Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Week Nine, Exercise Two: Jesus Teaches Me To Love (1 Corinthians 13)

This exercise should be experienced between February 15 and February 18.

Jesus teaches us to love God, neighbor and self. Many have pointed out that it is not possible to love others without loving myself. This is true, but there is a prior question to ask: what does it mean to love?

If we contemplate Jesus' way of being and teaching, we will understand love. Jesus respects the freedom of those he teaches. He does not impose anything on anyone. He healed a leper in Mark 1:40-45 and gave him specific instructions to tell no one. When the leper disobeyed him, Jesus did not retaliate.

Jesus taught publicly and crowds followed him, but when he was arrested he did not encourage any kind of violent reprisal.

Jesus meets people where they are in their lives and loves them as they are (I am using the present tense deliberately). In this vein, he dined with Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-20). We will see many other examples of this in the coming weeks.

Jesus' way of being and teaching is further clarified by reading 1 Corinthians 13. Although Jesus did not speak these words, the Spirit of Jesus inspired St. Paul to write them. There are few more accurate or more beautiful expressions of the meaning and characteristics of love. Prayerfully read 1 Corinthians 13-- the way of love. It may be of merit to just say a few of the words out loud and ponder that phrase or sentence. Non-Christians may be able to enter into this exercise just by pondering the passage's insight into love.

After you read, ask yourself "Have I personally felt the difference between acting from love and acting from enlightened self interest? Between acting from love and acting from egoism? When has my interior state affected me the way a clashing cymbal affects my ears? What spirit was guiding me at that time?"

Dwell on the characteristics of love and ask for the grace to be patient, kind, humble, gracious, detached, and free from resentment. Ask for the grace to bear all things.

Ask for the gift to believe that love never fails.

Speak with the Lord, asking for the grace to follow the loving thoughts that flow from his spirit. What else comes to mind? Let the Lord know. . . and listen as he speaks to your heart.

Close with a prayer.

Make sure you are communicating with your spiritual director or prayer group.

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