15 June 2006

Tough Love

It has been said of the late (and great) John Paul II that he challenged today's youth -- and all of us -- to pursue moral heroism. Instead of "lowering the bar," so to speak, on tough moral issues, he encouraged Catholics and men and women of faith to pursue virtues which are not esteemed in popular culture. In doing this, he was following closely in the footsteps of Christ who speaks bold words to us in today's Gospel.

For most of us, it is difficult to reconcile ourselves to another when we have been at fault. Yet, despite the discomfort, there is something natural and inherently good about being able to say, "I'm sorry I hurt you, that was never my intention." At times we need to say, "It was selfish of me to say that because I knew it would hurt you; I'm sorry." And even still, despite the shame we might feel, there is something natural about asking forgiveness when we have been at fault. Jesus calls us to something even greater in today's Gospel.

We are to pursue the brother - or sister - who has something against us. But why? Who has the problem? Throwing up our hands (or our hearts) and saying, "That's his problem if he doesn't like me" is exactly what Jesus does not want us to do. It is a lot easier to apologize to someone we like than it is to approach someone who does not like us.

Surely we can all think of a colleague, coworker, family member, etc., with whom we enjoy a "polite distance" because we sense that we are the object of an unspoken discomfort or dislike. This is not a reason for alarm; it is a reason for rejoicing. For when we have such a situation, we have an opportunity to love as Jesus has invited us to love. And this is the "tough love" to which the Lord calls us.

"We must consider our neighbor in God who wishes us to love and cherish him. . . . For having asked for the love of God, we must always ask for love of neighbor, and particularly of those for whom our will experiences no inclination."
St. Francis de Sales

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