“Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor gives sight to the blind, heals the paralyzed, drives out devils, gives hearing back to the deaf, makes the lame walk, and restores speech to the dumb, and what is more brings back to life a man who has been dead four days, write that perfect joy is not in that.”
.. “Father, I beg you in God’s name to tell me where perfect joy is then to be found?”
.. “When we come to the Portiuncula, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of our friary and the brother porter comes and says angrily: ‘Who are you?’ and we say: ‘We are two of your brothers.’ And he contradicts us, saying, ‘You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away!’ and he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry until night falls—then if we endure all of those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and lovingly that the porter really knows us. Oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is to be found there!
“And if we continue to knock and the porter comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows saying ‘Get away from here! Who do you think you are?’ and if we bear it patiently and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts. Oh, Brother Leo, write down that this is perfect joy! . . . And now hear the conclusion: Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to his friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ.”
“We’ve got to protect our borders.” A man named Hank approached me after a talk about Jesus’ way of peace that I gave at a church in the United States, and this is how he started a conversation.
“Tell me more,” I invited.
“We’re called by God to protect our own,” he said. Okay, I thought to myself; this is going to be interesting.
.. When Hank finished his rant, I could see he was convinced that he had just said some very convincing, very Christian things. I began my response by saying, “Thank you, Hank, for sharing those thoughts. But it seems to me like you would make a better Muslim than a Christian.”
.. I then explained to Hank that his misunderstandings of the way of Christ were more rooted in the example of Muhammad than Jesus. If we can believe the traditions of Muhammad’s life (the hadiths), Muhammad fought dozens of battles to establish and then defend an earthly, religiopolitical kingdom called a caliphate. The caliphate is a physical kingdom where the law of the land (sharia law) and the religion of the land (Islam) are fused together as a single way of life. In the caliphate, there is no separation between religion and politics, between ‘church’ and state. When it comes to understanding “the kingdom of God,” Muhammad and Jesus offer very different visions.
.. Jesus wasn’t asked for the top two commandments. He was asked for the greatest commandment. But in his response, Jesus showed that he wouldn’t let us separate love for God from love for one another. He knew that just loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength without an equal commitment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves could lead to expressions of religious piety that ignore the hurting people around us, or worse, actually hurt people around us. People blow themselves and others up for “love of God.” Other people dedicate their lives to meditating in monasteries while ignoring the hurting world around them for “love of God.” So Jesus tied our love for God together with our love for others. In fact, this bidirectional spirituality of Jesus teaches us that the primary way we love God is through loving others (see Jesus’ story about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46).
.. Near the end of his life, Jesus so much wanted to emphasize to his disciples the need to fuse their love for God together with practical, caring, other-centered love for one another that he skipped right over the first command and summed everything up in just the second:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35)
.. Jesus had altered the second commandment (now the one central command). Jesus told his followers not just to love others as they love themselves, but to love them the way he—Jesus—loved them. That is a big love upgrade!
.. Simply loving others as Jesus does is our highest form of worship and the central ceremony of our “religion.”