From 1 John 3 we have today in Mass Scripture readings: Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
And later in this sequence we read that those who do not love from their hearts, who do not have love in their hearts, are murderers.
This is the truth.
Lately, have pondered a relative whose relationship with a family member has ruled her for the bulk of her life, and it has been based upon resentment and personality clash that has grown into hatred for even the slightest nuances of speech or viewpoint that the family member makes. The hater is 66 years old, and the hated is 91 years old.
The elder has reasons for her personality and outlook, for what she likes to do and discuss. She, like the rest of us, is not perfect and knows it. But she enjoys perfection or striving for it, and is an artist by profession, was an art teacher. She grew up in a deprived household, her father passing when she was four, on the eve of the Great Depression. With eight children in the family, the mother had quite a difficult life. All the children grew to be successful, hard-working, and yes, with various but all strong and distinct personalities.
The youngest, this woman now 91, has always desired to be socially acceptable, gracious, and tending to outer appearances in some aspects. There are reasons for this. A struggling childhood, for one, and recalling and so appreciating her mother's Saturday evening meal, using the good china, a lovely table cloth, and making what otherwise would have been a rather dark time of their lives, at least uplifted in those simple aspects.
Yes, perhaps there has been a bit much attention to personal appearance and desiring nice things. But one can certainly understand why, in addition to the artistic proclivity and gifts. Artists observe the outer appearances and appreciate color, style, design, and beautiful things. There is nothing wrong with that. But it is this aspect among many other small aspects, that have annoyed and grown into hatred in the reaction of the now 66-year-old.
Personality clash, yes, but the poison is seemingly beyond antidote in other than to pray for the person. Talk and explanation, counsel and even being supportive in hopes of trying to get the poisoned one to then move into better mode, has not been effective. The person poisoned has done self-harm, stuffing in feelings of anger toward other aspects of life and now lives with limitations of a physical sense in addition to the damaged emotions, the poison.
The 91-year-old has increasingly turned to God and prayer, yet still loves to enjoy what people wear, or their conversations, or lovely tables and details of delicious food and presentation, or gatherings of people for music or social time together. And she loves the one who despises her, without realizing the depth of the anger the other has toward the elder, or else not allowing herself to realize it. What difference would it make to know the extent of dislike, of hate? The elder is now well-off, independent and has learned to hire others to assist her when her family cannot or does not. But she appreciates when they can and do, and she chooses to love.
When the elder passes, which may be before the younger, although in this life we never know, she will leave the amass of money to the younger and to the younger's adult children. She has already gifted the younger with a comfortable and lovely car, not causing a fuss in giving up that freedom in being able to drive, but rather passing through that phase with grace as opposed to many who instead need to be confronted and have the keys taken by strained family members. She likewise, on her own, decided when to sell her home, then when to leave an apartment and enter an elder care facility.
Will the younger, the 66-year-old, even then, when the elder passes, be rid of the poison? Is hate toward a living person alleviated when the person dies to this life, or is hate in the mind and emotions only quelled in and by forgiveness and grace of God, and in being able to then love the one who has been hated for nearly all of the person's life? What difference does it make to change the word hate to resentment, personality clash, or trigger points? It is none other than hate.
Yes, over the years the elder has said things of which the younger resented and felt hurt. There were expectations of the younger as to how she wanted the elder to be. (And there was rudeness from the younger to the elder, for sure.) And true, others had difficulty sometimes relaxing in the presence of the perfections and plans of the elder, but they could understand and take it in stride.
Having understanding of others and finding the good in them, and seeing the progress in their souls over the years, and realizing the love the person has for others--that washes over and ameliorates the bits of human flaws and irritants.
We all have them, these flaws and irritants. But the reality is, that when we want to be good and to love, and when we strive toward His Real Presence and want to live a good as well as possible and be in light and as light--despite our human failings--those who resent or cannot forgive have a pall of darkness that distorts all the more, and suffocates their very soul.
All this is particularly highlighted when those who share the same faith--even the same Church--dislike others, criticize, try to discredit through words spoken or written or even thought and kept silent. Those who are stuck too much in the temporal Catholic world can be prone to this, and we must not be surprised when the temporal world aspects--society or church of any group or individuals--hates us.
It is nothing new that the poison of disliking, of hating others, can creep into the Church. St. Paul writes and warns of it in the Church of the first century. Those who have hated, as he did, and been converted and healed, humbled, and forgiven, can tend to be able to love and forgive others, to have mercy for they have been given mercy and love.
But what a difference for a life and the lives of all involved, and for salvation, if we learn to love, if we live to love to learn to love. Discord, anger, resentment, envy--it all boils down to the word that is so blatantly (and embarrassingly) strong but is the correct word to describe such: hate.
Those who have hate in them do not have God in them. Those who have darkness in them do not have the light. Those who hate anyone (even if they describe it in less honest terms), are murderers.
And we must be reminded that those who dislike, resent, are rankled by, and hate, are not themselves but the darkness has crept in. Yes, they were weak and open to darkness, but who of us has not been tricked and entered into by the author of darkness and hate? So we cannot hate those who hate us, but rather have empathy and love, for we know what it is to be a host to poison even if quickly flushed out by the grace of God-Is-Love.
Little children, let us love one another! Surely, if we see within ourselves that we are angered by others or dislike them, or are ruled by how they irritate us, have the poison of hate in us. It is so unnecessary to love, especially among family, and that includes the family of the Church. Darkness does not like Light. Do we really want to be murderers?
Who will be judged harshly? Who will advance to heaven? Will it be the one who is imperfect and yet loves, or is it the one who has let resentment and irritations build up in years of poison and hatred? Will the death of the one heal the anger and hate of the other? Will money gifted to the living, heal the hate?
God bless His Real Presence in us--if we have room for Him. Darkness does not like the Light. Clouds mask the sun as does the earth when night signals the obscuring of day. Let us love one another. Just love! It ought to be simple, should it not? Understand, empathize, encourage and see the good qualities and see hope in all souls (even our own)! Be kind and merciful. Pray for one another, and love one another! Just love!