No One Is Excluded

No One Is Excluded

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Today’s liturgy is entirely centred on the importance of fraternal charity and the necessity of forgiving each other’s offences. We all know the primordial place of charity in our faith. At the Last Supper, Our Blessed Lord made it clear that fraternal charity is the sign at which His disciples are acknowledged. If there is one distinctive trait that Christianity has brought to the world, it is indeed the importance of loving all men in Christ, first of all those who with us already share the true faith, and secondly those who are as yet outside the true fold, so that they may some day receive the grace of conversion.

St Peter Favre, once of the first disciples of St Ignatius of Loyola, in the face of those Catholics who were so quick to condemn en masse all non-Catholics to hell, wrote to a fellow Jesuit who was asking for advice: “Remember, if we want to be of help to them, we must be careful to regard them with love, to love them in deed and in truth, and to banish from our souls anything that might lessen our love and esteem for them”. For the true Catholic, every person is a brother, either in fact or in hope. No one do we exclude from the circle of our prayers and good deeds.

Our Blessed Lord once said to St. Catherine of Genoa: ‘My child, those who love Me must also love what I love. Consequently they must love their neighbour next to God, and must work heart and soul for his salvation… Love of their neighbour is an infallible sign of the love which creatures have for God, since God is the Creator, the Father and the Preserver of all men. It is by love of their neighbour that creatures prove their gratitude for the great love God bears them… Charity towards one’s neighbour is one of the most excellent virtues. It consists in wishing for him the same good that you wish for yourself; in giving up temporal interests for the salvation of his soul; in doing good to him without expecting any return, purely for the love of God.’ (p. 242–243, Vol. 1) And St John Bosco said that he could not believe in the salvation of anyone who never did anything for the salvation of his brother.

A particular circumstance in which we can show our zeal for our brother is described in today’s Gosepl, when he holds something against us. Note that the Lord did not say: If you have anything against your brother, for in that case all you would need to do is forgive and move on. No, he said, If your brother has anything against you, rightly or wrongly. St Gregory tells just that God is not willing to accept sacrifice at the hands of those who are at variance, and so being in conflict with us can be for our neighbour an obstacle to his justification and salvation. Of course we are here taking of serious difficulties, and not of the thousands of minor hurts which we inflict on each other all the time and which St Benedict calls the “thorns of scandal”, and for which the humble and sincere recitation of the Our Father is enough. But if there is some serious argument or hurt or injustice that is held against us, the Lord’s command is clear: we must go and be reconciled before presenting our gift at the altar. Indeed, what God wants more than our gift is us, and if we are lacking in charity and forgiveness towards our brother, then our heart is not truly with the Lord.

My dear friends, Christianity is what built the civilisation of love. As our world distances itself from Christianity, it leaves aside fraternal charity, conflicts multiply, others become our enemies. It is so very important for us to give the example of forgiving offences, even at great cost to ourselves, for as St Peter tells us in today’s epistle, if you suffer anything for justice’s sake, blessed are you. A bit further down, he continues in the same vein: if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be blessed: for that which is of the honour, glory and power of God, and that which is his Spirit resteth upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or a railer or coveter of other men’s things. But, if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed: but let him glorify God in that name (1Pe 4:13-16).

So let us do all in our power to make sure that no one holds anything against us, and if in spite of our efforts at reconciliation we are treated unjustly, let us be confident that we are walking in the footsteps of the Master. And those steps lead to eternal bliss, in which we hope to find those very ones who have hurt us and who may be saved by our humble acceptance of the injustice. Mother of Mercy and of reconciliation, pray for us.