Respect to Love

Hello out there!  How’s everybody been?  It’s still raining here, but that’s okay.  We desperately needed the moisture.  It’s supposed to rain all week as I write this.  That’s actually good news.  So, grab a cuppa whatever suits the moment, and find a comfy place to curl up and relax.  I read something in a devotional today that really rang true, about love.

This quote is from the Regnum Christi daily devotionals, with the day’s reflection written by Fr. John Doyle, LC.  I love these short, challenging devotionals that meditate on the day’s Gospel readings.  They open with prayer, make three points about the reading, close with prayer and a challenge for the day.  I’ve grown a lot through these writings.

For a long time, I’ve prayed  that I would learn to see Jesus in every person I meet, like Mother Teresa did.  I never feel like I make it to that place.  I need something of an ‘intro to love’ to help me go from something I could do, and journey to where I want to be.  This quote helped me so much, I wanted to share it:

If Jesus loves my brother or sister so much that he gave his life for him or her, can there be any excuse for me not to show respect and deference on their behalf? Charity is the badge of every true Christian.”

In the movie, “The Wedding Planner”, Mary’s father tells her the story of his arranged marriage to her mother.  One of his lines has stuck with me since I heard it. “Respect grew to like.  Then like grew to love.”

Our pastor mentioned seeing Jesus in everyone we meet in a homily last week, as well.  It’s come up several times and several places.  With these thoughts about the relationship between respect and love, I think I have a way to grow.  I can begin to truly respect my fellow human beings, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.  I can begin to empathize with them out of that respect.  At that point, I can begin to like them, and from there grow to love them.

Just like anything else, this takes practice and conscious effort. Just like anything else, once it becomes a solid practice, it can become a habit, and once it’s a habit the entire process can take seconds rather than days.  Oddly enough, whenever I thought about seeing and loving Jesus in every person, I had some sort of mental image of someone living under a bridge, dirty and ragged, missing teeth and maybe even a little scary.  I always longed to be able to look past the physical surface and see the heart on the inside.  To be able to love without thinking about it, to serve in whatever way would help.  But I never volunteered for the ministry opportunities that would do that.  I always chose the ‘behind the scenes’ ministry – write a letter, send an e-mail, pray for the outreach.

Actually, the bigger challenge was mostly unseen.  What about the people I actually encountered every day?  Was I loving them and the “Jesus in them”?  How often did I screen my calls so I didn’t have to listen to that friend, or give money to that family member?  How often did I make an excuse so I didn’t have to be someplace to support someone with my time and transportation?  How often did I let fear interfere with genuine love?

Fear?  Yep, fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the imaginary scenarios planted by bad media.  Fear of true and deep simplicity.  Fear of my own inadequacy to meet the needs of those to whom I might minister.

This coming week, I will make a conscious decision to respect every person I come into contact with.  I will attempt to answer every phone call, no matter who calls.  I will let respect grow into affection, and affection to true love.  What about you?  How are you doing in the ‘love every human’ department?  Are you stuck?  Need some help?  Find a pastor or priest.  They can help.  Then, write me a comment.  Let me know how it’s going.  Let me know what works, what doesn’t.  Let’s do this together!

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