The lowly in life

This morning, I was reminded of the words of St. Paul in Romans 12:13-21, "Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all."

"Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good."

We are apt to remember the part about vengeance, which needs to be left to the Lord, since that Scriptural quotation is heard more often, but the detailed instruction precedes those words. Who are these holy ones? I think they are all those who love the Lord and provide for their brother and sister, neighbor, friend, correspondent, and even those we do not know. They are all who we identify with, with whom we have Jesus Christ in common. They are people who strive not to sin, because they love God. Did you know that when you help others, feed the lowly, pray daily for the good of others, and praise the Lord, too, the occasion of sin becomes less frequent. I've seen it in my own lifestyle (when I was a monk), though short as it was, and I have seen it more strongly in others. There are some real exemplary souls in religious communities, and in the priesthood, and deaconate, as well.

The lowly in life – who are they? They are found in all walks of life. The lowly are people who do not presume, who are naturally loving to each other because their love is based in God. The lowly are those who suffer quietly and without fanfare, and they are those who live a simple life. I think the level of income has very little to do with lowliness as found in Scripture, except that rich people often worry more about their assets than they do about a life for and with Our Lord. At least it seems that way; having said that, however, I know many people who have ample funds who live a simple and humble life, and who are sons and daughters of the Father through their love for Jesus and the way they exemplify this in their relation with other people, all people.

Then there are the words toward the end of the Scripture passage, about feeding your enemy, giving your enemy something to drink, and, perhaps, praying for his or her welfare. Those words are easily overlooked in today's world. They are important words, they are essential to a peaceful world. We have situations in this world now, where there are people at war. Can we, as Catholic Christians pray for people who plunder, murder and attack innocents? It is difficult, sure, but we should pray for them. We should pray that they open their souls to God's love and goodness and thus will see the evil of their ways, right? But put the shoe on the others' foot, too? How would you feel if your country was invaded by a foreign nation? Yes, no matter what the reason! There's a flipside to every coin and a war has many sides. We must pray for all sides because even evil people were created by God and were, once, righteous in His eyes.

Not everyone enjoys the interior and spiritual discipline to stay close to Jesus in all things in their lives. That takes guts, "intestinal fortitude." That takes firm determination, to be able to repel the temptations in life. I am unshaken in my determination to stop sin in my life. That doesn't always happen, but then we begin again! Never give up. When we manage that area of our life a little, then perhaps we can turn to our enemies and forgive them more easily. Enemies are people who have done wrong, just as we do wrong. Make no mistake about it. A sin is a sin, no matter how you look at it. Whether this sin is murder, or stealing, it is still a sin, and it is, an affront to a loving God. Also, there is no sin that is not forgivable, except a sin again the Holy Spirit, as Scripture states.

Never repay injury with injury – never repay an injury you received on account of the action of another, with hate and murderous thoughts. I know that's very easy to say, but not easy to do.

God bless you, and be at Peace!

Fred S. Schaeffer, OFS
rev. 2012

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