We know that we must love Jesus with the Love of Mary and love Mary with the Love of Jesus, and we have learned in the last two posts how we do that in our day to day walk through our daily life. But how do we change our behavior, how does Grace open the eyes or powers of our soul so that our intellect, memory and most importantly our will, change so that we produce different thoughts and behaviors…so that our daily acts change to be like those of Jesus and Mary? First, we must desire these thoughts, acts and that they be done by and in the Will of God; and beg for them in the many incidents and acts throughout the day as we practice through the power and influence of the Holy Spirit within our soul and the intercession of our Mother (“Mother, I am all yours and all I have is yours” and “Come Holy Spirit, come now through the power of the Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary” and “Holy Spirit and my dear Mother, may Jesus think and act in me with his Will for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls”).
Eventually through Grace and practice, more Grace and more practice, we start to see God in our neighbor and in each event of the day…because every act and every thought matters! The powers of our soul begin to be infused with more of the Virtue of Charity…supernatural Love…the actual Love of God. Often, we think and desire to love God, but we fail miserably to love our neighbor! Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene explains that our Lord did not base the spiritual life on just the love of God, but He stated that two commandments cover the entire law: the love of God and of neighbor. Why? Because we must love all persons not for themselves, but for the sake of God. Charity to all people…”is of great importance, because it is in reality an extension of our charity toward God. God is so insistent upon being loved in all people that He makes this love the essential condition of our eternal salvation. When Jesus speaks to us of the last judgment, He gives no other reason for the justification of the good and the condemnation of the wicked than the doing of, or the omission of, works of mercy toward our fellow man.”
While it is indeed hard to love people who are not in a state of Grace or who irritate us, what difference does it make if the image of God is disfigured by faults, vices or sin? They still have the image of God within them even though it may be faint, and God loves them and desires their conversion, salvation and perfection, and we run the serious risk of being the Pharisee who believes he is better than the publican who lamented his sinfulness, while the Pharisee puffed himself up! Therefore, we must practice through Grace seeing the image of God in everyone, especially those who most upset or irritate us! This is how love grows through Grace, with small, little steps and victories to overcome our natural flaws, subtle pride and failures to love all whom we come in contact with throughout each day. All the Grace God is pouring out through our Mother and the Flame of Love of her Immaculate Heart will not profit us, unless we correspond to it through changing our thoughts, behaviors and actions each day though desire, effort and practice by placing them all in God’s Will through Grace and corresponding to that Grace through practice in our daily habits.
Fr. Gabriel makes this crucial point to internalize: “If I love my neighbor because he is congenial, renders me service or sympathizes with me, or because I enjoy his friendship; or if I love him because of his fine qualities and pleasing manners, my love is merely human, and is not the Love of Charity.” Even if I feel pity and I help someone, this is still human love. ” My love becomes the virtue of Charity only to the degree in which the Love of God enters into it, insofar as this love for my fellow man is inspired by my love for God.” As our Lord taught us: “If you love only those who love you, what reward will you have? Do not the pagans also do this?”
The reality is that we regularly fail to see our dear Lord in each person, especially those who are different or whom we do not connect with, or those who have traits which turn us off or displease us. But Charity is the essential Virtue, it is the whole key to the spiritual life and the transforming union we seek! Therefore, if we are not willing to change how we think about, approach, greet and love those whom we don’t like or who bother us, we CANNOT make any progress in the “Greatest Grace” God is pouring out! Sure, we can pray more, fast, make night vigils and trick ourselves into thinking we are making progress in loving God, but we are simply deluding ourselves with pride and performing spiritual works for our own benefit. We are all guilty of this reality, but slowly with Grace and with a willingness to try, our Lord will slowly but surely remove this blindness (and it does happen faster if we desire all the Grace available through the Flame of Love of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, since this is the way she acted with all whom she came in contact with and even those whom she simply thought about and whom she did not come into contact). St. Paul reminds us of the absolute need for Charity in First Corinthians when he goes through the list of good works, but then states if I have not Charity, I have nothing despite doing all these works of mercy!
As we spend more time in prayer and in the spiritual exercises, we experience a great temptation: to believe we are actually loving God with Charity. This is not true until we begin to love those and reach out to care for and befriend those whom we don’t like, simply for the sake of God, simply in love, expecting nothing in return except to love God as He loves! Let us always hear these words from God in Scripture ringing in our ears and causing us to reflect on those whom we do not like or who cause us embarrassment or difficulty: “He who claims to love God but despises his neighbor is a liar,” and “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did to Me.” Lord, remove my blindness and I beg You to help me love those who are most difficult for me to like, solely for love of You, through the power of the Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary! Fiat!