Look with love
I recently finished researching a paper about the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein, Ohio. Knowing about the Shrine in broad strokes, it was fascinating to learn about some of the particulars of how the Shrine, as it is today, came to be.
Along the way in the research, I was privileged to read the Chronicles from 1844 to 1926. Each year, the Sisters of the Precious Blood compiled a summary of the year’s activities — just a few pages noting major decisions, moves and building efforts, as well as those who were entering the Community and those who died. Starting in 1914, the author of the Chronicles not only lists the Sisters who had died the previous year, but also gives a short description of each one’s life.
At times, living in community is a challenge; as in any family, personalities sometimes clash. But in reading through the Chronicles, it was notable that no matter how idiosyncratic a Sister may have been, she was remembered for her compassion or her hard work, her fidelity to prayer or her kindness to others. It seemed more authentic than just avoiding “speaking ill of the dead.” There seemed a true intent to raise up the gifts that God had given each Sister and how she put them to good use in ministry and in being with her Sisters. It is not unlike the “sharing of memories” that we customarily do today at the time of a Sister’s funeral. For as difficult as someone might have considered a Sister to be while she was alive, in the sharing there are always those who speak about what they had seen that was redeemable and good and holy in her.
This is our challenge, to go beyond any irritation, annoyance or dislike to find the manifestation of God in each other.
I often thought about the notes I’d read in the Chronicles during this past election cycle. Throughout the election, we have been inundated with comments that denigrated certain groups or individuals. Do those government leaders believe that pointing out others’ perceived deficiencies is itself a good reason why we should vote for them? This lack of respect is like a second pandemic that is taking not our bodies, but our hearts and spirits. Hopefully as time moves on, we can heal and find that part of ourselves that is able to see and rejoice in the good of all others. Although we may disagree, or even have fundamentally different worldviews, none of us can afford to name the other as an enemy.
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
– Blog entry and photo by Sister Joyce Lehman