul and makes the envious one positively miserable. How unhappy Saul became over the popularity of David (1 Sam. 18:7). Ahab could not rest till he possessed the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kgs. 2L4), The elder son sulked at the restoration of his prodigal brother (Lk. 15:28). The laborers in the vineyard complained that the last workers received as much as the first (Matt. 20:12). Instead of rejoicing at another's good fortune, envy weeps. How ugly! How frustrating! How foolish!
No wonder Paul said that "love is not jealous."
Love is patient; jealousy is murderous. ". . . by the envy of the devil death entered the world" (Wis. 2:24). The first murder, Abel by Cain, was spawned by jealousy (Gen. 4:5).
Love is kind; jealousy is unkind. What could be meaner than to sell one's own brother into slavery? And the half-brothers of Joseph did just that because of envy. Shakespeare's play Othello unfolds all the evil consequences of envy. Iago's villainous envy destroys the innocent Desdemona and the noble Othello.
Love is joyful; envy is joyless.
Love is light; envy is darkness.
Love is peaceful like a summer evening; envy is troubled like a turbulent sea.
Love is pure like a mountain stream; envy is foul like a city sewer.
Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit; envy is the fruit of the flesh.
Love is the spirit of Christ; envy is the spirit of Hell.
Therefore, we should do everything within us to detect this vice in ourselves and eradicate it.
How can we detect it? The Pharisees envied Jesus. How did they show it?
First, they started a whispering campaign: "We know His father and mother, just ordinary people." Then they belittled Him and His deeds: “He cures on the Sabbath." "He casts out devils by Beelzebub." When these methods did not work, they resorted to the smear campaign: "He is a Samaritan.'' ''He has a devil.'' ''He eateth with sinners," implying He was one.
As the appetite grows with eating, so envy grows with envying---and it grows into downright hatred. Hate seeks to destroy. So the Pharisees plotted the murder of Jesus. Nor was that enough. To vent their spleen, they had Him killed in the cruelest way possible: crucifixion. And to make Him a person no longer to be envied, they tried to strip Him of His reputation by having Him crucified between two thieves.
Well, are we whisperers, gossips? Are we chronic critics? Sarcastic? Do we deprecate: talk disparagingly about another's accomplishment? Do we belittle something that means a lot to another? Or worse still, are we character assassins?
Or do we turn in on ourselves? A wife gives her husband the silent treatment, because she is jealous of the time he spends on his job. Or a husband may be jealous because his wife earns more than he does, so he coddles his hurt ego by gambling, drinking, or eating too much.
Fortunately, we can do something about jealousy. Persons can change. That is the essence of the gospel.
One of the best ways to dissipate an emotion is by reasoning. That is why we say "count ten" before getting angry. Thought defuses an emotion.
Just think of this. Each flower has its own beauty. It makes no difference if it be tall as the sunflower or lowly as the humble violet. Every flower is beautiful.
So are you!
“Person" means somebody unique, somebody distinct from everybody else, an unrepeatable creation. You are somebody nobody else is. As no two fingerprints are alike, so no two persons are exactly alike.
Each of you has a role to play in life no one else can play. As in a symphony, each player is important, so in the symphony of life each one of you is important.
Each of you has a talent no one else has. What difference does it make if it be one or three or five talents? All that concerns God is that we use the talent he has given us. He asks no more. To be you is enough! The glory of God is man fully human. How foolish, then, to be envious!
Secondly, before we begrudge another's success, put yourself in the other person's shoes. An old Indian proverb says, “I will condemn no brave until I have walked for at least six moons in his moccasins." Don't begrudge any person his or her achievements until you have kept their schedule for six weeks or six days or six hours. When you discover the cost that they have paid for their success, you will compliment, not begrudge.
And lastly, the best way to overcome envy of another is this: talk to the person you envy and pay him/her the honest compliment his/her achievement deserves.
Ethel Merman had held undisputed sway as queen of musical comedy on Broadway until the night when "South Pacific'' came to town and Mary Martin tried to wash Ezio Pinza right out of her hair. That night everybody knew that there were two musical queens. Miss Merman was present on that historic occasion. As she was leaving the Majestic Theatre, she was asked, "What do you think of Mary Martin?"
"Oh, she's all right, I guess, if you like talent,'' said Miss Merman.
So be honest, be content with what and who you are, be generous, but above all, be loving. A loving person is never jealous. Love is not jealous.
5. Love Is Not Pompous (1 Cor. 13:4)
In the Revised New Testament, when Paul speaks of what love is not, the translation is, "Love is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated." To be pompous and to be inflated seem to say practically the same thing. Yet in Greek the words used are different,
The Greek word translated "to be pompous" is perperteuetai. The dictionary says the word means “to boast of oneself or to be a braggart.” The Greek word translated "to be inflated" is phusioutai. The dictionary says it means "to puff up, to make proud." The meanings are different. Therefore, for this article and the next, I prefer to “love is not pompous" the translation that "love does not brag," or "love is not boastful." And to “love is not inflated'' I prefer "love is not puffed up with pride.''
Paul says, "Love does not brag, is not boastful."
Why doesn't love brag or boast?
I suppose it is because love is kind; whereas bragging or boasting can be very unkind and hurtful, since it diminishes others.
The braggart does not feel superior to others, he lets others know he is. Much of the divisions in the Church in Corinth in Paul's time was due to those gifted with tongues and prophesy. They felt superior to the rest of the Christian community. So, they separated themselves from the others, formed their own little cliques, elitist groups. Paul blasted this arrogance with the beautiful comparison of the human body. "Can the head say to the feet,'' he asked, ''I don't need you?" (1 Cor. 12:21).
Boasting is an inordinate pursuit of esteem from others. Pride resides in the heart; boasting lies in words. The proud man thinks in his heart, "What a wonderful person I am!" The braggart says in words, "I'll just tell you all what a wonderful person I am!" Pride is inflated egoism; boasting is egotistical braggadocio. Pride is odious; boasting is ridiculous. Shakespeare in his play "Henry IV'' still gets many a laugh from that braggart, that huge hill of flesh, that liar without malice, Sir John Falstaff. Jack Benny in one of his old radio programs had this line: “I lack only one qualification of a great actor, I am slightly hard of hearing---the result of so much deafening applause, y' know.”
The tendency to boast is in all of us. Sometimes we are entirely unaware of it. A father said to his son guilty of bragging, “Son, I've told you a million times not to exaggerate.''
The daughter of a country squire who liked to be called “Colonel" was asked if her father's hens laid eggs. “Of course they can,'' she replied haughtily, ''but in our position, you know, they really don't have to."
Oftentimes, however, boasting is more or less conscious. Why does one buy an expensive car? Or a gown made in Paris? Or a shirt with an alligator embroidered on it? Or join an exclusive club? Why are cosmeticians building a billion dollar industry? Why are titles---Dr., Ph.D., etc---so cherished?
There are at least four basic reasons why people brag or boast.
The first most universal and fundamental reason is that one may think he or she is better than others. In Our Lord's parable of the Pharisees and the tax-collector, the Pharisee boasted: “I give thanks, 0 God, that I am not like the rest of men---grasping, crooked, adulterous---or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on all I possess" (Lk. 18:11-12). I---I---I. Augustine said, "He did not go up to pray but to praise himself."
Perhaps the Pharisee so boasted in order to find comfort for a conscience ill at ease.
A second reason for bragging can come from getting your heart's desire. Some people have their heart set only on money, position or knowledge. For them such things are the end-all and the be-all of their very existence. Let them attain even one of these goals and they most assuredly will start "crowing."
I remember when Nelson Rockefeller died, I was flying from St. Thomas Island to the States. The passenger sitting with me was a Chicago businessman. He was almost ecstatic with the headline that day: ''Rockefeller leaves 70 million." "Father," he said, "isn't that wonderful to leave 70 million to one's heirs? Isn't that something?" To that man money meant almost everything. It meant a successful life to him. So, I simply said, ''He left it!'' Our Lord called the rich man who thought only of this world, "You fool!" (Lk. 12:20).
A third reason for boasting is thoughtlessness, forgetting who we really are. A person may look into a mirror and then go off and promptly forget what he looked like (Jas. 1:24). Abraham said, "I am but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27)---and so are we all. Yet we forget. We forget that without God we can do nothing; that what we have we have received from Him. The sin of the fallen angels was pride; the sin of man is forgetfulness---especially to forget that:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
A final reason for boasting is presumption. Youth tends to be presumptuous. Youth has strength, energy, health, years ahead to look forward to. So youth is liable to put too much trust in tomorrow, to live in the "future tense."
Francis Thompson wrote, “In the rash lustihood of my young powers, I shook the pillaring hours''; that is, in the vigor of his youth instead of serving God, he squandered his time in vain pursuits, thus shaking and pulling down, like Samson, the whole temple of time to his own destruction.
Now is the acceptable time. "We are," as St. James put it, "a vapor that appears briefly and vanishes" (Jas. 4:14). Therefore, not to look to this final day is reprehensible boasting. “Too late have I found Thee," lamented the great St. Augustine.
Boasting is fraught with dangers.
If you peg yourself too high, you are going to lose altitude. But if you start low, you usually will go up higher (Lk. 14:10-11). It is proverbial that pride goes before a fall.
Napoleon, on the eve of his Russian campaign, detailed his schemes to a noble lady with such arrogant positiveness that she tried to check him saying, "Sir, man proposes; but God disposes."
"Madam," replied the emperor haughtily, "I propose and I dispose too.''
On the western boundary of Russia, there stands a granite shaft. On the side facing west are these words: "Napoleon passed this way in 1812 with 410,000 men."
On the side facing east are these words: "Napoleon passed this way in 1812 with 9,000 men,"
I remember an old man from Belfast, Ireland, who came in to the sacristy after a homily in which I had mentioned the Titanic. He said, "Father. I want to share this with you about the Titanic. I worked on it. When it was launched, all us Irish Catholics said it was a doomed ship." I asked why. He said the graffiti on the hull inside the ship was blasphemous; one inscription brashly boasted, "Not even God can sink this ship."
Bragging is so foolish. Paul labeled braggarts noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. The Latin phrase for them was Vox et praeterea nihil; that is, “mouth and nothing more." As a result, no intelligent person listens to a braggart. Words, like dollars, lose their value by inflation. Empty barrels make the loudest noise.
Aesop tells the fable of a crow sitting in a tree with a piece of meat in its mouth. A fox below was determined to get the meat. So the fox began to flatter the crow. "What a beautiful, big bird you are," he said, "You ought to be the king of birds; and you would, if only you had a voice as well." The crow, so anxious to prove he had a voice, croaked for all he was worth and the meat fell from his mouth to the ground. The fox snapped it up and said, “If to all your other qualifications, you added brains, you would make an ideal king.''
So, we have the expression, "Don't crow." Bragging is not only foolish, but the braggart is a fool to listen to flattery or to want it.
Love, therefore, does not brag or boast. Love is humble. Love is modest. It seeks to please only God. As Christ advised, it prays in secret, fasts in secret, gives alms in secret (Matt. 6:1-18). It conceals its good works as the sea does the pearl.
To achieve this, one ought every morning pray the Morning Offering; that is, make the intention when you get up to do all things for God. St. Alphonsus Liguori lists four signs that can tell us if what we do is for God or for plaudits. First, does failure disturb you? Secondly, do you rejoice at good done by another as heartily as if it were done by yourself? Thirdly, if after your actions do you seek the thanks or approbation of others? Finally, do you leave all things in the hands of God? St. Francis de Sales had the motto: Ne rien demandez, ne rien refusez; that is, "Ask nothing (do not be self-seeking), refuse nothing (accept all God permits).''
St. Paul was so modest that he would not baptize people lest they say, "I was baptized by Paul"; and Paul would be exalted and not Christ (1 Cor. 1:15). Peter did the same thing (Acts 10:48), for the same reason.
Michaelangelo so placed his candle in his pasteboard cap that his own shadow would never fall in such a way as to hinder his work.
"Love does not boast," for true Christian love thinks always of the other, God and neighbor, and will never let self get in the way, crowd out the One or the other.
6. Love Is Not Inflated ( I Co, 13:4)
In the last article we preferred the dictionary meaning of the Greek “Love does not boast'' to the translation ''Love is not pompous."
So here, we prefer to the translation ''Love is not inflated" the dictionary meaning of the Greek, which is "Love is not puffed up with pride."
In this instance, Paul goes to the heart of boasting, which is pride. Pride is an overestimation of self to the exclusion of God. Self-esteem is good. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Any extreme is bad. To eat is good, but not too much eating or too little. To sleep is good, but again oversleep or lack of sleep is not. To love oneself is good, but not in extremes. Virtue stands between extremes. Pride is extreme self-love. It smacks of idolatry, for it idolizes self: puts self on God's throne.
The members of the Church in Corinth were exceedingly gifted. Unfortunately, their grace did not equal their gifts. As a result a proud spirit developed. Parties were formed that glorified in name-dropping so that others might glorify them. One said, “I was baptized by Paul, so that makes me special," Another said, “I belong to Apollos, and that makes me superior to you'' (1 Cor. 1:12; 4:6). One exalted himself above another and against him. He not only thought himself better than his brother, but assumed a hostile attitude toward him. The result was cliques, factions, fracturing the unity of the Christian community.
All this disturbed Paul no little bit. He rebuked their pride, but did it wisely. Paul did not belittle their gifts. These were real enough. You cannot bring a person to his senses by undervaluing his gifts. Like the fox in Aesop's fable, to pooh-pooh the gifts would have evoked the reply of ''sour grapes." Paul was more sensible. He simply asked, "Where did your gifts come from? Name something that you have that you have not received" (1 Cor. 4:6). During a visit, one lady said to her host, "My besetting sin is pride." One of the children present asked, innocently and wonderingly, "Why? What have you to be proud of?"
Pride is so despicable, because it arrogates to oneself what belongs to another. It is dishonest. God Who cannot hate resists the proud. To resist means to hold back. God is love and He so wants to give to us His gifts; but pride is so distasteful to Him that it forces Him to hold back from doing what He delights in doing, namely, to shower us with His gifts.
Rain falling into a valley makes it fertile and fruitful, so God's graces falling into a humble heart bears great fruit. The same rain, however, hitting the mountaintop turns to ice and snow, so grace given to persons puffed up with pride only hardens their hearts, as was the heart of Pharaoh in Egypt.
The litmus test of pride is our reaction to correction and to criticism. When a humble person is corrected, he grieves over his fault; he does not excuse himself even when the charge is untrue. The one exception is to prevent scandal; then he speaks out. The proud person grieves, not over his fault, but in his having been detected; he denies the fault and becomes angry at his accuser.
As for criticism, when it is leveled against one by word or letter, if it is true, the really humble person admits it, tries to rectify any damage done and is grateful for the advice. He learns from it---learns that man is weak and in need of God's constant graces. If it is untrue, the humble person in charity tries to set the record straight. But he does this only once. If that does not work, he accepts the cross as Jesus did, full of joy to be judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Lord (Cp., Acts 5:41). His joy also stems from the fact that he knows a mild answer breaks wrath and wins the sinner (Prov. 15:1).
The proud person, on the contrary, will not even brook criticism, be it true or untrue. Hell hath no fury as a proud man scorned.
There are three cures for pride. One is to change your perspective. When climbing the mountain of holiness, you can look back at those below you and think how much higher you are than they are. Or you can look up beyond the mountaintop to God and see His holiness and realize how unholy you really are. A glimpse of God made Isaiah realizes how unclean he was (6:5f). A glimmer of Who Jesus truly was caused Peter to cry out, "Leave me, Lord. I am a sinful man" (Lk. 5:8). In the Light we shall see the light,
A second remedy for pride is affliction. "In order that I might not become conceited," wrote St. Paul, "I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and keep me from getting proud" (2 Cor, 12:7). Whatever that thorn was we do not exactly know; but we know it was an affliction of some kind. A blessing in disguise.
We can well imagine how Satan must have tempted Paul to pride. Never was a preacher so successful, Never was a man so loved---the churches received him "as an angel from Heaven," Few saints enjoyed his visions and revelations.
Lest his gifts puff him up with pride, he was given a thorn in the flesh. A blessing in disguise. It made him pray: "Three times I begged the Lord that this might leave me." God's answer was, "My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection." Affliction is the antidote for the temptation to the pride that can vitiate perfection. So Paul ended up boasting of his weakness and confessing, “I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions, and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
The third cure for pride is to cultivate the virtue of humility. Faith is the road to God, but humility is the roadbed. Basic as it is, yet it is often spurned by Americans. In Camelot Modred sings of the seven deadly sins. Of humility he says:
"I find Humility means to be hurt;
It's not the earth the meek inherit, it's the dirt.''
Actually, humility comes from the Latin word humus meaning ground. But it does not mean groveling in the dirt. Humility means to have one's feet on the ground. A humble hut is one close to the ground. A humble person is one who has his feet on the ground, for he lives by truth and acts on it.
Humility is not a horizontal virtue: looking at me and my neighbor. Humility is not thinking my neighbor is better than I. That could be sheer nonsense. You may be ten thousand times better than your neighbor. Our Lady said that all generations would call her blessed. That was the truth. And she was the most humble of persons.
Humility is not putting self down; thinking I am just nobody. That is not true. You are somebody, as are we all, because we are purchased with the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Our Lady said that God had done great things for her. That was the truth.
Rather, humility is a vertical virtue: it looks at me in relation to God! Who am I? Nothing! Who is God? Everything! What have I? Nothing which I have not received from Him. That is the truth.
But knowing that is not necessarily humility. Knowledge is not virtue. If it were, all Ph.D's would be saints. Virtue resides, not in the head, but in the heart; not in words, but in deeds. False humility is in words only. Alan Paton in his book Instrument of Thy Peace tells of a rabbi, a cantor, and a janitor who was preparing the synagogue for the Day of Atonement. The rabbi in the front of the synagogue beat his breast and said, “I am nothing, Lord. I am nothing." The cantor, next to him, also beat his breast and said, "I am nothing Lord. I am nothing." The janitor in the back of the synagogue beat his breast and said, "I am nothing, Lord. I am nothing. The rabbi nudged the cantor and said, "Look who thinks he's nothing." Humility of the tongue.
Humility is truth; but that is only the half of it. The other half is to admit it. The virtue lies in acting according to the truth, giving God His due.
Mary said to the angel Gabriel that she was the handmaid of the Lord. That was the truth. But knowing that did not make her humble. Her humility shone out when she said, "Be it done to me according to your word." In a word, when she acted like the handmaid of the Lord and surrendered to His will.
When the Son of God emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, that was not His humility. The Incarnation was an act of love, not of humility. Jesus was humble when---having become a servant---He acted like one and became obedient to His Father unto death, even to death on a cross.
So, humility is truth and justice: knowing who we are in relation to God and then acting on that knowledge. Who is God? All that is. Who am I? All that is not. That is the truth. The humble person not only knows this, but admits it by obeying God's will no matter the cost. That is why every sin has something of pride in it: it says we can be independent of God. And that is a lie.
True humility is not to think low of oneself, but to think correctly and truthfully of oneself. Even the pagan Greeks knew the value of true self-knowledge. Over their temple at Delphi were inscribed the words: Know Thyself! How right old Polonius was in his advice to his son, Laertes,
“To thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
Once Samuel F. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was asked by Rev. George W. Hervey if he had ever come to a stand, not knowing what next to do.
Morse replied, “Oh, yes, more than once."
"And at such times what did you do next?"
"Sir," said Morse, "I tell you this in confidence, I prayed for more light."
"And did it come?" asked Hervey.
"Yes, and when I am honored, I feel I don't deserve it. I was able to advance science so much, not because I was superior to other men, but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to me."
Thus Morse's first message on the telegraph was, “See, what God hath wrought." That is true humility.
In 1808, just a year before the death of Franz Joseph Haydn, a grand performance of his outstanding oratorio The Creation took place in Vienna. The composer himself was there for the occasion. Old and feeble, he was brought into the great hall in a wheelchair. His presence caused an electrifying enthusiasm in the audience. As the orchestra and chorus burst forth with full power into the passage, "And there was light," a crescendo of applause broke out.
Moved by this response, Haydn struggled to his feet. Summoning all his strength, he raised his trembling arms upward crying, "No, No! Not from me, but from thence---from Heaven above comes all!''
Haydn echoed the Psalmist who sang, "Not to us, 0 Lord, not to us but to your name give glory" (Ps. 115:1). That is always the posture of truly great men---humility.
"Love, indeed, is not inflated."
7. Love Is Not Rude (1 Cor. 13:5)
"Rudeness," wrote Eric Hoffer, a San Francisco longshoreman/philosopher, “is the weak person's imitation of strength.” The rude person believes that the best defense is to be offensive. The rude person believes, according to the gospel of Leo Duroucher, former baseball manager, that "nice guys finish last." The rude person does not treat a person as a person, but as a means to his own ends. Rudeness is downright cruelty.
Art Buchwald said rudeness is a good economic indicator. When clerks, hotel reservation people and headwaiters are most courteous and nice and polite, then the economy is bad. The nicer they are the more trouble the country is in. However, when hotel people get snippety and clerks in stores do not give a hoot about the customers, and the head waiter becomes patronizing, then the economy is on the upswing. In a word, rudeness is a sign that some people do not care about other people. They use them and treat them as commodities.
Rudeness can spring from insecurity or weakness, from sheer selfishness or self-centeredness, from lack of training in home or in school.
The barbarians who inundated the Roman Empire in the Dark Ages brought rudeness along with them. But the monks went out to meet the barbarian and forged the Christian civilization of medieval Europe. From this fusion of the barbarian and Christianity, chivalry was born, with its courtliness and courtesy, consideration and thoughtfulness for others, especially for the weak and the helpless.
The roots for this lay in the gospel. Jesus was the soul of gentleness and kindness. When the thoughtless crowd tried to silence the blind beggar Bartimaeus, Jesus would have none of it. He ordered the blind beggar brought to Him and He cured the man (Mk. 10:42-56). After He had raised Jairus' 12-year-old daughter from the dead, the little girl was forgotten in the pandemonium that resulted from the miracle. It was Jesus Who said, "Give her something to eat" (Mk. 5:43). He asked us to welcome little children as we would welcome Him (Mk. 9:37). A cup of cold water given in His name, He promised to reward (Mk. 9:41). What we do to the least, He said would be accounted as done to Himself (Matt. 25:40).
Add the letter “d" to kin and you get kind. That is how the word originated. To treat someone kindly is to treat him as kin. Kindness flows from kinship. Jesus identified all with Himself. He said we had a common Father; He gave us a common mother. Because we all are kin, kindness to each other ought to follow as the day the night.
St. Paul on the road to Damascus discovered that in persecuting Christians he was actually persecuting Christ. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" “Who are you, Sir?" he asked. The voice answered, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting" (Acts 9:4-5). That is why Paul appealed again and again to Christians to be nice to one another: we all are kin! To the Romans, he wrote, "Love one another with the affection of brothers, anticipate each other in showing respect ... be generous in offering hospitality. .. live peaceably with everyone" (Rom. 12:9-18).
When Paul told the Corinthians that "love is not rude," he no doubt had in mind the chaos created in their Christian assemblies because of rudeness. Chapter 14 deals with those who were inconsiderate and clamorous in meetings, who violated good manners and ignored other people's desires and feelings just to get their own ends. Parlimentary Law is courtesy toward others in a meeting. But in Corinth, parlimentary lawlessness prevailed (1 Cor. 14:26-40). Hence Paul's “Love is not rude,"
In her message to the world, given each month at Medjugorje since January 25, 1987, one cannot help but be touched by the courtesy and tenderness of Our Lady. Always she begins her message with "Dear children." Then she humbly invites them to a course of action with the words "I invite you"---no hardsell, no browbeating---just an invitation. Then always she concludes with "Thank you for responding to my call."
Christian courtesy differs from kingly courtesy. Titles of courtesy---like Sir, Madame, Lord, Lady, etc.---grew out of titles of court (just as the word courtesy itself grew out of the word court). Respect and reverence were demanded by the highborn as a right. People were nice to their "betters," because they had to be. Not infrequently, beneath the show of courtesy, rancor smoldered in the heart. So kingly courtesy could be all show and nothing more. Thus the saying: “All that glitters in not gold."
Christian courtesy, on the other hand, is made of sterner stuff. The true Christian is nice, polite, urbane, not because he has to be, nor because he seeks advancement. That is the despicable tool of the toady, the sycophant, the flatterer. Sam Rayburn used to say about politics, if you want to get along, go along. Not so for Christian courtesy.
The courteous Christian realizes the dignity of the human person. He sees all mankind as purchased by the imperishable blood of the Lamb of God. He sees each person as a child of God with an eternal destiny. Therefore, he respects each person, takes him seriously as he is and where he is; seeks not to blame nor necessarily to praise; is open, receptive, trusting; simply treats each person as a person, as a child of God.
One day a maid was combing the hair of the daughter of King Louis XV. She hit a snarl, and the young princess pulled away her head and snapped, "Remember, I am the daughter of your king." The little maid answered, “Oui, Madamoiselle, but remember that I am the daughter of your God."
Of course, being nice is not always easy. It is not an automatic fringe benefit that comes from religion; otherwise, why did Jesus and St. Paul have to stress it so much? Being nice, kind, courteous, polite, good natured---call it what you will---is a cultivated virtue.
It is one of the basics of love. "Love is kind," and "It is not rude." But it comes hard and after much effort. The sparks of courtesy need constant fanning.
Norman Vincent Peale tells the story of his mother. "Whenever we went out to visit our friends, mother would say, “Now be sure to mind your manners."' One day his father, a minister, protested that she seemed to place manners on a par with morals, "No," his mother serenely replied, ''but your morals aren't always showing and your manners are."
The late Groucho Marx made a career of witty insults and barbed humor. For instance, on his television program “You Bet Your Life,'' he said to a girl contestant who was no beauty, "I never forget a face, but in your case I'm willing to make an exception."
At 80, Groucho confessed that he wished he had been a bit kinder to people. He admitted it would have been kinder to say to a girl whose looks would stop a clock, ''My dear, when I look at you, time stands still." Then he recalled the words of Lincoln: ''Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves."
To mind your manners is a cultivated virtue. It is the mark of the gentleman, of good-breeding, the mark of urbanity, refinement; it is the mark of being Christian. However, there seems to be a shifting today from the “gentle" man to the "macho" man. Wrongly, modern man feels tenderness and toughness cannot go together. Toughness is not necessarily strength, nor is yielding weakness. St Francis de Sales said that ''nothing is so strong as gentleness; and nothing so gentle as real strength."
Well might we pray the little child's prayer: "Dear God, please make all the bad people good, and all the good people nice."
Besides the Ten Commandments of Moses, try these Ten Commandments of Human Relations:
1. Speak to people. There is nothing as nice as a cheerful word of greeting.
2. Smile at people. It takes 72 muscles to frown; 14 to smile.
3. Call people by name. The sweetest music is the sound of one's own name.
4. Be friendly and helpful.
5. Be cordial. Speak and act as if everything you do is a genuine pleasure.
6. Be genuinely interested in people. You can like everybody if you try.
7. Be generous with praise; be cautious with criticism.
8. Be considerate of the feelings of others. They will appreciate it.
9. Be thoughtful of the opinions of others. There are three sides to every controversy: your side, the other fellow's side, and the right side.
10. Be alert to give service. What counts most in life is what we do for others for Our Lord's sake.
"Love is not rude." "Love is kind!"
8. Love Is Not Self-Seeking (1 Cor. 13:5).
A few years ago, I saw a movie---so long ago, I cannot even remember the name of it. But one scene always stuck in my mind. The movie was about West Point. One cadet was having a hard time of it in his first year at the Academy. He just could not keep out of trouble always violating some rule or regulation. He was headstrong and wanted his own way. After one more breach of discipline, the commandant summoned the cadet. Dressing him down, the commandant said, “You think you are tough. Well, in the next room I have a chap. I don't think you can whip him; but, if you can, you can stay here at the Point.'' With fierce determination, the cadet strode to the door and tore it open. Behind the door was a full length mirror.
So often, there's the enemy: the ego, me, myself, and I. A great evangelist, Dwight Moody, said, “I've had more trouble with myself than with any other person I know." Jesus said that to be His disciple, you have to whip self (Matt. 16:24). St. Paul put it this way: "Love is not self-seeking." Some people live in a small country bounded on the north, south, east and west by themselves. If self becomes the entire picture in our lives, then no room remains either for God or for man.
The self-seeker seeks two things.
First, he seeks his own will. St. James says that conflicts and disputes originate with our inner cravings: "...you desire.. .you envy,. .you ask wrongly" (Jas. 4.13)---and the result is you have no peace. The self-seeker wants what he wants---the Magisterium of the Church to the contrary notwithstanding. The self-seeker may want to serve God, but his way, not God's. The self-seeker prays that his own will be done, not God's will. That always spells trouble.
Secondly, the self-seeker pursues the adulation, praise, and approbation of others. Should he be criticized, he is quick to defend himself. Should he do good, he is eager to broadcast it. His chief concern is what others think about him. A satirist had the self-seeker in mind when he wrote: "Few people think! And when they do, they generally aren't thinking of you." How different with the saint. The saint feels unworthy to be thought of as a saint and desires only God to see his good works.
Of course, God does not require us to reject or throw away our sense of self for no reason whatsoever. Nothing is ever gained by purposeless sacrifice. The grain of wheat dies---but to produce a harvest. So one dies to self for the sake of Christ to be raised up to a new life---the unselfish life of love.
Not to die to self is to die! The man who said, "If I don't look out for number one, who will?" had this epitaph written on his tombstone:
Here lies a fellow who lived for himself
And cared for nothing but gathering pelf,
Now, where he is or how he fares,
Nobody knows and nobody cares.
Some self-seekers live only for things. How foolish! Qoheleth wrote: "Nothing that my eyes desired did I deny them, nor did I deprive myself of any joy, but my heart rejoiced in the fruit of my toil ... behold! all was vanity and a chase after wind"---all as futile as trying to corral the wind (Eccles. 2:10-11).
Some self-seekers canvas for high office and honors. How vain! When Cardinal Wolsley fell from high office, he said to his protege,
"Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition.
By that sin fell the angels; how can man, then,... hope to win by it?. ..
0 Cromwell, Cromwell!
Had I but served my God with half the zeal?
I served my king, he would not in mine age
Have left me naked to mine enemies.''
(Henry VIII, Act 3, Sc. 2)
On the contrary, how much more human, more rational to reach out to others! One's heart cannot but be touched by this story of Mrs. Appleton of Boston. She was the daughter of Daniel Webster, She was dying after a long illness. Her father, the great lawyer, after pleading an important case, stopped on his way home to see his daughter. When he entered the sick room, she said to him, “Father, why are you out today in this cold weather without an overcoat?'' Webster went into the next room and sobbed saying, “Dying herself, yet thinking only of me." How beautiful to care for others than everlastingly be thinking of ourselves!
We are all called to greatness. Our reach should be beyond ourselves, else what is Heaven for? Self is too small and too unworthy a goal for man's quest.
When Jesus came to earth, He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant---the very opposite of self-seeking (Phil. 2:7). All His earthly life, He did the will of Another. He had no servants Himself, for He came as a working man. He said, "I am the Good Shepherd," for His sole concern was for the sheep---for others.
It took a long time for the disciples to learn this lesson. Twice they evinced the spirit of self-seeking that lurks in all of us. Once James and John asked for top spots in His kingdom. The other ten became indignant---they too wanted the first places. Our blessed Lord said, "It cannot be like this with you. If you want to rank first, serve the needs of all. The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve" (Cp., A1att. 20:20-28).
Still, they did not get the point. The same self-seeking spirit surfaced again at one of the most solemn moments in Our Lord's life, at the Last Supper. When it came to reclining at table for the supper, all fought for the first places. This time, Jesus reprimanded them not only by words, but also by a servant action: He washed their feet (Cp., Lk. 22:24-30)! At last they understood. Thus on Easter Day, John deferred to Peter at the Lord's tomb.
Nature herself preaches against self-seeking. For all nature gives to others. Clouds bring water to the thirsting earth; they do it joyfully, skipping across the skies like wooly lambs. Birds, too, cheerfully sing for all who will hear. Flowers radiate their beauty for all who will look; trees, their loveliness. All creatures, great and small, God made to serve man. And man---whom does he serve? Sadly, Paul wrote: "Everyone is busy seeking his own interests'' (Phil. 2:21).
There are two signs to tell whether or not we are self-seeking in the wrong way.
The first has to do with God. Is God foremost in our thoughts; that is, do we try to avoid what is displeasing to God, and do we accept without complaint all that God sends us?
What displeases God is sin. In the middle of the word sin is “I”. Sin is simply too much of the me. It is self-love gone out of order---preferring self to God.
At Medjugorje Our Lady gave a wonderful tip on how to avoid sin. She said be on guard against your thoughts. Never let an unkind thought or a rash judgment lodge even momentarily in your mind. For such a thought is the edge of the wedge by which the devil can enter your heart and fill it with self and hate. Therefore eschew bad thoughts---they can harm!
As for what God permits; He permits trials. Why? Precisely to purge us of excessive self-love. St. Catherine of Genoa said: "To arrive at union with God, the problems God sends are absolutely necessary." In fact they are indispensable---no cross, no crown. The reason is that problems shift the focus from self to the problems. They initiate a struggle. The greater the struggle to accept them without complaint, the more we die to self. How right Shakespeare was when he wrote: ''Sweet are the uses of adversity.''
The second sign that tells whether or not we are self-seeking has to do with us ourselves. Do we give free rein to our desires and wants? Do we let them run wild like an unbridled colt? Or do we discipline them, tame them, practice mortification? Our Lady at Medjugorje asked us to fast twice a week---on Wednesdays and Fridays. Do we? The canonical fast---one full meal, cut down on the other two so that together they do not equal the full meal, and nothing between---would be a good start.
However, mortification means more than fasting from food. Real mortification means dealing death to unruly passions by putting a check on our five senses.
Death, for instance, entered the world through the eyes. Do you guard your eyes, curb what you look at? Death still enters souls through pornography, R-movies, and indiscriminate television watching.
Then there is your tongue. It is a small organ; but, like the rudder of a ship, it steers our lives. Most friction in our daily life stems from our words---not so much from what we say as how we say it. Your words convey your thoughts, but the tone of your voice conveys your moods.
Finally, there is your heart. Where is it fixed? On things or on Heaven? To earn, to save, to provide---all make good sense, until we let these things possess us. Poison in a bottle is harmless, but do not let it get into the bloodstream. So possessions are all right if you do not let them possess you. Thus Christ blessed the poor in spirit; not the economically poor, but those detached in heart from material things.
John of the Cross says a bird cannot fly if one of its legs is fastened to the earth by a cord. It does not matter how slender or thick the cord is; if it is not broken, the bird cannot fly. Similarly, any excessive attachment, big or small, to things can keep you from total union with God unless it is broken.
The Psalmist prayed, “A pure heart create for me, 0 God; put a steadfast spirit within me'' (Ps. 51:12), In light of that Scripture verse, St. Thomas defined holiness by two words: munditia ("a pure heart") and firmitas (''a steadfast spirit.'') Holiness is detachment from creatures---a pure heart; and a firm attachment to God---a steadfast spirit.
Holiness results when we seek God; problems result when we seek self!
9. Love Is Not Quick-Tempered (1 Cor. 13:5)
Here, Paul is talking not so much about anger, as the irascible disposition that erupts into anger, namely, the quick temper. The quick-tempered person is one who is easily provoked to anger---one who has a low tolerance point, a short fuse. The quick-tempered person can be testy, flaring up at the least annoyance; or touchy, reacting vehemently whenever a certain subject is broached. Sometimes, the quick-tempered person can be absolutely irrational: flying into a rage or fury.
When Henry II of England saw the city of his birth in flames and himself forced to flee from his enemies, he burst out in wrath: “The city I have loved best on earth, the city where I was born and bred, ... this, 0 God, to the increase of my shame, Thou hast reft from me. I will requite as best I can. I will assuredly rob Thee of the thing Thou prizest most in me, my soul.” What frightful blasphemy! What mad self-damnation! And the cause? His quick temper.
The quick temper expresses itself in anger. St. Thomas defined anger, the fruit of a quick temper, as "the vehement desire to strike back." As such, anger need not be all bad. It can be a splendid thing, as when it strikes back to defend a loved one. When Audie Murphy in World War II wiped out a nest of Japanese machine-gunners and was given the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery, he said, "I was not brave. I was just mad. When I saw all my buddies getting shot up around me, I got angry and anger helped me to do what I did."
Our passions are God-given. Some of them, like anger, are emergency passions; that is, vehement movements empowering us to meet and overcome difficult situations.
Thus Charles and Mary Lamb in their poem "Anger" wrote:
Anger in its time and place
May assume a kind of grace
It must have reason in it,
And not last beyond a minute.
Christ's explusion of the money-changers from the Temple in anger had reason in it, was divine zeal. A mother's anger in spanking her naughty child, in order to correct, should not last beyond a minute and should have love in it. That is what Paul meant when he wrote: "Be angry but do not sin" (Eph. 4:26).
However, there is another anger, which does not strike back to defend what is loved, but strikes back to hurt what is hated. The red anger that flushes the face and fires the eyes. The white anger that blanches the countenance and drives the blood deep down. The anger that strikes back to give punch for punch and bump for bump, eye for eye and lie for lie. The anger that lasts more than a minute: that has no reason in it. Such anger is as ugly as sin.
Uncontrolled anger can lead to a host of other sins. For instance, if one nurses anger or lets the sun set on it, contrary to the wise admonition of Paul (Eph. 4:26), it can sour into hate and revenge. In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor is so angered because of "the thousand injuries" Fortunato had heaped upon him that he buries his enemy alive.
Few things are as foolish as anger and the quick temper that spawns it. Hasty temper, impatient rebukes, sullen looks, harsh words---never do any good! One hasty word, spoken under provocation, deprived Moses from entering the Promised Land (Num. 20:12). Will Rogers used to joke and say, "Who flies into a rage usually has a bad landing.'' St. Francis de Sales said he always regretted later, having made a harsh correction. So he made a pact with his tongue never to speak while his heart was disturbed. It took him years to learn that the best answer to anger is silence. "The quick-tempered man makes a fool of himself, but the prudent man is at peace'' (Prov. 14:17).
Here was how Moses described God Himself: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin...'(Ex. 34:6-7).
And so, of all His virtues, Jesus asked us to emulate but two: His gentleness and His humility (Matt. 11:29). John the Baptizer pointed Jesus out as the "Lamb of God" (Jn. 1:29). When one of the Temple guards struck Jesus a sharp blow on the face, Jesus simply said, "If I said anything wrong produce the evidence, but if I spoke the truth why hit me?" (Jn. 18:23). When He was being nailed to the cross, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Lk. 23:34). He began His public life with "Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the earth'' (Matt. 5:5).
St. Francis de Sales, when at school, almost killed a student in a duel provoked by his quick temper. That sobered the saint and he spent 22 years trying to conquer his quick temper. He so succeeded that he was always serene and smiling. In a letter to a friend, he wrote: "Never put in yourself a passion, nor open the door to anger on any pretext whatsoever;. .." Then he quoted St. Augustine: “It is better to deny entrance to just and reasonable anger than to admit to it, be it ever so little, because being once admitted, it is with difficulty driven out again. It enters a twig and in a moment becomes a branch'' (Introduction to a Devout Life, Ch. 8).
Another saint who had a difficult time with his terrible temper was St. Jerome. His towering temper made him a difficult friend. Even when isolated in Bethlehem, he managed to provoke quarrels. When a monk died with whom he had been feuding, Jerome called him a ''dead scorpion," and said he was glad he was dead,
When St. Augustine questioned Jerome's translation of Galatians, he flew into a rage and attacked Augustine mercilessly. It was Augustine's sanctity that effected a reconciliation---he ''ate crow.''
When Jerome lost his temper, he would spew out such a torrent of invective and verbal abuse that he was called "The Scourge of the Desert."
Jerome's temper problem caused him great sorrow. He knew he had it and did all he could to correct it. But even as an old man, he realized he still had a long ways to go. So there is hope for us. Saints are not perfect. They are simply persons striving to become perfect. The difference between saints and sinners is---saints keep trying. Saints were not born on stained glass windows---they fought to get there. A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying!
There are seven rules that can help us govern bad temper. For some self-control will come harder than for others; but for none is it impossible.
1. Deny Your Self.
Do not be self-seeking or self-indulgent. "Love is not self-seeking." Bad temper always seeks its own way. Wanting one's own convenience, ease, comfort, and pleasure spawns distemper. Other people do not exist to satisfy your every whim.
2. Be Calm, Cool and Collected.
Don't expect people to be perfect---you're not! Do not maximize the little failings you see in others nor magnify the disappointments caused by these failures. The end never justifies the meanness. "A mild answer calms wrath" (Prov. 15:1), just as bales of cotton render harmless the cannon balls shot into them.
3. Sometimes Turn Tail and Run.
In her autobiography, the Little Flower of Jesus tells this incident.
"There's one sister in the community who has the knack of rubbing me the wrong way at every turn; her mannerisms, her speech, her character, just strike me as unlovable. But then, she's a holy religious; ... So I determined to treat this sister as if she were the person I loved best in the world. Every time I met her, I used to pray for her, offering to God all her virtues... I felt certain that Jesus would like me to do that, because all artists like to hear their work praised, ... But I didn't confine myself to saying a lot of prayers for her, this sister who made life such a tug-of-war for me; I tried to do her every good turn I possibly could ... I would put on my best smile for her, let her have her way in argument ... and when the struggle was too much for me, I used to turn tail and run ...
"In the last resort, my recipe for victory is to run away; I used to try this even in my noviciate, and I always found it worked. I have a strong feeling that it's best not to engage in a battle when defeat is quite certain."
A seventy-year-old man went to his doctor for his annual check-up. The doctor commended him on his fine physical fitness and asked what he did to keep so trim. The man answered, “Doctor, when my wife and I got married, we made a pact that whenever we got into a fight, I'd take a walk. Well, Doctor, I've lived a great outdoor life.''
4. Keep Quiet.
Do not expect everyone to think, feel, or act as you do! No two persons are alike. True individuality is true personality. Therefore, avoid destructive criticism. In the Philippines they say, "Into the closed mouth the fly does not get." It is a fact that habitual faultfinders and constant critics are generally bad-tempered people; and bad-tempered people are always in trouble.
5. Make Allowances.
Always give others the benefit of the doubt when you do not understand their conduct. It's important to know whether something was done intentionally or not. To know all is to pardon all. No evil intended, no evil done.
6. Count to 10 or to 100 if Necessary.
“When you get angry,'' goes the old saying, “count ten." That is good advice, for time and thought dissipate passion. When Julius Caesar was provoked, he would repeat the entire Roman alphabet before he would speak. Seneca later endorsed this when he said: "The greatest remedy for anger is delay."
James Boswell, the famous biographer of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson, was insulted one day by an associate. He rushed to Johnson to complain. With a laugh, Johnson said, "Bosy, look at it this way: how insignificant this will appear twelve months hence." And he was right. Time gives true perspective. A little delay puts away the desire to strike back caused by the vexations of daily life.
The final, and the best, remedy for anger is prayer. When the apostles were caught in a storm at sea, they woke Our Lord and cried, “Teacher, does it not matter to you that we are going to drown?" He awoke and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" And everything grew calm (Mk. 35:41). Jesus alone can bring peace to the tempest-tossed soul. "I tell you all this that in me you may find peace" (Jn. 16:33).
After Holy Communion, I like to pray this beautiful poem:
Mother, upon my lips today
Christ's precious blood was laid,
That blood which centuries ago
Was for my ransom paid;
And half in love and half in fear
I seek for aid from thee,
Lest what I worship, rapt in awe,
Should be profaned by me.
Wilt thou vouchsafe as portress dear
To guard these lips today
Lessen my words of idle mirth,
And govern all I say;
Keep back the sharp and quick retorts
That rise so easily,
Soften my speech with gentle art
To sweetest charity.
O Mother! thou art mine today,
By more than double right!
A soul where Christ reposed must be
Most precious in thy sight;
And thou canst hardly think of me
From thy dear Son apart,
So give me, from myself and sin,
A refuge in thy heart.
10. ..Neither Does Love Brood Over Injuries
The Greek word that Paul uses for "brood" is logizestai---an accountant's word. It means to enter an item in a ledger lest it be forgotten. And that is exactly what some people do regarding injuries received. They note and record in memory each and every hurt to repay it in kind at a later date.
Paul clearly states that love is not at all like that: it does not brood over injuries. Emerson said the heart of Lincoln was so great that there was no room in it for the memory of a wrong.
Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity, is it not? Jesus, the Word of God, came to earth to forgive our sins. He died saying, "Father, forgive them." Before that, He taught in word and parable the necessity of our forgiving.
I remember as a lad hearing the parable of the unforgiving servant read once a year in the Sunday gospel. The story is well known. The master forgives the servant a debt of millions; yet this same servant refuses to forgive his fellow-servant the paltry debt of a few hundred dollars. I remember, too, the satisfaction I felt when the master turned over this unforgiving culprit to the torturers (Matt. 18:21-35). Then one year it hit me that I was the culprit. We sin against God. That is like contracting a million dollar debt. Yet in the confessional God forgives us for the asking. Whenever our neighbor injures us, that is like contracting a debt of a few hundred dollars, for we are creatures, finite, unlike the infinite God. God forgives us readily---what think you if we do not forgive our lesser debtors?
To make matters worse, Our Lord taught us to pray "Forgive us as we forgive." He made His forgiveness of our faults contingent upon our forgiveness of others. "The measure you measure with will be measured back to you" (Lk. 6:38). Or as the Lord put it: "Blest are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs" (Matt. 5:7). Who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass.
So we must be forgiving persons. We cannot read the human heart---only God can. So God says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay" (Rom, 12:17). Ben Jonson, England's first poet laureate, wrote: 'God defers His judgment till Judgment Day. Let us do likewise.''
Thus Paul told his Ephesians. "Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ" (4:31-32).
To forgive means simply to restore broken relationships.
Injuries alienate, forgiveness reconciles---makes as one.
The classic example of forgiveness in the Old Testament is the Joseph story. How shamefully he had been treated by his half-brothers! Sold as a slave, he became the powerful prime minister of Egypt. When the tables were reversed, and Joseph had his brothers at his mercy, instead of revenging himself, he forgave them totally from his heart. And why did he do this? Because he saw the hand of God at work in the entire situation (Gen. 50:20). They meant evil, but God permitted it to draw from it a greater good.
Is it not so with us? To those who love God all things work together unto good---even the injuries inflicted on us by others. Often we cannot see the hidden agenda until much later in hindsight. That is why the Portugese have a saying: "God writes straight in crooked lines."
To forgive, we must. Yet forgiveness is but half the story. The other half is to forget. Forgive and forget! When missionaries went to the Eskimos, they discovered that the Eskimos had no word for forgiveness, so the natives coined one---a very expressive compound word meaning “not-being-able-to-think-about-it-anymore.”'
We need Teflon-coated memories to which no hurt or injury can stick, memories that cannot remember wounds. Of Henry VI of England it was said, he never forgot anything but injuries. We want others to forget our horrible mistakes in life, don't we? And yet, ought we not to be just as fair to others and forget their mistakes?
Of course this is not easy. To err is human, but to forgive and forget is divine. To practice forgetfulness we need the help of God. And His help comes to those who ask for it. In a word, we must pray for this gift of forgetfulness of injuries.
Then we must practice the art of forgetting. Athletes practice to acquire their skills. Practice, too, is needed to acquire the art of forgetting. We may fail frequently, but continued efforts will pay dividends. That is why Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you seven times a day, and seven times a day turns back to you saying, `I am sorry,' forgive him" (Lk. 17:4).
There is a Hassidic tale of a man walking along the road carrying a heavy sack. Soon another man comes along driving a horse and wagon. The man in the wagon, seeing the other man toiling under his heavy load, offers him a ride. The man with the sack accepts and climbs aboard the wagon. A few minutes later the driver turns around to see if his passenger is comfortable, and he is startled to notice that the man is still standing in the wagon with the sack on his back. The astonished driver remarks: “The wagon is going to carry the sack anyway, why not put down your load and let the horse and wagon do the work?"
Is it not equally foolish to gunnysack hurts and carry them through life?
A lady in Boston once carried on a vendetta against her minister. She tried to get him removed. She was responsible for poison-pen letters, mysterious calls, cliques of opposition, open movements to oust the minister. Then she moved to the American West. Away, she became repentant. So she wrote the preacher and asked for pardon.
The minister responded with a 3-word telegram: "Forgiven! Forgotten! Forever!"
To err is human, to forgive and forget is divine!
Does Not Rejoice Over Wrongdoing
But Rejoices With the Truth (1 Cor. 13:6)
There are people who rejoice over wrongdoing. Some, like pornographers, ridicule the virtues of modesty and chastity and glorify the vices of lust and immorality; or some, like those in organized crime, murder for money and glory in their crimes. Others, less evil, but nonetheless evil, are those who rejoice over the failures of others, who seem to relish, even gloat over, their shortcomings. There are still others who quip, “If you can't say anything good about him or her, let's hear it." These are the human vultures who seek only carrion and overlook the wondrous beauties of the landscape. There is no love, or little love in the hearts of such as these.
Then there are other people who rejoice with the truth. They take no delight in another's misfortune or victimization. Rather, they rejoice in the triumph of good. As we, when kids, always wanted the good guys to win in the old Westerns, so the one who truly loves rejoices to see goodness triumph. Such a one says, "I will speak ill of no person, even when it is true. Rather, I will look beyond the faults of others, give them the benefit of the doubt, and whenever the occasion presents itself, speak all the good I know of everybody."
Love rejoices with the truth for the simple reason that truth is reality. It gives the right answers to life and living. Our Lord Himself said truth is the way to life. Thus He placed truth at the center of His triad: ''I am the way, the truth and the life.” It was as if He were saying the way to life is truth and I am that truth: the way to life.
Therefore if we would have life, here and hereafter, we must follow the Way, Christ: His teachings, His truth. The one truth Jesus taught us above all others is that He did always the will of His Father. “Doing the will of him who sent me... is my food”(Jn. 4:34). "Not my will but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Now some persons make holiness consist in following their own inclinations. If they happen to be melancholic, they make holiness consist in living in seclusion. If they are active persons, they make it consist in doing good works. Austere and severe persons see holiness in penances. The generous, in giving, and so on. All these things are good, yet these are only external actions. Holiness consists, as it did for Jesus, in doing God's will.
The key to holiness is God's will. Remember what Our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, `I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers!''' (Matt. 27:21-23).
Imagine that! He will call these do-gooders “evildoers." Why this response? Because these so-called disciples were doing their own will, what they wanted to do; they were not seeking God's will, what He wanted them to do. They had served God their way, not His way.
Often self-will vitiates the most holy actions. In the day of judgment many will ask why they are not being rewarded. "Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?" (Is. 58:3). God will answer, “Lo, on your fast days you carry out your own pursuits." In other words, you have gotten your reward, for you did what you did to indulge yourselves.
Perfection, therefore, consists first in contempt of one's self. Secondly, in mortification of one's own appetites, in self-denial! And thirdly, in doing God's will and not our own.
But how do we know God's will? For religious, through obedience to their superiors. St. Francis de Sales said that "a truly obedient religious was never yet lost.''
For the laity, through obedience to the Church. St. Ignatius said, "Sentire cum ecclesia"---"Think with the Church." Ignatius asked for an almost military obedience: "Ours not reason why, ours but to do and die---a loving, trusting, even blind obedience. That is how faith operates. Of course, we can have opinions; but we must not be opinionated. The keys were given to Peter alone and to his successors.
Since obedience can come hard and since it is not always easy to discover God's will, it is imperative that we always pray for the grace to know that will and to follow it, St. Teresa of Avila always said this prayer:
Rule all by Your wisdom, Lord,
so that I may always serve You
according to Your will
and not as I may choose.
Do not punish me, I ask You,
by granting that which I wish or ask
if it offends Your love.
Because I want Your love
to live always in my soul.
Let me deny myself
so that I may serve You
Who in Yourself are the true life.
Today we see a terrible scandal in the Church: it is that of publicly dissenting from authoritative teaching. Pope John Paul II pinpointed this error in his trip to the United States: "It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the teaching of the Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage. Some are reported as not accepting the Church's clear position on abortion. It has also been noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church's moral teachings. It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the magisterium is totally compatible with being 'a good Catholic' and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error. . ." (9/16/87).
''Disent from Church doctrine remains what it is, dissent; as such it may not be proposed or received on an equal footing with the Church's authentic teaching”(idem).
Love accepts no selectivism regarding the Church's teachings, for love rejoices with the truth. And because it does, love cannot rejoice in error or wrong.
We must never forget that Paul speaks of love as rejoicing with the truth. "Love rejoices. .." Joy is the beautiful face of love. If ever we are going to wean the wrongdoer from his wrongs, one of the most effective means will be the joyful countenance. If you take a plant out of the sunlight, it will droop and wither and die. So will the world if it be denied the joy that is the expression of love. Joy is to love what light is to the sun.
Joy was the characteristic of the early Church, so much so that St. Luke took note of it. "With exultant hearts," he wrote, “they took their meals in common" (Acts 2:46).
We might say joy is the hallmark of the true lover of God and mankind. G.K. Chesterton seemed to frolic in the joy of being a Christian. He spoke of "the giant laughter of Christian men." He wrote that "men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark." Even though skies are dark, still the Christian knows joy. "Though night be thrice night over you and Heaven an iron cope," the Christian has joy, for he has a cause; and he has hope, for he has a faith. "Do you have joy without a cause, yea faith without a hope?"
On the contrary, Chesterton noted that the mark of paganism is sadness. "Their joy is all sadness; their mirth is all vain. Their laughter is madness; their pleasure is pain." For paganism does not have the truth; therefore can give no purpose to life. And purposeless living begets ennui, boredom, and hopelessness.
Leander was a youth of Abydos, a town on the Asian side of the Dardanelles, the strait that separates Asia and Europe and empties the Sea of Marmora into the Aegean Sea. On the shore opposite Abydos is the town of Sestos, where lived the maiden Hero, whom Leander loved. Each night Leander swam the mile-wide strait to be with Hero. On the European shore she would wait with lighted torch to guide her lover. His only way for knowing he was on the right course was the torch she held. While the torch threw its light, Leander knew that Hero was there awaiting him; and this bore him through the waves.
Similarly, on the sea of life many a strong swimmer is buffeted by the billows of the world's temptation. Each wants not only our love, but also our light; not only our compassion, but also our joy. The love of Hero was not enough for Leander to cross the Hellespont, he needed, besides her love, the guiding light of her torch. So, besides Christian love, joy is needed to draw the wrongdoer from rejoicing in the wrong.
In London one can tell if the Queen is at home in Buckingham Palace by the flag flying from the tower. Likewise joy is the flag flown from the castle of the heart telling the world that the “king," the Spirit of God, is in residence there, And that spirit is caught quicker than taught by the joy radiating from one who loves the truth and rejoices in it.
12. Love Bears All Things,
Believes All Things,
Hopes All Things,
Endures All Things (Cor 13:7)
Paul's masterful description of love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 is divided into three parts.
In the first part, he describes what love is. It is patient. It is kind.
In the second part, he lists what love is not. It is (1) not jealous. It is (2) not pompous, (3) nor inflated, (4) nor rude, (5) nor self-seeking, (6) nor quick-tempered. It does (7) not brood over injuries, (8) nor rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
In the third part, Paul describes what is the permanent attitude of love, what it does all the time. The Greek word panta is translated as a noun "all things" and as the object of the verbs bears, believes, hopes and endures. I think panta is better translated as an adverb “continually," "all the time."
Love makes a hollow square. It conquers the enemies of love on all four sides, "all the time." “There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure."
1. "LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS."
The Greek word (stegei) might be translated as "covers" instead of "bears." In the presence of the faults of others, love puts her finger to her lips. When a hurtful particle lodges on the shell of an oyster, and it cannot eject it, the oyster covers the intruder with a precious substance extracted from its very life and turns the intruder into a beautiful pearl. A pearl is the crystallized tear of an oyster. Error hates truth; selfishness hates love; but love always puts a kind construction even on hate.
Why does love do this? Because we are called “to be conformed to the image" of the Son of God (Rom. 8:29). "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps" (1 Ptr. 2:21). “He was spurned ... a man of suffering. .. though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter... he was silent" (Is. 53:3, 7). And when He did open His mouth, it was to excuse those who had crucified Him: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34).
True love puts up with a lot from people, just as God does. It bears hurts in silence, conceals injuries as much as possible. True love tends to see good in everyone and feels that in the end good will triumph over evil. This trust springs from hope, a hope based on the promises of God. “Those who hope in the Lord shall never be put to shame.''
I think it was Rollo May who said that if we wish to change a person, we must accept him as he is and if we wish to change ourselves we must accept ourselves as we are. God does that, doesn't He? So must we.
Therefore, St. James says, “Do not, my brothers, speak ill of one another" (Jas. 4:11). James condemns faultfinding. A censorious attitude means one is paying too much attention to the conduct of others. But worse, it can mean paying too much attention, not in order to help, but in order to criticize. This lumps one in with the devil, for it is written of him that he is "the accuser of our brothers" (Rev. 12:10).
2. "LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS."
Love believes in people all the time. People are always asking us to believe in them, to trust them. "Trust me," says the politician, the salesman, the promoter. Once I used to do my banking in a Trust Company. I did not know whether I was supposed to trust them or they were supposed to trust me. No matter, trust is vital not only to business, but also to life itself.
A house caught fire one night. The parents and children ran outside. A 5-year-old, however, eluded the parents and was trapped on the second story. The father saw the child in the window surrounded by smoke. He yelled, "Jump, I'll catch you!'' But the child cried out, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father answered, "That's all right, I can see you. Jump!"
So love trusts in people even though it cannot see the results. It believes in them, because it sees the overarching goodness of God Who can bring good out of evil and that, despite appearances, His purpose will be accomplished.
Such belief in people brings out the best in them. Fr. Flannigan, the founder of Boystown, always said, “There is no such thing as a bad boy." Don Bosco believed you could prevent a boy from becoming bad by loving him. Both of them worked wonders for the youth of America and Italy. When Gov. Al Smith was looking for a warden to bring order to Sing Sing Prison, he picked Lawes. When Lawes got the summons to the Governor's office, Lawes said he was going to turn down the almost impossible task until Smith said to him, “Lawes, I picked you, because I believe in you. I know you are the man who can do the job.” Lawes said that that vote of confidence in him did the trick. He went to Sing Sing to become one of its finest wardens.
John Ruskin lamented: '`If my parents would only love me less and trust me more.”
Trust is believing in another.
3. "LOVE HOPES ALL THINGS."
Love hopes even for the impossible for others, because the lover knows nothing is impossible for the Lord. Love hopes, therefore, first in the Lord. "They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength like the eagle... shall run... shall walk and not faint" (Is. 40:31). "Cursed is the man that trusteth man" (Jer. 18:5).
To Cromwell Cardinal Wolsley, when stripped of all office by Henry VIII, complained: “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I had served my king, he would not now in my old age have left me naked to my enemies." Wolsley had forgotten the words of the Psalmist: "Put not your trust in princes" (Ps. 114:2).
Hope in the Lord begets hope for others. Love does not give up on people, or give in to evil no matter how great, just as Jesus never gave up on people. This demands constant and ardent prayer. We can do nothing without God; but with God, there is nothing we cannot do or hope for.
The family hopes and prays that the alcoholic or the drug addict will be cured; the wife beaten or the child abused hopes and prays that the most hardened sinner will eventually turn to the Lord. Like the Good Samaritan, love sees life and hope even in one half-dead. Love believes, in the words of Cervantes, “Where there is life, there is hope."
4. "LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS."
The Greek verb Paul uses here for "endure" is huypomenein, which means not just to bear with people on occasion, once in a while, but to put up with people always, even to the very end of their lives, despite all their aberrations and vagaries. Just as a good mother never gives up on her wayward child, so love is steadfast, it holds on in moments and days and even years---confident that somehow, someway, in God's good time all will be well in the end.
Thus when love has no evidence to the contrary, it bears with people; believes the best about them; hopes for the best for them; and courageously endures, waits---never gives up on them. Come what may, love is undismayed: love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things---all the time!
* * *
Love, as Paul has portrayed it in 1 Cor. 13:4-7, has been exemplified, realized, and incarnated in the life of Jesus.
In Jesus, love walked the earth. For in Him patience and kindness met. Never was He jealous, pompous, inflated, rude. Never did He seek His own interests. Never was He quick-tempered, nor one to brood over injuries. He rejoiced not over wrongdoing, but with the truth. He bore every sling and arrow aimed at Himself. He believed in people always, hoped for them continually and endured all their shortcomings, confident that to those who love God all things would work together unto good in the end.
His invitation still stands:
"Come, follow me. Walk in love!"
About the Author
Reverend Albert J. M. Shamon was ordained for the Diocese of Rochester in 1940. He has served as pastor, teacher, columnist, author and radio broadcaster. He recently celebrated his 50th anniversary to the priesthood by celebrating Mass with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, in his private chapel in Rome.
After several trips to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, Father Shamon felt a calling to write a series of small booklets detailing the important messages that Our Lady has been telling the children there. This book, Our Lady Says: Love People is the most recent of this series.
The other books by Father Shamon are:
Our Lady Teaches About Prayer at Medjugorje
Our Lady Says: Let Holy Mass Be Your Life
Our Lady Says: Monthly Confession---Remedy for the West
Our Lady Says: Pray The Creed
The Power of the Rosary