There is confusion in life sometimes. There is a balance that we seek. One of the places of balance that I see those in my sphere struggle with the most is the balance between giving and self-protection. Sometimes one is so focused on being giving and loving that one lets others walk all over one, which is not good for the moral health of the others. Sometimes, one is so determined to not give oneself away so carelessly that one is selfish and holds grudges and becomes cruel without perhaps knowing. The walls of protection go up too high.
Love then, what is it? Is it all the time giving, or is it self-care . . . there is a balance here. And it can be a difficult one to navigate. One of the Works of Mercy that The Church uses is “Bear wrongs patiently.” What does that mean?
Spending time so far in the first 2/3 of the Triduum, There was, as expected, a focus on the self-giving of Christ. He washed the feet of the apostles, grubby feet full of dirt and feces as were the times — lowly job, only for servants, yet the apostles were served this way by their rabbi. Jesus let himself be betrayed. He healed the ear that was cut off when his friend tried to protect him. He let himself be scourged brutally; he let himself be mocked with violence for merely telling the truth. He carried a heavy wooden cross though he was already weary and pressed. He let himself be pierced and hung up exposed, weary and bleeding. He had also said previous to this, “blessed are the peacemakers,” and “blessed are the meek.”
Yet also turned over the tables in the temple condemning the use of his Father’s house as a place for cheating others. He told the Pharisees that they needed to change their ways. He used calm logic when being tried, standing firm in patience and wisdom.
There are also Works of Mercy for helping those who sin turn away and move toward virtue, for counseling others, and for teaching others. These are not works of doormat-hood. Mercy also cares about ones moral character and relationship with God. Mercy doesn’t say, “Do whatever you want to me.” This is not merciful to oneself nor the other.
But what about Christ? He suffered. He gave into the effects of others sin. And he did it for love. He did it for love. There was a purpose to this. There was a greater good — the healing of the world if only each of us accept it — the healing of our hearts –the way to be together with the one who is Ultimate Love forever and ever. There was a purpose here.
He kept his identity, not losing it to be whom others thought he was. They wanted a revolutionary on the earth, not a Savior to restore the great divide — not a King of Heaven. He did not say, “Oh, if you think I’m a blasphemer than maybe I am. Whatever you think.” No. He had a purpose. He knew who he was. And he did this for love.
So often I find myself in need of the balance. Self-giving can be from the wrong place thus leading to bitter exhaustion and pushing others away in selfish cruelty. But what about giving from the place of real love, where there is a purpose, where we do not lose ourselves but grow stronger in an awareness of who we are as we give ourselves away in a way in which we do not disappear? We may still be exhausted, but it is different. What about being fueled by Love Himself?
The persecution of others toward Jesus did not have the last word. Death did not have the last word. He was a victim but not a “victim.” He freed the souls from the underworld. He rose and manifested the victory over sin and death accessible by us for all eternity if we so choose. He ascended to make a place for us, but not before showing us how to access this eternal life and abundant Grace while even still here on earth. His suffering had a purpose.
Real love gives. We work hard for our families. We take the time to explain to a friend what we really meant if they were offended in a misunderstanding. We spend time with people. We seek the healing we need ourselves to help us love better. We serve the poor. We encourage others. We go on pilgrimages. We spend time in prayer. We loves ourselves by allowing ourselves thinking time even if we would rather give into the noise of busyness and media. Real love gives, and it is hard work. We process through emotions, sometimes over and over and over, until we can come to a place of forgiveness, because we know it is important. We make amends to others, searching our consciences, not simply flippantly. Love takes work, and it can be tiring.
Let us not be so concerned with being taken advantage of that we don’t learn to give in some resemblance of the way Jesus did, bearing wrongs patiently but being calm and teaching the truth. Let us love for a purpose, for a greater good, and because that person is worthy of compassion as all are. Let us pray for wisdom that we not encourage a lack of virtue on their part, but love in a way that honors their ultimate good.
God, please be the source of loving others, of giving though it is hard. Teach us wisdom to learn the balance.
Today, for much of the world, is Holy Saturday. It is a good time to contemplate this balance as we wait between Christ’s death and Resurrection, remembering that this is the day he freed the captives. Let us also pray to be free from our own confusion. This is a hard thing to learn, but beautiful to contemplate. And it in case it is Easter for you already, may you yourself rise with wisdom and hope on this day.
The “Sabat Matyr” says at one point “Make my soul to glow and melt with the love of Christ my Lord.” Love is the center of it all. May you rise with Him, ever connected, ever close.
May God bless your day.