As a young girl I marveled over the host at Mass. I knew something very special was happening, but I didn’t know what. I wondered, “How does Father make that one host turn into so many?” I didn’t comprehend that the real miracle was the host becoming the body and blood of Jesus. Still, I looked in awe at all the people on their knees and knew this had to be something extraordinary!
When I grew, I realized how much we partake in the broken body of Jesus. We are all broken people, but when we become broken for others, God can do amazing things! I’d forgotten that, however, until He reminded me recently.
I try to be a loving Catholic, but I really fail sometimes. It is so easy to love those who are kind to me, but those who constantly offend me – well, that’s another story. When asked to take on an unpleasant task, I bristle. I work with the low-functioning children. In addition, I’m angry at being on object of gossip and ill-will.
Jesus must be sad with my daily tirade. Finally, I have the grace to ask Him, “What do you want me to do?” After much prayer, the answer is, “Love them like Jesus. See Jesus in them.”
God has a plan. Bring love to these children who often are not accepted in society.
Now, to deal with the gossip. I still complain. Then I tuned into a Catholic radio’s message, “Love your enemies.” Ugh! You can’t be serious, Lord! Some people thrive on hurting others.
The answer is the same: love. Then the Bible verse screamed out at me:
“You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:24)
Jesus’ words sting in my ears.
What happened to me? My anger blinded me. I am living for this world instead of planning for the next. Those trips to the chapel seem like a chore instead of a delight. What happened? My heart became hard.
Little by little, my frustration subsides. I begin praying for the children who are difficult. I ask to help me see Jesus in my enemies. Then I start to understand. People are how they are for a reason and my job is still to love and ask healing.
Funny how I always forget the times that I have been the enemy. Maybe someone prayed for my heart to change.
I recall Mother Teresa who said Jesus lives in the distressing disguise of the poor. The poor, who do not know God. The poor, who have everything but love. The poor, who are so consumed in making this world their oyster, they forget who created it in the first place.
Finally, I come to my senses. I must love and forget about making this world my all. I must set my eyes on the next and love those who hate me, who persecute me, especially because I have done the same.
At Mass, I again grumble and feel Jesus nudge me, “How can I work through you if you are not broken?” I too must be the broken body of Christ to others. Lastly, I try to love.
It goes something like this.
DAY 1: I pray for my enemies in Adoration. It’s hard work! Every fiber of my being does not want to love this or that person. I notice a change in myself when I pray for them. Improvements come when I ask God to bless their day, heal them, and come into their hearts.
I also ask Him to convert my heart. “Help me not be bitter, Lord. Help me to see them as you do.”
DAY 2: That’s it!!! Someone offends me once again. I knew I never should have wasted my time praying for them. The more I pray it seems, the more difficult they becomes.
Okay, I’ll go to the chapel and say a quick prayer. I know I shouldn’t harbor grudges. Maybe I’ll say a Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
DAY 3: Maybe I should fast a bit for them. Great! I get to think of food I can’t eat, just to end this cold war between us.
LATER: Hey, they actually came and talked to me a bit. Their words were without the usual edge.
DAYS 4 AND 5: Fasting still. Wait…maybe I wasn’t so loving toward them. Did I really need to get in the last sarcastic remark? It is alarming how difficult I can become when pushed to live like Jesus. Maybe I am the enemy.
DAYS 6 AND 7: Well they are warming to me a bit. Maybe I should do something nice like buy them coffee or take on an unpleasant task for them. I read Romans 12: 18-21: “If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”
At this point, my bitterness emerges without warning: I don’t want to be nice, but I’m all for heaping burning coals upon her head.
Wow! Major self-reflection: I don’t really want to change my heart and I’m comfortable in my anger/resentment. However, I am neither at peace nor happy about it. St. Therese gave gifts to her enemies while in the convent. They were so taken by her kindness that others were envious.
WEEK 2: I don’t feel quite as angry as I did. Yes, they hurt me again, but I have some tools to work with. When that knot in my stomach begins to tighten, I can again implore the Lord’s help, pray the rosary, sit in Adoration, fast, and offer Masses and sacrifices. Who am I to complain of enemies? Didn’t Jesus have Judas?
Be the “broken” Jesus to your enemies, and in the end you’ll be made whole.
Copyright © 2013, Mary Mitchell