|Excerpts from NO GREATER LOVE|
|Mother M. Angelica
a need in every human being to love and to be loved. There is also a need to
manifest that love. Unfortunately, each person's concept of proving love is so
varied that the recipient often misses the proof.
One person's idea of proving love is by doing things—buying gifts and being thoughtful. A husband may prove love by being a good provider and a wife by being a good cook.
Children prove love by being obedient and an absence of obedience brings true love into question. Friends manifest love by companionship and mutual goals.
All these manifestations of love entail something nice—something pleasant—something good. However, the way love is proven to us may not be to our liking and we often refuse to accept the particular way one individual proves his love.
We miss important signs of love because we refuse, consciously or unconsciously, to accept the way others prove their love for us.
Parents sometimes demand and "all A" scholastic average from their children as a proof of love. Though love is never mentioned, the disappointment over the laborious acquisition of an "F' puts the emphasis on a wrong set of values. Effort is not appreciated as a mark of love; a high grade is demanded instead.
Even gifts are accepted with a visible lack of appreciation because that particular item was not our idea of a gift—of a manifestation of love.
Life becomes very complicated when we wait for others to manifest love in the way we desire. Our temperaments, personalities, tastes, likes and dislikes are so different that it is impossible to always manifest love to the satisfaction of everyone.
Perhaps this is the reason Jesus asked us to love as He loves. It is part of loving unselfishly when we accept and are attuned to the least manifestation of love from others and appreciate their particular signs of affection.
As we miss these signs of love from our neighbor, we also miss them from God. God is constantly doing loving things for each one of us. He is always providing, protecting, nourishing, forgiving and loving us. Not a moment of our life passes that He has not done something good to us or for us.
We seldom thank Him for our birth but often question His purpose in creating us. We seldom thank Him for health, talent or strength but He is the first to hear our complaints if we lose any of these qualities.
We take our breath, sight and hearing for granted and are only aware of the awesome wonder of these faculties when they are gone or gradually slip away from us. Then we look to God as an unjust Creator who took something from us that was rightfully ours.
If we are to see God's signs of love in our individual lives and not run the risk of living in darkness, we must look at the life of Jesus and see what proofs of love He gave to each one of us.
The signs of love He gave may not be to our liking, but it is our fault, not His. If we become attuned to God's constant proof of love for us, we shall become more attuned to the many signs of affection others try to give us.
Isaiah had prophesied that when the world was in quiet silence—in the dead of night—the Eternal Son would leap down and dwell among us. (Wis. 18:14) It is so strange that the Father chose such a quiet time.
God's love for us seems to take delight in contradictions. It is as if He desired us to seek Him out. The greatest marvel of all is that He came and lived as one of us.
Is there any human being who could ever understand the humiliation of a God becoming man? Our pride is so great that this sign of love on the part of God is lost to most of us.
Unfortunately, most men were asleep for this momentous occasion and missed the whisper of God in the cry of a Child saying, "I love you." Most men, running after their toys and playthings, do not hear the Silent Love of God in the life of Jesus. Perhaps this is true because we do not equate proving love with sacrifice or pain and yet as we contemplate the life of Jesus we find that almost every act of love, both for His Father and us was sacrificial or painful.
There must be in every Christian that silent witness of love, that strength of character that comes from a voluntary sacrifice made out of love. How many of us practice this Silent Love for our neighbor? We find it so difficult to give up our opinions, our will and our desires when the good of the whole is at stake. We cannot empty our hearts of the desire to be right, to be considered talented, to be successful in every undertaking.
Are we willing to see others, younger and brighter, do the things we wanted to and couldn't? Because Silent Love is not a part of our daily lives, the young are impatient with the old, the aged are envious of the young, the middle-aged think the whole world is in their hands with no thought of tomorrow and many regret their yesterdays. They do not want to step aside or rejoice at the talents others possess—others who are younger or older.
Love does away with discontent, disquietude and discouragement. It willingly steps aside. It is willing to drop an argument when nothing good is to be accomplished—willing to be considered wrong though God knows it is right.
Silent Love prefers others to itself as Jesus did. It is willing to accept a lesser portion provided the one it loves has a greater portion. It is willing to leave all things, including itself, for the sake of the Kingdom and the good of its neighbor.
As we think of the witness of Silent Love, we realize that Jesus preferred this kind of love even after His appearance on earth. He was born in a stable—with cold and wind—with only the Silent Love of Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. The thought of any noise at this awesome time makes the soul recoil. The whole event was one of Silent Love. He was content that only those in future centuries would appreciate this solemn moment. He endured the indifference of the world because His Love rose above tepidity.
He would silently love men from afar—from a cold cave. His love stood strong like a sentinel in the night-watching over those who were totally unaware of His Presence.
Are we ever content to love from afar? We all find Silent Love difficult to give and even more difficult to receive. We want love to show and yet, who can say He did not love us by enduring the world's indifference—by lovingly accomplishing the Father's Will?
In the life of every human being there are those we must love from afar. there are those who hate us, are annoyed by our presence and irked by our opinions. Our love for them must be constant though it is silent. We must "love our enemies and pray for those who Persecute us." This is certainly Silent Love. for an enemy is not aware of our love—his hatred blinds his discernment of love. (Matt. 5:43-48)
The love some people manifest is very hidden and this is as God wills. When a friend defends the reputation of a neighbor who is being maligned, that friend is manifesting a Hidden Love. The person criticized may never know of this act of loyalty, but God will reward it because it is most like His own Love.
Jesus counseled His Apostles very often to practice this kind of love. One day He said to them, "Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice. When you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you—Your left hand must not know what your right is doing: your almsgiving must be secret and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you." (Matt.6:1-4) The accomplishment of many good deeds must be accompanied by Hidden Love, for Paul reminds us that if we gave all our possessions to the poor without love it would be nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) but Jesus wants both the love and the deed to be hidden. If we do not know the cause or person responsible for some act of charity done for us, we cannot return that act of love. That particular act of kindness is hidden as is the love behind it.
God wants our love to be hidden in some instances to purify our motives. Jesus told His Apostles that when we do an act of kindness that is known only to the Father, the Father returns that deed—that act of love—with a reward. There are many ways the average person practices hidden love and most of the recipients of that love are never aware of their benefactors.
A man may work extra hours to provide some comfort for his family, but the family may completely lose sight of the extra love manifested. A wife may spend much time over a hot stove preparing extra food for some feastday and the family be totally unaware that she may not have felt well at the time.
A smile on the face of one in pain contains a hidden power whose true source is known only to God. How many people keep great trials away from loved ones in order not to burden them with more pain.
Jesus wanted us to love our neighbor with a pure love and although it is not possible for all our love to be hidden, there are times when a manifestation of love brings only more attention to ourselves.
Hidden Love is humble and willing to be overlooked here, to patiently wait for the reward hereafter.
"When you pray," Jesus advised the crowd, "go to your private room....pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you." (Matt. 6:6)
Perhaps one of the most hidden qualities of love is that it does not "take offense or feel resentful." When we are over-sensitive to what people say or how they look at us or what they think of us, we are not loving them. When we resent their contrary opinions and personality traits, we are not loving them. It is when we are tolerant, understanding and objective with our neighbor that we are saying we love him. Our neighbor may never see our love when we are patient or kind to him, but before God we have loved rather than hated and been gentle rather than angry. This is why St. Paul said that "love never comes to an end." It is a lasting quality of the soul—independent of every exterior influence: it is hidden in its essence and merely shows a small part of its beauty exteriorly.
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the Prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you refused." (Matt. 23:27)
One of the most difficult aspects of love is its corrective quality. We see Jesus weeping over a people He loved who did not love Him in return. His complaints against this people were not always hidden as the above quotation indicates. He lashed out at the lawyers, Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, but cloaked in those angry words was a heart full of love.
Jesus tried to bring out their hidden faults, their secret motives and their hypocritical actions but they did not accept this aspect of God's love: they did not fathom the depths of His love.
Jesus knew that every time He corrected anyone, even the Apostles, He ran the risk of losing their friendship, but His love was totally unselfish. He sought the love of others, not for His sake, but for theirs.
It is difficult to correct anyone, but love makes it possible and gentle Love takes out the sting of correction so the person being rebuked understands that loving concern is behind the reprimand. When selfish anger is mixed with a correction, the tone of voice and lack of reason makes the correction difficult to accept.
Pride rebels against correction, but love makes correction possible and bearable. Because God is our Father, He prunes us and shows us our weaknesses. The self-knowledge that makes us so miserable at times is a special light from our Father who sees us and knows us perfectly.
No Greater Love
"Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son." (Jn. 3:16) The Father manifested His great love for us by sacrifice. Jesus proved His love for the Father also by sacrifice. The effect of God's love for mankind was sacrifice and suffering. It cost Him to show us His love and it cost Jesus to show the Father His love for Him and mankind.
"The Father loves Me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again." Jesus was commanded by the Father to die for all men and the love of Jesus acquiesced to that plan. "I lay it down" He told the Pharisees "of My own free will and as it is in My power to lay it down, so it is in My power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by My Father." (Jn. 10:18)
The effect of the love of the Father and the Son, both for each other and mankind, was sacrifice. True love is proven, tried and strengthened by the readiness and capability to sacrifice.
God's love is rooted in sacrifice and He desires our love to be as strong and unfaltering as His. We must not only possess that love, but we must ever remain in that love. Our love for Him is proven by our fidelity in time of stress and pain.
Love is not proven by feeling good, but by being good. Love is not made stronger in consolation, but in desolation. Love seeks to be generous but is satisfied only when it is noble. Love feels the searing pangs of rejection but never permits the pain to extinguish its own fire. Love is never satisfied with its own way of expressing but is overjoyed at the least sign of love from others. Love is never concerned as to how others return love—love only wants to love.
When we give the Holy Spirit free reign to love in us, we will be extremely sensitive as to how others are expressing their love to us. It is then that we will love as He loves—freely, forgive as He forgives—without limit, and be ready to give up all things for His sake.
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