Who has never had a really annoying friend? Everyone has one. Even Jesus had them. All three synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) recall the day Jesus famously said to his disciples: “How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” (Mat 17:17) In fact, I am quite certain that when in the gospel today he says “a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” he is not talking about any friends, but his annoying friends.
I am dead serious, and this is why. Earlier on in his life – more precisely in the sermon of the mount – Jesus had said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors and sinners do as much?” So, what is the greatest love, then, love for your friends or love for your enemies?
Well… since you ask, this would be my reply: the greatest love is to treat the people you find most difficult as if they were your best friends. Does it still sound a little abstract? No worries. I leave you here below an experience of St Therese of Lisieux, which I am sure will clarify what loving our “friends” looks like in the real world.
“There was at that time a certain nun who managed to irritate me in everything she did. The devil had a part in it, for it was certainly he who made me see all her bad points. Not wishing to give way to natural antipathy, I reminded myself that sentiments of charity were not enough; they must find expression, and I set myself to treat her as if I loved her best of all. I prayed for her whenever we met, and offered all her virtues and merits to God. I was sure that Jesus would be delighted at this, for artists always like to have their work praised, and it pleases the Divine Artist of souls when, not stopping at the exterior, we penetrate the inner sanctuary where He dwells, to admire its beauty.
I prayed earnestly for this Sister who had caused me so much struggle, but this was not enough for me. I tried to do everything I possibly could for her, and when tempted to answer her sharply, I hastened to give her a friendly smile and talk about something else, for, as it says in The Imitation, ‘It is better to leave everyone to his own way of thinking than begin an argument.’ Sometimes, when the devil made a particularly violent attack, if I could slip away without letting her suspect my inward struggle, I would run away from the battle like a deserter; and what was the result? She said to me one day, her face radiant: ‘What do you find so attractive in me? Whenever we meet, you give me such a gracious smile.’ What attracted me? It was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul; Jesus who makes attractive even what is most bitter.”
The Daughters of St Paul who ran the Pauline Book Centre for over 40 years in Kensington High Street are returning to the High Street.
In order to maintain a presence in London, we have invited the sisters to establish a pastoral outreach hub in our repository. For the next 12 months the Sisters will continue their work of evangelisation in partnership with our parish.
We are delighted to cooperate with the Pauline Books and Media in this exciting venture. The sisters are currently preparing stock and will let us know in the coming weeks when it aims to open.
CAFOD in India
Our Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, CAFOD, has already pledged £200,000 to our partners Caritas India.
To support the work of CAFOD in India use the button bellow.