J M J
THE LOVE OF NEIGHBOR
O Lord you said: Ask, and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. And here I am asking you for such a long time and seeking so earnestly that my strength is failing, and life has become a burden. I somehow cannot seem to appease you, neither can I find what my soul needs so much and which my heart constantly desires. Why, O Lord, are you deaf to my pleading? Why do you not want to give your Spouse that for which she craves so much? Are you doing this to test me and to humble me? Should I look upon this as a sign of your rejection or as a punishment? After all, I am not asking you for anything that is evil, harmful towards my salvation or opposed to your glory. I am asking you for that which you demand in your commandment; which you yourself consider as the first and the greatest. I keep begging you for love towards you and my neighbor and do not recognize either of these in myself. You do not allow me to experience this feeling even for a moment, neither do you give me the grace to show it in action The more I desire it, the more I feel devoid of it. On the contrary, the feeling is reversed. My behavior is the opposite of what I desire and understand.
O Lord! what is a person if he does not have these virtues? Without them there is neither peace, nor happiness, because if joy could be found in anything else, you would not recommend these virtues so emphatically or command that we keep them. After all, they are mainly for our good. Is it surprising then, O Lord, that I cannot find either contentment or peace? I will not be at peace until I receive them.
You know, O Lord, because you read my heart, that neither self-love, nor vanity, nor human respect, nor even my own pleasure is inciting me to practice this virtue, but only the urge to obey your commandment and the voice of my conscience which constantly reproaches me that I am obliged to carry it out. Who keeps awakening this desire within my heart? Who keeps presenting the full beauty of this virtue to me? Who keeps helping me to recognize the different shades of meaning of the virtue if not you yourself, O Lord? Why do you make it so difficult for me to practice it? You know, O Lord, that I do not desire a love which is sentimental, exclusive, casual or sympathetic, but a love which is dedicated because I understand love to be a sacrifice. I desire a love which is impartial and universal because I have been especially impressed with the words of Saint Paul that he be everything to everyone.
Why cannot I say that about myself? Why cannot I arrange my life in imitation of this holy apostle? My life is totally different. Everyone is for me and I am for no one. Everyone would make sacrifices for me with the greatest joy; I, on the other hand, cannot bring myself even in the smallest degree, to smooth out and unpleasantness for another or bring someone some comfort and joy. Everyone gives me so much attention, and I do not care for anyone in particular. Everyone is concerned about satisfying me in the smallest thing, while I do not care one bit about giving anyone some pleasure. Everyone has great consideration for me and I am just concerned about myself. Everyone shows me so much love and attachment, and I pay them back with indifference, at least internally, if not externally because in my heart I am cold, irritable, ill-disposed, capricious, and angry.
I cannot say, however, that such a disposition does not cause me pain; I cry over it and I suffer more over it than those whom I hurt and yet I cannot control myself. I feel such an internal anger, such a resentment and pain because of the achievement and joy of others; on the other hand, I get a lot of satisfaction and joy when I see them troubled. I experience such discouragement and boredom that it is difficult for me to hide it. I feel that I should act differently, but internally, I am inspired to do otherwise; my conscience directs me to the contrary. I cry in my agony and yet those evil feelings prevail and I give in to them. I can truly say with Saint Paul that I do that what I do not want to do, and I cannot carry out that what I most desire. It is as if there were two personalities within me – one points and draws me toward that what is good, the other induces me to what is evil.
Oh, what a life, what a constant battle of these opposing feelings; it is a martyrdom in which it is difficult to hold out even for one day. Yet, it has continued for such a long time and there is no relief, no respite in sight. I can say, O Lord that you have stripped me of everything that is good and have thrown me into a den of my evil inclinations which in the past I never recognized nor felt. They are awakening in me now when I should be practicing virtues, when God, my vocation and my responsibilities demand something else. Oh! have mercy on me, Lord, on my anguish, because I cannot stand it any longer. In fact, I am surprised that I still have the strength, that my heart has not burst from pain because it is so constantly tormented.
You know, O Lord, that it is not ecstasy which is speaking through me because my cold disposition does not allow it, but I say what I simply feel. I do not ask you for an ideal love but for a love like yours which depends on sacrifice, on complete using up of oneself, on absolute forgetting of oneself, on never seeking consideration for myself in anything or anywhere. O Lord, you yourself recommend renunciation. I desire to renounce myself for others; I do not want to belong to myself but to sacrifice myself completely for others even though it would cost me a great deal (and it will cost me, I do not doubt it) even though I would suffer much; however, help me to hide this suffering; help me not to show it.
You know, O Lord, how difficult it is to live in such agony; please help me with your grace. Do not deny me Father’s counsel because it will help me and I am in such need of it. You know, O Lord, that if I ask you for your grace to practice this virtue, it is only to fulfill your commandment and to soothe my conscience. I do not desire my own satisfaction but yours. You know how much I am loved by everyone. I am ready to sacrifice this love and to renounce it as long as I am sure that I have fulfilled the commandment of love towards others.