Thursday, June 15, 2017

Spirituality: Attentiveness – the Foundation of Love by Peter van Breemen, S.J.

It is best to first listen to others before we attempt to help them. Being with the poor and the marginal means, in the first place, taking them seriously as human beings, letting them be our neighbors. This means literally to come closer to them, and not stay aloof with pity or embarrassment …

St. Francis of Assisi was moved with genuine charity when he literally reversed his steps after having passed by a leper, horrified and fearful of infection. But then all of a sudden it dawned on him what he had done, and his heart was touched with a deep remorse; he turned, went back to the leper, and kissed hum. So the new life of St. Francis began when he encountered a brother in the poor and outcast. It is so easy to measure the other with the measure of our own norms. Without realizing it we impose our own standards on everyone else. We evaluate the other according to our own ego, which is an extremely egocentric way of acting.

When we can recognize and relinquish this tendency, then we may be able to encounter the other in her own dignity and truth, and in doing so we transcend our own ego. This is equally necessary in our relationship with God, who is “always greater,” in the most dynamic meaning of that word. In this way, we can better grasp why Jesus always put the second commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” on a par with the first: “You shall love the Lord, your God …” Both commandments intend that we outgrow more and more our own ego and thus come to our true self, by loving God and loving our neighbor. Both ways require unselfish attentiveness.

Peter van Breemen, S.J., The God Who Won’t Let Go, pp. 97-98.