Christian Unity Week
You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart.
Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.l
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
This past Tuesday, our Cursillo community met to celebrate Christian Unity Week. Our Cursillo retreats are unique: both ecumenical and co-ed. A group of us, then, gathered for an Ultreya, with three of us to give a short reflection on the theme ‘Christian Unity’. We did not coordinate our talks, trusting that the Spirit would guide our meditations to fit all together.
A young woman opened the evening with a brilliant PowerPoint presentation on ‘Je Suis Charlie’ and what it meant in her life at work. She did extend Unity week to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Über Atheists… Interestingly, the third and last speaker, while using the parable of The Good Samaritan, also expanded the theme to include all of the above, the Samaritan becoming a Muslim or an Über Atheist.
I came second and my bit went this way —
As a theme for Unity Week, we were given the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
The whole Leviticus quote is fascinating (“You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart”…) because it reflects a rather dark vision of the human heart, a heart that Godde knows well. And so throughout the Bible, Godde reminds us to love our brother, our neighbor. Because we need to be reminded, again and again.
Who is my neighbor? How near or far away is my horizon? How wide is my heart? Does it stop at my own family, my friends, my own denomination, my own country? Or in a Teilhard de Chardin’s way, is my worldview cosmic?
This evening, I would like to add to our Leviticus quote the famous Lucan reply, — “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Lk 10:25:37
Love Godde — love your neighbor — love yourself.
Loving Godde doesn’t seem so hard. But love my neighbor? Love myself?
When Paul and I walk the Camino de Santiago, I carry one or two stones with me to remind me of one person or another whom I simply cannot forgive. I leave this stone along the way when I feel I have achieved my goal. On one occasion, I nestled my stones next to the reliquary of Santiago in the crypt of the cathedral. Another time, I left a stone on the altar in the beautiful chapel of Cristo de Burgos,.
Often I ask Godde to help me forgive and, when I cannot forgive, I ask Her to forgive for me until I can.
Recently, during two different retreats, I was helped to see how to approach the commandment to love my neighbor as myself in a different way.
First, I was reminded that I cannot expect to love others if I don’t love myself. To love myself I need to connect with Godde’s love for me, to reach that “true self” which was mine at birth, before “life” added layers upon layers of “false self” upon it. I did not find this connection easy to do.
Last November, my director suggested that the point is not so much to tell Godde that I love Her, but that I let Godde love me and that I let myself experience Her love and Her mercy. Basically that I spend time with Godde, in silence, soaking Her presence and Her love for me.
Not long ago I came across a blog which recommends that “we become the Beloved.” The author says, “God calls me to struggle with the demons that insist that I am not the beloved, that I am not even worthy of love. God wants me to face my fears of not being good enough and know that my goodness comes first and foremost from who I am and to whom I belong.”
If I tell Godde that I love Her, which I do, I am in control. When I tune in to Godde’s love and allow Her to melt my heart, I am no longer in control at all.
Godde loves me, — loves each one of us. Godde created me out love and Godde died for me out of love. She sustains me out of love. She showers me with gifts throughout my days. How many proofs of Her love do I need? Godde knows my sin, loves me in spite of it, and, extraordinarily, does not let it come between Her and me.
Like the psalmist, I know my transgressions and my sins are forever in front of me (51). Yes, I see my failings, but Godde does not seem to see them.
If Godde can love me in this most extraordinary way, isn’t the least I can do to love others with all my heart, with all my being, with all my strength and with all my mind? And forgive them not 7 times, but 77 times 7?
For, is not loving Godde loving Her creation and Her creatures? If Godde can forgive these transgressions which I cannot forgive myself, can I not forgive the hurt that this person or that other person did to me?
So, for the love of You, — O Godde whom I want to love with all my heart –, I offer you my anger toward this old boss, this nasty neighbor, this unpleasant relative. I offer it to you and pray that you change it into something pleasing to You. I stand in awe at your love for me which helps me love myself and, in turn, makes all these old grudges become irrelevant.
With you at my side, forever wrapped in that love of yours which never fails me, I finally can begin to learn to love my neighbor as I love myself, thanks to You.
Illustration: A Chance To Meet (found here)