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One of my favorite books for Lectio-Divina (see Week One of the Advent Study) is Divine Intimacy, by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (St. Edith Stein) wrote, "On the question of relation to our fellow men -- our neighbor's spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love."
These words express a great truth and they should be at the heart of every action we perform for another, especially as we seek to enter more deeply into the very heart of God given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
St. Augustine wrote, "Love has hands to help others. It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like."
As we discovered yesterday, for our good deeds to become charitable acts, we must center our hearts, our souls, our minds, and all of our strength on love of God. Then, and only then, will our good deeds effect a change that reaches beyond the finite to touch the eternal. And when we do that, every thought, word, deed, and suffering can become an act of charity -- even our daily labor.
"May the Lord make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May He strengthen your hearts...At the coming of our Lord Jesus..." -- Thes. 3:12-13
Toy collections, food drives, charity bazaars -- all common activities in communities and parishes during the Christmas season. And they are good. They help fulfill Jesus' mandate to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).
While it is necessary for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being for us to extend forgiveness, it is just as necessary that we seek forgiveness when we have offended another.
While the six steps toward forgiveness outlined by psychologists can be of great help, forgiveness itself is primarily a spiritual work that takes place deeply within the inner confines of our heart. Therefore, making use of the remedies given to us in Sacred Scripture and through Holy Mother Church are of ultimate benefits.
I hope that your time of prayer yesterday was a fruitful one as you began the process of forgiveness. The first three steps we discussed yesterday are fundamental to the healing process and they may need to be revisited often as you journey toward forgiveness.
Yesterday, our Advent post introduced us to seven of the most common misconceptions regarding forgiveness. It presented to us that forgiveness does not mean that we condone the hurtful behavior nor does it mean that our pain doesn't matter. It doesn't mean that once we extend it, everything is magically "okay" and it doesn't mean that we allow ill will toward us to continue. It doesn't mean that we stay in an abusive or harmful situation nor does it mean that a just resolution to our situation is unnecessary. And, it does not mean that we feel forgiveness.
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