Earlier this week, I spent way more time than I needed to reading — and then writing about –- a BBC profile in polyamory, that is: four people living together in “love.”
(My Corner post about it is titled: “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Need Google Calendar.”)
As we are reminded of the greatest commandment in the Gospel from Matthew today — ““You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” we are called to reflect on “love” — the concept, the draw, the need. So much of the gaping need today is to reintroduce just what that is. It’s not a pop song. And it’s not even, for believers, simply being kind, not forgetting a brother.
And we wind up forgetting our brothers all the time, of course, don’t we?
Reading the gospel and knowing today is the feast of St. Rose of Lima, I am taken back to the pope’s recent trip to Lampedusa. He talked about weeping with and for our brothers:
“How many of us,” he asked, “myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another! And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.”
“Where is your brother?” His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God!
Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn’t me; I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: “Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?” Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: “poor soul…!”, and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!
“Adam, where are you?” “Where is your brother?” These are the two questions which God asks at the dawn of human history, and which he also asks each man and woman in our own day, which he also asks us. But I would like us to ask a third question: “Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it?” Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families? We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion – “suffering with” others: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the crying, the wailing, the great lamentation: “Rachel weeps for her children… because they are no more”. Herod sowed death to protect his own comfort, his own soap bubble. And so it continues… Let us ask the Lord to remove the part of Herod that lurks in our hearts; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who in anonymity make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like this. “Has any one wept?” Today has anyone wept in our world?
What can we do? It’s a complicated policy matter. But are we weeping or looking away? Are we helping someone, anyone, near us? Do we see face of God in these souls? Do we feel the need to do and say more?
In the series In Conversation with God today, Fr. Fernandez writes that:
Loving God is not just something very important for man. It is the one absolutely important thing, the one for which man was created, and so it is his fundamental task on earth and will be his sole occupation forever in heaven. It is the means whereby he attains happiness and complete fulfillment. Its absence makes man’s life empty. A soul who loved Our Lord very much, and who led a life of much physical suffering, left behind some very pertinent words: What frustrates a life is not pain but lack of love.
Which brings me back to the BBC portrait in polyamory. There was talk of love. But also jealousy and distrust. These latter two are human conditions to be managed, people figure, and this is how four have found their way through that.
But what if we viewed one another as loved by God in the most intimate and consoling ways? In the most challenging and restless ways? In the most healing and peaceful ways? What if we knew that about ourselves and our brother? Then we couldn’t contain our appreciation and would be overflowing with love to share, wouldn’t we?
And as the order of today’s Gospel goes, remembering the first and then the second. We need God in this picture always, first and foremost, or we’ll never give what we need to our brothers and sisters. Again, today Magnificat’s reflection is insightful and incisive.
We’re called to love. Not just he who it gives us pleasure to love. Not just he who is useful to us. But love Christ, love God “in each person with no special preferences, no special categories, no expectations.
Of course that’s an overwhelming scenario. And quite impossible on our own.
The reflection from Madeleine Delbrel emphasizes the importance of prayer to love, to life. “Faith and hope are given to us in prayer. So, without prayer, we will not be able to love.”
Well then. That’s fairly direct. Sounds like something Pope Francis would say.
She goes on to unpack the contention:
It is in prayer and only in prayer that the Christ who is in each person is revealed to us through a faith that becomes increasingly more sharply focused and more clear-sighted. It is in prayer that we can ask for those gifts for each person without which there is no genuine love; it is through prayer that our hope grows so that we may cope with the number of people that we meet and the depth of their need.”
That faith and hope, she writes, “growing through prayer … remove the obstacle that most blocks the road of our love: namely, a concern for others ….”
And here’s the most liberating clincher: “It is not our love that we have to offer, it is the love of God.”
“The love of God is a divine person,” the meditation closes. “The love of God is God’s gift to us, but it remains a gift. It is a gift that has to pass through us. It has to go right through us like a sword and go elsewhere, to others.”
The Nashville Dominicans’ website has a short bio primer on St. Rose up, calling her a “’Little Flower’ of the New World.’” What a garden that could grow if we reflected on all of this today. From St. Rose:
Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”
“If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men.”
How beautiful, how noble, how previous our lives could be with some love for redemptive suffering, for true love of God — to rest in the knowledge of His love for us, as the only fuel for our labors, for our reason for being and wanting anything, only because it draws us closer to Him. We’d love others with a whole new ardor, because our lives would be about love itself, God Himself, an eternal love, a love we’re not capable of ourselves, a love that draws others into the Sacred Heart of God.
From the litany of St. Rose of Lima:
St. Rose, prepared by the dew of heavenly grace,
One in whom the grace of God was not fruitless,
From infancy illustrious for holiness,
Foolish to the world but chosen by God to confound the wise,
Dear to the Virgin Mary while yet a child,
Consecrated to Christ by a vow of virginity,
Disdaining all things to gain Christ,
Shining example of an angelic life,
Lily among the thorns,
Nailed to the Cross of Christ,
Model of patience and mortification,
Refreshed by heavenly consolations,
Favored by appearances of the Mother of God,
Devoted to heavenly contemplation,
Inflamed with seraphic love of God,
Ardently zealous for the salvation of souls,
One whose charity was not extinguished by persecutions,
Dying in the love of Jesus and Mary,
Brought to Him whom she did love,
First flower of sanctity in America,
Ornament of Christian virgins,
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us. That we may know God’s love and live in it. That we might not double-down on misery. That we might be “Inflamed with seraphic love of God… ardently zealous for the salvation of souls… dying in love of Jesus and Mary” … brought to Him whom we love.