John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
I’m afraid there are valuable lessons from my childhood that are lost forever. But, by the grace of God and the prayers of the Sisters who taught me, there are some that have stayed with me and helped shaped me. For instance, I clearly recall the Sisters telling us that we were never supposed to put ourselves first. To reinforce the lesson Sister Charles Henry read us a true story called, “Janice” about a girl who when she found out she was dying decided to donate her corneas to the blind upon her death. That story has stayed with me for nearly 50 years. I admired Janice for thinking of others even when faced with her own untimely death.
The message of love of neighbor was also reinforced in other ways. I was a member of the Brownies (Guides) then and the lesson I was taught by the Sisters was echoed in the Brownie Law, which at that time was: “A Brownie thinks of other people before herself.” Now, that is a tough lesson for a kid to learn, albeit an important one, and the Holy Spirit provided plenty of opportunities to practice it in our large family. I can’t say we lived it perfectly—quite the opposite—but at least we were given an understanding of the concept of selflessness!
Today, unfortunately, that message has been largely set aside and this Gospel passage can be a tough sell even in Church circles. For several decades now the gospel of self-esteem has been proclaimed unequivocally. Self-esteem is not the same as self-respect. Self-respect is gained when one lives the life they were meant to live and behaves in a way that is in keeping with their place in God’s family. It comes from outside of oneself and is rooted in God. Self-esteem is rooted in the ego without reference to God or anyone else. Today we are reaping the destructive fruits of self-esteem in rebellion and anarchy.
This is another illustration of how far we have come from the Gospel message. I have said before that the evil one rarely presents a choice between what is good and what is evil. Not many of us would knowingly choose evil. He presents a choice between what is good, and what appears to be good. And often, what appears to be good is also an easier alternative to what is truly good. By nature humans have a tendency to follow the path of least resistance, so, predictably, few people take the “narrow way”.
Take the abortion debate. What is truly good is that all life be valued from conception to natural death. What appears to be good is that a woman has the right to do what she wishes with her own body. Choice is good, right? It means we are “free”, right? If one does not care to dig past the shiny paint on the surface, one will never see the rust and corrosion beneath the shiny words.
It is the same with the gospel of self-esteem. It looks good on the surface, but requires no commitment to the common good, only that we feel good about ourselves, no matter what we do or how we behave. In contrast, Christ gives us the commandment to love one another unto death—our death, not someone else’s! That message may have less shine to it on the surface, but it is pure gold through and through.
I suppose all these lessons from my childhood prepared the ground for when God would call me to the BSP. Remember the Brownie Law: “A Brownie thinks of other people before herself.” Now brown being one of the colors we Brothers and Sisters are allowed to wear, I suppose we might consider ourselves honorary “Brownies” as well. Somehow it gives me comfort to be able to graft that childhood lesson onto the tree of self-renunciation that is our rule. It makes me sad that these lessons in selflessness are not taught as much as they used to be. Perhaps that is something we can offer our penance for—that our children and grandchildren would learn the beauty of a life lived for God and other.
The rule of 1221 is foolishness to the world, even to many in the Church. It really doesn’t look very shiny at first glance, but is gold through and through, a beautiful way to fulfill the call of Christ to self-renunciation, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends—one desire at a time.
From my other blog: https://pelianitoblog.wordpress.com/
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
“Children, do not be afraid of your crosses. My holy cross was the instrument of redemption. Each cross is tailor-made for each soul. In fact, your cross existed and was set aside for you before you were born. Every cross is a replica of mine. Every cross originates in mine. Do you want to be Simon of Cyrene and carry my cross for me up the hill to Calvary? Then do not shun your own cross. Just as Eve was formed from Adam, your cross is formed from mine. People have fought wars over relics of the True Cross. Did those same people acknowledge the power and grace in the cross they were asked to carry, as true a relic as the piece of wood they were seeking—and as powerful. Ponder these things, my children, as the days darken. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”
O my Jesus! How often I have complained about my crosses! Forgive me O Lord, for I did not fully grasp the immense honor it is to be asked to participate in your work of redemption. Lord, grant me grace upon grace, that I might carry my cross with gratitude and joy. Amen.