THE LEAST POWER OF LOVE: A REFLECTION ON THE FEAST OF ST. THERESE OF THE CHILD JESUS, BY FR. IFEANYICHUKWU HENRY NWOKORO, CSsR, BENIN
According to Pope Benedict XVI, ‘The least power of love is greater than the greatest power of destruction’.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus had a long struggle in identifying what her purpose on life was. She knew she was called to be a nun, but she wanted to know what her purpose as an individual is, what we would call the vocation within the vocation. She had heard people praise great and powerful people, those who have done great things and made ground-breaking achievements. But when she read the Letters of St. Paul to the Corinthians, she realised that love is the greatest of all gifts and that no other gift is worthwhile without love. She therefore decided that her purpose in life is to love. She realised that the least power of love is greater than the greatest power of destruction.
Most of the people we call powerful are those who have the power to destroy. But we dont usually call people powerful who bring peace and unity among us, those who have shown great love. In our First reading from the prophet Isaiah, God promised to send flowing peace, like a river upon us. He promised to comfort us like a mother comforts her child. The psalmist says ‘Keep my soul in peace before you, O Lord. In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the example of a child, as the one who is truly great. Jesus teaches us that the one who becomes like the little child is the one who is truly great. He promises us that unless we become like children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. This statement is very serious, because our eternal destiny depends on it.
TO BEAR WRONGS PATIENTLY
The saints are people who have embodied Christ and lived out the life of Christ in their own lives. Jesus was a very powerful man, but he did not show his power by being destructive. He showed his power by loving. One way Jesus showed his love is by the FOURTH SPIRITUAL WORK OF MERCY, which is to bear wrongs patiently. This is why Jesus did not resist those who crucified him. He was instulted, beaten, mocked, and killed and he offered no resistance. This is the meekness of a child. It is easy for adults to abuse children because children offer no resistance, and in those victims of abuse, I see the face of the suffering christ.
St. Therese made a decission to spend more time with the most annoying sisters in the convent. She did this to a point that even her own blood sister thought something was wrong with her. Also, she would sit close to another sister who would fidget, either with her rosary or something else. She did not enjoy this, but she decided to bear it. There are times when we just bear something because we are too afraid or ashamed to say it to the offender. That one would not be a virtue and that was not the case with St. Therese. She bore it out of love, knowing that the least power of love is greater than the greatest power of destruction. This does not mean that we should never point out people’s faults to them in a loving manner. It only means that sometimes, we need to bear minor irritations from people, especially when it is simply not their faults.
For example, some people, when a child is crying in the church, some adults get angry, and I like to ask them ‘what do you expect the child to do?’. The truth is that we all did the same as children. Another example is when someone close to you in church is singing badly. Not everybody is gifted with a beautiful voice. What else do we expect them to do? Sometimes we are so busy getting angry with correcting those who are not living up to our standard at mass that we forget that we are primarily at mass to worship God. Sometimes when the reader makes a mistake everybody starts laughing, and others start complaining. Another example is when you are traveling on a night bus with someone who is snoring heavily. In all these examples, there is really nothing the person can do about it. These minor irritations can be offered as a sacrifice to God for our sins and those of the whole world.
When we gather to worship God, let us not focus too much on minor irritations. We are all humans and nobody is perfect. When next you are trying to concentrate at mass and the two people behind you cannot stop talking, you can tell them to stop disturbing, you can go to the other side of the church or you can bear it patiently and offer it up to God. It is important that before we correct people, we find the best way to do so. If you have not found the best way to do so, bear it, until you find the best way to say it. The reason why people reject our corrections sometimes is because we have not convinced them that we are doing so out of love.
The least power of love is greater than the greatest power of destruction.