BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
LIFE OF LOVE
“Diliges” -“Thou shalt love!”
“Manete in dilectione mea” —
“Abide in My love.” (John xv, 9.)
”THESE words are the fulfilling of the Gospel and of the law. (Rom. xiii, 10.) I have loved you to the point of humbling Myself in the Crib, on the Cross, and in the Eucharist. I have loved you without the least merit on your part, nay more, in spite of your having a thousand times been unworthy of My love. I have loved you as your Redeemer, not only in spite of, but because of your iniquities!
“I have loved you with a love of preference. Did I not leave My Father and My Heaven and My Angels for you? I disdained the treasures of the world and was born naked in a stable, for you, My erring children. I have loved you more than My own life, for I gave it freely, seeking death that life eternal might be yours. And to give one’s life is to give everything. This is the supreme proof of love. You had incurred the chastisement of infinite justice, and then I interposed Myself between you, the guilty, and the Father, and I suffered death for love of you!
“I have loved you more than My own majesty: Behold Me, covered with ignominy, clothed like a madman, upbraided, mocked, trampled upon like a worm, I, a God! I have loved you more than My own glory, which was shrouded with the veil of Death on Calvary, and has since been hidden for twenty centuries in the Eucharist. Who would ever guess that in the poor, dusty Tabernacle of some village church there dwells the God whom the very heavens cannot contain?
“I have loved you, and I love you with an immense, and infinite charity. And you, my little children, do you love Me in return? In any case you were not the first to love, for I have loved you from all eternity; ‘prius‘: I first offered you My Heart. ‘In Caritate perpetua‘: ‘I loved you with an everlasting love.’ (Jer. xxxi, 3.) Have I the first place in your hearts? In your affections do you place Me above creatures, pleasures and comforts?
” ‘Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock.’ (Apoc. iii, 20.) I stand waiting patiently, I call again and again and too often the reply is: ‘Lord, wait one moment; I am now too busy about my future, money matters and my business. Wait a moment!’ Time passes, bringing with it reverses and successes, flowers and thorns. I return again and call with a voice of supplication: ‘Let Me in, I am Love and Peace.’ ‘Yes, Lord, but not just yet. See how worried I am about my welfare, how close I am to the goal of my ideals; I cannot waste a moment, each second is precious; come back another day.’ I have come back, hungry for love. Like some poor beggar, I hold out my blood-stained Hand. I plead in vain.
“Suddenly that soul is invaded by anxiety, worry, human ambitions and illusions, which cause uneasiness and sorrow. Then I say to Myself: ‘Perhaps such a bitter chalice has served to show them that I alone am peace — happiness and love.’ I redouble My knocking; no answer comes. I knock again: ‘Open to Me, it is I, be not afraid, I am the Consoler. I am Jesus, the one sure friend in days of darkness, He Who never forgets, never turns away those who neglect Him. Open to me. I am Mercy.’
“The door is half opened, and I am politely given a thousand excuses. … ‘Will you return again, for after many nights of insomnia and pain I am just about to fall asleep’ — alas, perhaps the sleep of Death! ‘On some other occasion … at some other time … at present it is impossible.’ Ah! too often when I return, and they open to Me, Death has got there before Me.”
This is a sad and harrowing story, but a very true one. How patient and kind is Jesus, true God and true Man, Who thus lovingly waits and watches for me, an atom which He has created from nothing, a poor, ungrateful, erring creature overwhelmed with mercies! How truly it has been said that Jesus is a Heart infinite in love.
But why does He not in holy anger force a door barred against Him? Is He not the Lord and Master? Yes, He could do so and certainly has the right to force it; but what He seeks is love. He wants less the open door than the affection of him who opens, and it is the more incredible that He, a God wholly love, tenderness, compassion and mercy, should be thus rebuffed!
Here let me sadly repeat what St. Francis of Assisi and St. Teresa said: “Love is not loved.” The Heart of Jesus is not understood, not even by those who call themselves His friends. No, He is not loved!
Did He not become Man, die upon the Cross and make Himself a Prisoner in the Tabernacle to inspire us with awe? He might have used the lightning as His scourge, and founded His empire upon fear, as we deserved. He came not to rule over slaves, but over sons and children, joint-heirs of the Savior by right divine, (Rom. viii, 15.) though we hardly merit such a title.
It may be alleged that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps. cx, 10.) Yes, but only the beginning, the first rung of the ladder which reaches to God. Too many remain on that first rung, when they could and should climb to the second, to the third, to the thousandth, to the very top. “Love,” says St. Paul, “is the fulfilling of the law”: “Plenitudo ergo legis est dilectio.” (Rom. xiii, 10.)
Apostles of the Sacred Heart, never forget that at the base of conversion is the rock known as holy fear. Surmount it without seeking to remove it, and climb with humility and confidence to the topmost peak of perfection, which is Love and Love only.
“My son, give Me thy heart.”
(Prov. xxiii, 26.)
Love, as we have said, is the whole Gospel. It is Jesus, Who offers Himself in the arms of Mary, on the Cross, and by His Church; it is also the whole Christian law.
Christ’s masterpiece, the Church, is a perfect figure of His love. The priesthood, too, is another abiding miracle of His love, its only purpose being to save souls and to raise them by the road of love to Christ. The priest is by right the dispenser of love in the sacraments, those wonderful channels of grace, and from the pulpit his voice is the true echo of that “Come to Me all you . …” (Matt. xi, 28.) “It is I. Fear ye not.” (Mark vi, 50.)
What is prayer but the fusion of the soul with God through love? Grace with its manifold effects is but the net of love and mercy in which a God-Redeemer seeks to ensnare our souls. The very illusions and bitterness of exile, the disappointments caused us by our dealings with fellow creatures, the passing away of all that is human, proclaim aloud that the love of Jesus is the one reality for the human heart and that apart from Him, “all is vanity, and vexation of spirit.” (Eccles. i, 14.)
The only language Our Lord ever used at Nazareth, on the shores of Genesareth, on the mountain top and at Paray-le-Monial, was that of His Heart, that of Love! Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary these remarkable words: “My Heart is so impassioned with love for men, and for thee in particular.” This love was and is the supreme reality dominating all time. It is the very substance of Him Who commands, Who reigns, Who conquers, because He is King and because “God is love.” (1 John iv, 16.) His law is summed up in the words: “Thou shalt love!” All perfection here below, all reward in heaven is simply love.
Oh, unfathomable mystery of infinite charity! Is it possible that a God, to Whom, as God, no person nor thing is necessary, should have made a law which constrains me to love Him with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength? (Luke x, 27.) It seems as though without my love something would be lacking to that absolute and infinite Being, as if without it Our Lord would have felt some kind of void, and therefore He desired to fill it with such an atom as my heart.
There is no doubt that the first and the most adorable of His rights is that of being loved; and at the same time He has a great longing for our love which He tearfully begs for, when we refuse it to Him.
Woe, then, to those who under pretext of avoiding sensible devotion pride themselves on shunning the life of the heart, declaring that love is a romantic outgrowth of sickly sentimentality. I protest angrily against this absurdity, which moreover carries with it a good dose of human respect, a large measure of pride, and no little lack of generosity in the service of the Lord.
To love, a weakness! Yes, the holy weakness and the folly of Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa, St. Paul, and all the saints; Thine, too, O Jesus! True love, charity, was never mere sentimentality; on the contrary, it has ever been the soul of all great struggles and victories in the interior life and the hidden power to be found at the root of heroical acts. Fear may easily become feminine sensibility, but there is no virtue so strong or so virile as love.
It may also be said that the best theologians are those who — besides possessing a deep knowledge — have souls aflame with love and hearts transfigured by a divine intimacy with Our Lord, the God of Charity. Unfortunately there are, and always will be, men of much book-learning, who have studied St. Augustine and St. Thomas, but who are far from loving as those holy doctors did. I abjure that lifeless knowledge and I cling exclusively to the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, the true and genuine Doctors of the Church. Love is the only true theology. It gives us all we need; whereas Science, Erudition and Intellectualism fill the soul with self-sufficiency.
I repeat, charity is not effeminate sentimentalism, a thousand times no! it is the greatest of all virtues. (1 Cor. xiii, 13.) To love is to live heroically, divinely. It would be a most grievous error to attach over importance to faith apart from charity. It is one thing to believe and another to love. “If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity I am nothing,” “nihil sum“, (1 Cor. xiii, 2.) and worse, I am a danger to myself and to the souls around me.
We may believe without loving. Millions accept and acknowledge speculatively the principle of the Gospel, but neither observe nor practice it because they do not love. We cannot love without faith, but charity quickens our faith. Let us lay much stress on the doctrinal foundation of our faith, and still more let us increase our charity. Our teaching should be to believe through love and to love that which we believe. Many make shipwreck of their faith because they have not been taught to love. The faith of a dried up heart will never wing us aloft to God, but ties us down by odious bonds.
It is evident that the fulfilment of the Christian law postulates the requital of divine love by fervent love and the gift of our hearts. “My son, give me thy heart.” (Prov. xxiii, 26.) Love is not shown by feelings. We may be as cold as ice, and, what is more, even experience a real distaste and disgust for spiritual things and yet be aflame with true charity. When speaking of love, therefore, we always mean an interior, steadfast, virile, resolute will together with an intense desire to love which, in the eyes of God, constitutes loving. Hence the primary element of our charity is a sincere longing to love. A great longing is always a great love. (“I, the Infinite God, desire to be served in an infinite manner; but thou hast of infinity naught but the desire and longing of thy soul.” (St. Catherine of Sienna, Dial. 4). Love is nourished and lives by noble aspirations, ambitions and yearnings which are the gift of the Holy Spirit. These desires destroy in the soul the routine and mediocrity which in pious souls are always great obstacles to sanctity.
There is nothing ordinary about a soul borne aloft on the wings of great desires. Her abode is on the heights, she is ever in pursuit of the divine eagle, she ever longs to mount higher and higher.
It is clear that we are not referring to those fickle, dreamy souls whose apparent sanctity is as unstable as a house of cards.
Our desires must be strong and generous, not mere passing whims nor fancies, which the first humiliation shatters, but a holy ambition to sacrifice ourselves and a willingness to be forgotten and despised.
St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, speaking to our Lord of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, asked: “How did he rise to such a height, in what time and by what works?” Jesus answered: “He rose on the wings of great desires.”
This, too, was the secret of Little Teresa, so great in her ambition to love. She must be even higher than many of the Seraphs in Heaven “because she hath loved much,” (Luke vii, 47.) because she desired to love Jesus as no one had ever loved Him.19 And this must needs be so, for God reads the hearts of men. Many good works are beyond our power, whereas the interior work, that is to say the great desire to love, is always within the reach of everyone. The longing to love is much and often indeed is all. (20 “Thou wilt satisfy Me wholly,” said Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary, “by loving me without reserve or restrictions; neither apply thyself to anything, nor think of aught but perfect love of Me.”)
What Jesus asks above all is the will to love, but it must be resolute and generous. Give Him your whole entire heart, not the leavings as so many do. St. Peter did not give all at the outset. “We have left all things,” (Luke xviii, 28.) he said; but this was not entirely true, for he had kept back the best part of the gift, and had only given his fishing nets and his boat. Jesus might often say to certain souls: “I do not ask this or that; you deceive yourselves and try to deceive Me, if that were possible, with such gifts! Keep them, but give Me in exchange your heart; for this I have given you Mine. Love Me as I have loved you, give yourselves to Me as I give Myself to you. To love is not merely to give but to give oneself without reserve.
Once and for all, rid yourselves of that network of petty affections and attachments which share your hearts, small as they are. Jesus is “a jealous God,” (Deut. iv, 24.) He has a right to be the sole and absolute Master. If a husband claims this right, how can you refuse it to Our Lord?
The Cross and the Tabernacle prove that He loved us. without measure.
Think how He has given Himself in the Holy Eucharist, that folly of love. There He is our own wholly, for ever, and with all His treasures. If our Lord had measured and calculated as we do, He would never have gone to such extremities of Love. But when Jesus, wounded by the ingratitude He meets with, finds a soul, one only soul, who loves Him with the love of absolute surrender, He appears then to forget the betrayal and hatred He has for centuries endured. Oh, that He might always say to us in Holy Communion as to St. Gertrude: “When thou receivest Me, thou art in truth My Heaven.” (“My daughter,” said Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, “I have chosen thy soul to be a heaven of rest to Me, and thy heart a throne of delight for My love.”)
Establish a kind of rivalry between Jesus and yourselves as to who will give most! He will easily come out the victor, for, having infinite treasures, He can give the infinite. But remember: He who gives his all, be it only a mite, heaps up the measure. You cannot give the infinite, but when you have given without reserve, when you have given your all, you can say with the Little Flower to Jesus: “Lord, we are quits! Thou gavest the infinite, and I have given myself wholly: more I can neither imagine, desire, nor offer.”
During this retreat He is certainly knocking more repeatedly than at other times; He is expecting much, or at least something, from your generosity. Do not disappoint Him, you His apostles. If necessary He would wait for years to conquer you completely, that in your turn you may conquer others. And if you only opened to Him at the eleventh hour, He would summon the whole of His celestial court in happy celebration to rejoice with Him that He had gained admittance as a Conqueror to your soul. Surely He will not call you twice. His Heart is taking you by storm, and you are persuaded that it is your duty to become saints through love.
St. Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, says: “Sanctity does not consist in great knowledge or in profound meditation, or in high thoughts, but in knowing how to love much.” Consequently a saint is “a chalice overflowing with charity.” And if this is true of fervent Christians; who seek something higher than bare salvation, what shall we say of you whose vocation as apostles is to melt the ice of indifference and to set the world afire with love? There is a lack of apostles because there are so few who love. Many do good works, many labor with good-will; there are plenty of wheels in the machinery of Catholic Action; but apostles are lacking, that is to say hearts that are aglow with love. It is one thing to talk and be engaged in active works; but an apostle — like Francis Xavier, Margaret Mary or Little Teresa — has always a soul consumed by holy zeal.
In this glorious epoch of the Reign of the Heart of Jesus, you and I ought to be by vocation, chariots of fire carrying the King of Love in triumph from pole to pole.
Pray and beseech Him to sanctify you by love. The Little Flower used to say that ardent love for God purifies the soul, even here below, far better than the fires of Purgatory will do. We must not dwell too much upon our faults nor be discouraged and disconcerted, however persistently they may occur. We cannot expect to become saints in a day nor even in a year. Sanctity based on love will grow and expand in you slowly but surely, permeating all your being. Grace, like nature, never proceeds by sudden leaps and bounds, but by gradual, imperceptible degrees. Make all possible use of these hours of grace and recollection, be faithful, be generous, and the love of Our Lord will flood your soul and submerge your weak nature beneath the waves of a new life, divine and strong. Plunge into the boundless sea of love, the Heart of Jesus! Close the eyes of your understanding to all else but Him and say: “Lord, Thee alone! … Thy Heart and Thy Glory …. Make me be athirst with a passion for souls that will form Thy diadem! Nothing but to love Thee, and to make Thee loved! And this with no further reward here below than that I may love Thee more, and that my power to make Thee loved may be made more and more invincible! May my eternal reward be to possess Thy Heart, O Jesus, and to have my name inscribed beside those of John, Margaret Mary, and the Little Flower; to love Thee there, and from heaven to spread the fire of Thy love.”
You apostles, in your ardent fervor, fall into the breach, wounded with the dart of love, singing the triumph of the Heart of Jesus:
Love for Love!
Folly for Folly!
Heart for Heart!
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