Practicing love

Daily Reading for March 12 • Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604

The unique and supreme proof of love is this: to love a person who opposes us. That is why Truth himself bore the suffering of the cross, and even bestowed his love on his persecutors. He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Should we marvel that his living disciples love their enemies when their dying Master loved his? He expressed the extent of his love when he said that no one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends. The Lord had come to die even for his enemies. He said that he would lay down his life for his friends to show us that when we are able to win over our enemies by our love for them, then even our persecutors are our friends.

But no one is persecuting us to the point of death, and so how can we prove that we love our friends? In fact there is something we ought to do during times of peace to make clear whether we are strong enough to die for the sake of love during a time of persecution. John, the author of the gospel I have been quoting from, says in his first letter: Those who have this world’s goods and see a brother or sister in need, and who close their hearts, how does God’s love dwell in them? And John the Baptist says: Let one who has two coats give to one who has none. Will those who refuse to give up a coat for the sake of God during a time of peace give up their lives during a persecution? You must cultivate the virtue of love during times of tranquility by showing mercy, and then your love will be unconquerable in a time of chaos. First you must learn to give up your possessions for almighty God, and then yourself.

From Homily 27 of Gregory the Great, quoted in Be Friends of God: Spiritual Readings from Gregory the Great, edited by John Leinenweber (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley Publications, 1990).

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