Sometimes when I have visited my family in Australia I have not been there very long before I have realized, how difficult it is to be truly Christian when I am with most members of my family. As I have struggled with the lack of communication from my son to the crabbiness of my mother, I have found myself during my morning runs often pondering on how to cope with my daily encounters with my family. Of course I have prayed for my family with the intention that all may come to know and love God, and that I could bring Christ's love to them. Yet my prayers never seemed to have any visible effect, although my heart was often heavy over the hurt we inflict upon one another, either intentionally or unitentionally.
Then one particular morning I discovered myself pondering on judgment. Academically I know that one cannot cheat on judgment as revealed by the Light of the world. After all that is the teaching of Christ's healing of the man born blind and the latter's response to the Pharisees, "All I know is this: I was blind and now I can see." (St. John Ch.9) It forced me to ask, "Am I like the Pharisees? Have I been blinded by focusing too much on what I can do?"
Another Gospel teaching raised its head (it had been the gospel reading a few days previously of the lawyer asking Christ what he must do to gain eternal life). Christ's response was that he must give all to both God and man. (St. Luke 10:25-36). To give all! What was this saying to me? As I reflected, a voice from within seemed to say, "Giving all means absorbing every hurt silently without a thought of retaliation; to keep extending the hand even though it is slapped; and to open the heart and ear to sense and hearing although it may be rejected."
The voice continued, "to give all demands no self-pity for being misunderstood, no justifying self-defence and no righteous indignation."
"These are hard sayings," I heard myself mutter, and I felt a bit like the rich man who could not give us his wealth for Christ (St. Luke 18:18-27). Surely there must be a time when one can speak one's mind, and even indulge in a little bit of self-pity.
"No," Christ seemed to say. "Remember my example in Gabbatha; I was struck time and time again, but I uttered not one plea." He further chastised me by the reminder that He alone is Judge, and when I act judgmentally, I am usurping His role. There is only one thing I have to do and that is to love - to love without any demands and whatever the cost. I sensed Christ saying, "Of course that cost may be very costly, even very painful, but the comforting thought is that my sacred heart broke from loving all mankind on the Cross."
As I began the climb of the last hill of my morning run, I could not escape the reality that a Christian is one who simply loves, and that it is all I have to do with my family and indeed with every person. It is how well I have loved, on which I shall be judged, and not on my endeavours of trying to get on with the family or of improving relationships, however nice these may be. What I have to do is to keep before me a mental image of Christ's outstretched arms on the cross wanting to embrace the whole world, but that embracing is dependent on whether people want to be embraced.
That morning run had pointed me once again in the direction of the essence of a true Christian soul - humility and the joy to share a little in the sufferings of Christ patiently and without reproach. So as I approached my flat for a quick shower before going off to Mass, I asked for grace to grow more humble, to be able to rejoice in suffering for Christ, and to accept that it is only the Spirit which changes lives and peoples' attitudes, including my own.
Published in The Door, the Oxford Diocesan Paper, April, 1997.