Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Sin and error are both easy — all we need do is follow our own will. Saint Paul mentions this when he writes to the Galatians, “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ.”
I’m not amazed. We naturally seek to be liked. Following the Gospel means following Christ and not our own natural proclivities for comfort. The Gospel should push us beyond what we expect. The Gospel should challenge our need for security in anything of this world. “Foxes have holes…” and “if the world hates you, it first hated me.” We don’t like thinking about the discomfort of the Gospel, the challenge of Jesus’ words.
Loving others as ourselves. How do we do that? What does it look like? Modern sensibilities would tell you do some sort of regular service — putting a little extra in the collection, maybe running a 5K for some charity. The problem with those good things is that they’re giving, but usually of our excess. They’re a beginning, but not a pouring out of everything. The Gospel always invites us to a more radical loving of God and a more radical loving of our neighbor than our own sensibilities would prefer.
How do we love the passionate political person who holds an opposing view on something we consider nonnegotiable? How do we love the angry person who is difficult at work? How do we love the person we’ve never quite been able to talk to in the school community? Or the person we’ve wronged with our words in the past, which hasn’t been forgotten? The Gospel of Prosperity or the Gospel of Politics would tell you that you’re doing enough, that you can’t do more, that you need to relax, or that your neighbor can be ignored. Jesus never tells us to ignore the pain or the reality of anyone. The Gospel of Christ constantly illustrates to us, in parables and in Jesus’ words to each person he encounters, including ourselves, that real wounds need real love.
The world does not offer suggestions or solutions as to how to go about it. The Gospel does. It’s always about self-giving, self-sacrifice, surrender of our will to God’s by our choice, because we love others, because we love God. How do we start?
Begin with prayer. Pray for whomever you find hardest to endure. Pray for the one who doesn’t like you. Pray for the person whose words chafe at your spirit. Pray for the one you can’t listen to, wherever and whenever you encounter them, and ask God to give you the ears to hear.
Aski God to help you love this person — who annoys, irritates, frustrates and makes you mad — as God loves them. Pray for their needs, both physical and spiritual. Lastly, if you think you might be slipping into the Gospel of the Age, or something other than the Gospel, pull out your rosary and say on each bead until it is like breathing, “Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.” It’s hard to get through more than 50 beads of “Thy will be done.” Without feeling a deep sense of both challenge and peace, because eventually, saying “Thy will be done,” molds our will to His. It will change the world because, it will change us.