11 May 2006

On Friendship and Charity

With all the press about the alleged "Gospel of Judas" being uncovered and translated, it is hard not to turn our thoughts to this infamous traitor and wonder what Jesus was thinking when he invited Judas to be among his chosen band of disciples. Today's Gospel seems to add even more mystique to this puzzling dynamic. For Jesus says plainly, "I know the kind of men I chose."

Jesus knew Judas well. He knew his weaknesses and his strengths. Despite his shortcomings the Lord loved him and the Lord chose him. This sets the bar pretty high for those of us who strive to live the Gospel message in our daily lives.

It is easy to observe the behavior of another person and to draw conclusions. We can tell a great deal about a person by the way he presents himself, dresses, speaks, etc. Sometimes we may begin to judge a person's character -- for better or for worse -- based upon some of these observable indicators. When we observe something negative or when we experience something hurtful, sometimes it is very difficult not to draw uncharitable conclusions. And this is precisely where Jesus' friendship with Judas poses a challenge for all of us. Jesus loved Judas despite his weaknesses. We must try to look beyond the weaknesses of our neighbors and see the person who is very worthy of our love and attention.

Easier said than done. This virtuous attitude sounds appealing until the shortcomings of our neighbor try our patience, irritate us, lean on our nerves, etc. We cannot simply decide to "feel love" toward someone whose presence disturbs our peace. We can, however, decide to ask God for such a desire. The grace of God will allow us to love a person despite what our private judgment might conclude. And that, truly, is a gift -- to our neighbor and to us!

"I beg you never to speak ill of your neighbor . . . blame the vice and spare, as much as possible, the person to whom the vice belongs. When we look upon the actions of our neighbor, let us look upon them in the light that is gentlest."
St. Francis de Sales

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