Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 34
Saturday after 5th Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Second Note – Love (continued)
We seek the same love for those with whom we have little natural affinity, for this kind of love is not a welling up of emotion, but is a bond founded in their common union with Christ.
From St Francis:
Love of Neighbour
Let us love others as ourselves; and if we do not want to or cannot love them as ourselves, let us at least not do them evil, but good. (Letter to All the Faithful, Second Version)
Jesus Christ, our Lord, whose footsteps we’re to follow, called his betrayer ‘friend’ and willingly handed himself over to his crucifiers. Our friends, then, are all those who unjustly inflict upon us tears and ordeals, shame and injury, sorrows and torments, martyrdom and death. They are the ones we should love most, for what they’re really inflicting upon us is eternal life. (Rule of 1221, Chapter XXII)
Loving those who love us – easy
Loving those who are lovely – even easier
Loving those who don’t love back – well that might not be such a sinecure….
Many years ago Lesley-Anne and I were part of the Marriage Encounter community. Based on a weekend away, Marriage Encounter encourages couples to learn to spend regular exclusive time in each other’s company instead of being ‘married singles’ which, sadly after forty years of giving ourselves away to each other, is still all too easy to do 😔.
But some lessons have sunk in deeply. Amongst those are important sayings which were the watchwords of the community. ‘God does not make junk’, helped me to get over feelings of inadequacy in life. ‘Bloom where you are planted’, helped us to hold on to the call of God to service. And ‘Love is not a feeling but a decision’, the one to which I came back to most often.
When I first heard it, ‘Love is not a feeling but a decision’ felt very counter-intuitive, especially to a conference full of happy loving couples! What the saying taught me was that love driven by emotions is rich and full and rewarding but that this kind of ‘fluffy’ love will not see people through the hard years of a relationship. A deep abiding love is not based on feelings alone but the fact of preferring another above yourself.
A quote, beginning with the words ‘love is a temporary madness’ from the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin perhaps expresses this well:
….this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement. It is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being ‘in love’ which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
It is possible to be attracted to many different people and situations, and, when we are loved an appreciated in return, spend ourselves in their service. But to do this for those for whom we have little natural affinity and, if we follow Francis’ words, to also embrace those who set out to harm us as ‘friends’ who bring us precious gifts from God. These are the people I have to decide to love.
When we decide to love difficult people, when we choose to give ourselves away to those who would wish us harm, not only are we learning the true meaning of our Lord’s new commandment to love ‘as I have loved you,’ but we are also recipients of even more of God’s grace. In the end those who would wish us harm, if we can find the space and generosity to decide to love them, become our benefactors.
you want me to gaze into you
and see that you love me.
You love me freely,
and you want me
to love and serve my neighbours
with the same love,
offering them my prayers and my possessions,
as far as in me lies.
O God, come to my assistance!
(Catherine of Siena)
How have I loved those with whom I have little natural affinity?
Amongst those who do not care for me what would I need to change to be able to call them ‘friend’?
99 Words to Breathe:
Our bodily wounds eventually close and heal, but there are always hidden wounds, those of the heart and if you know how to accept and endure them you will discover the pain and joy which is impossible to express with words. You will reach the realm of poetry which only the body can express.
Kazuo Ohno – Butoh dancer and teacher
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged