We Learn to Love by Loving and to Listen by Listening.
This week's reflection is written by
Rev. Paul H. Colloton, OSFS
I was at Starbucks one day to indulge in one of my pleasures, iced coffee with almond milk and sugar free cinnamon dolce. A young mother and her four or five year old daughter stood in line behind me. The mother invited her daughter to pick out a treat to eat, which she did. Then mom asked: “What do you want to drink?” Without missing a beat, the girl answered: “Mommy, I have a drink in the car. I don’t need another one.” She could distinguish need from want. I can learn from her response.
That encounter between mother and daughter witnessed to the deep bond that a mother and child can have. St. Francis de Sales highlights that bond in the Treatise on the Love of God: “If you watch a little infant joined and united to its mother’s breast, you will see that from time to time it presses on and clasps her closer with little movements around by the pleasure it takes in drinking in her milk. So too the heart united to God in prayer…” (V.I) Union with God is what I want and need to be truly satisfied.
In the Gospel that we will hear on Sunday, Jesus says: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided…a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother” (Lk 12:51-52, 53b). Does Jesus really seek division? No, but living his teaching can set us apart and against family and friends and intimate union with him and living his teaching will challenge others. That can divide us.
As a child I was taught never to bring up politics or religion at family gatherings. One night my godmother brought up that morning’s homily. She was upset: “Who is he to tell us how to raise our children. He doesn’t have children. He should mind his own business.” My mother saw it another way: “How to raise our children is his business. He works with our teens. He knows their struggles and joys. He wants to influence them to do good, like we do.” The conversation got pretty heated until my mother and godmother agreed to disagree and transferred that energy into a rousing game of cards.
We can experience similar conflicts today. How do support of life without using words, looks or actions that kill? Do we support Church against Capital Punishment? How do we welcome those seeking safety and new life here? Do we welcome immigrants, like our ancestors were welcomed? How do we respond to the increase in gun violence? The list goes on.
Too often our discussions, in person, on Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms, becomes vitriolic, divisive, and disrespectful. Yet, even when we disagree, Jesus is our model. He spoke firmly without becoming defensive or attacking the other. Living Jesus is a challenge and will put us at odds with others at times. I want everyone to live him the way that I do, but that is not the case. We need the intimate union with God like the child on her or his mother’s breast, to feed us and show us a way to speak and listen with respect.
St. Francis de Sales taught: “You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way you learn to love by loving.” The vulnerability of dialogue does not make us weak and listening to another opinion does not make us wrong. We learn to speak and listen like Jesus did by being willing to live and love like Jesus did. Drinking in his light and truth will give us the nourishment needed to live Christ’s love and light that alone can destroy hate and darkness. May God be praised!