August 23, 2012
Who doesn’t want to become a better person? One of the best ways is improving relationships with others through fraternal charity – the love of neighbor.
Progress in fraternal charity is progress in kindness based on the example of Christ; progress in acquiring a personal power based on the desire to bring out the best in our neighbor. What we see in the media at large, every day, is a vast hole of want of kindness and absence of fraternal charity. This can lead us to feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, or pride, all distractions from living the beatitudes Jesus taught us. It gives the impression that the whole world is lost.
Instead of thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I,” we may be more like the Pharisee who said “I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like this man…”. We may, based on what we see and hear every day, throw our hands up in despair. But instead, each of us can make a difference that might redirect a soul from evil ways to God-inspired ways.
To build a habit of fraternal charity, we can start by changing our behaviors towards those closest to us – the people we live with. “And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, and seest not the beam that is in they own eye?” (Matt. 7:3).
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. writes:
Let us seriously study these words of Jesus, for very often, in spite of our desire to become saints, some remnant of that detestable spirit of criticism remains hidden in our heart. In considering our faults and those of others, we still retain something of this twofold measure which makes us judge the faults of others differently from the way in which we judge our own.
What great progress we should make in fraternal charity, in attaining our own perfection, if instead of criticizing the faults seen in others, we would examine ourselves to see if there is not something similar -or perhaps worse – in us, and would apply ourselves to our own amendment!
St. Teresa of Jesus said to her nuns, “Often commend to God any sister who is at fault and strive for your own part to practice the virtue which is the opposite of her fault with great perfection” (Way, 7). This is one of the best ways of helping others to correct themselves.
Most people are drawn to others who are habitually kind. All of us are walking wounded because of our human frailties and most of us are naturally drawn to those who kindly encourage us and somehow draw the best out of us. Although it is very difficult to do, we must not only pray for those who aggravate us and hurt us, we must forgive them and, if at all possible, express appreciation for their good points.
As St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi wrote:
Teach me, O Lord, not to judge my neighbor for any fault I may see him commit, and if I should see him commit a sin, give me the grace to excuse his intention which is hidden and cannot be seen. But even if I should see that his intention was really bad, give me the grace to excuse my neighbor because of temptation, from which no mortal is free.
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