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LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
(For that is probably the only way in which you will express your love for God)
Canticle of Love
What is love? We take our cue from St. Paul’s famous “hymn to love” in chapter 13 of First Letter to the Corinthians. The context that provoked the showering of praise on the theme of love was the deep conflict that had erupted at Corinth. The Corinthian church was ripped apart ostensibly because some members claimed to possess charisms of glossolalia, speaking in tongues and esoteric knowledge. In the eyes of the Corinthians those who possessed such spiritual gifts were seen to enjoy a higher status in the church. Paul the Apostle of Christ, took it upon himself to mend the rift that had torn the church, the Body of Christ, asunder. He was at pains to reverse the status indicators, to turn the tables so that greater honour might be given to those who are considered as having a lower status. Using the body analogy, he says that “God has formed the body together, giving all the more honour to the least members so that there is no bodily rupture and members are mutually concerned about one another” (1Cor.12.24-25). The eyes, ears, hands, are just as important as the head and heart. The metaphor of the body highlights the diversity and collaboration of the various members of the body. Paul expects the Corinthians to appreciate that the Church, the Body of Christ, should function like the human body and overcome its divisions and treat each member with the dignity he or she deserves.
Love, the Highest Value
Even though Paul claims that he himself enjoys the charismatic gifts of speaking in tongues, of prophecy, of esoteric knowledge and faith, he strongly maintains that these count for nothing if one does not have love. Giving up one’s possessions or even sacrificing one’s body, in the absence of love, all these efforts would be meaningless. Paul then goes on to state categorically that love (agape) is the cornerstone, the essential quality of Christian life. It is a gift beyond compare, (sans pareil) a gift ‘par excellence’, a ‘sine qua non’ of Christian living. (Collins, Sacra Pagina, 474).
Attributes of God
The essence or qualities of this love are selflessness, benevolence, readiness to forgive, patience and kindness (13.4). But these qualities are attributed to God:
“turn to Yahweh your God again,
for He is all tenderness and compassion
slow to anger and of great kindness
and ready to relent” (Joel: 2.3, Ex.34:6).
For Paul, love is not just one of the many virtues or spiritual gifts of God. It is not just an ethical or religious value; it is the very “power” of God poured into our hearts ‘by the Holy Spirit’ (Rom.5.5). (Collins,481,484). Read more
Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, aged ten, nine and seven respectively, were favoured with a series of apparitions of Mary, Mother of God during the year of 1917 at Cova da Iria not far from Fatima. The supernatural had irrupted into the temporal order. This caused a lot of consternation. The first apparition in 1916 was that of an angel “who was more brilliant than crystal,” who introduced himself as “the Angel of Peace,” He told the children that Jesus and Mary had plans for them and that they should pray and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, for the ingratitude and indifference of people. These prayers he said, would bring peace to Portugal.
Now Portugal was in turmoil. King Carlos had been assassinated in 1908. Portugal was declared an anti-Christian Republic in 1910. The government of the day seized church property, persecuted church personnel and even drove many religious into exile, including the Patriarch of Lisbon
The Republican State was intensely hostile to the church and its rituals. Catholic processions were forbidden. Apparitions at Fatima were considered a “ridiculous comedy” (Walsh 153). The sarcastic anti-clerical press offered an explanation of the apparitions as “psychosis, epilepsy and collective suggestion.” It claimed that this whole Fatima spectacle was an invention of the clergy (Walsh 84). The entire situation was exacerbated by the fact that Portugal was involved in the World War in 1916. The country was in disarray. The entire Europe was in the throes of war. This prompted Pope Benedict XV to urge all the people of goodwill to repent and direct their prayers to Mary, the Queen of Peace.
In 1917 Our Lady appeared in six consecutive months from May to October, on the 13th of each month. She appeared to Lucia dos Santos, Francisco and Jacinta Marto. The appearances of Our Lady were generally heralded by some celestial signs. A lightening-like brilliant flash of light would appear in the sky. Then a globe of fire would descend on top of a small evergreen tree (azinheira). Our Lady is said to have been draped in a white light more brilliant than the sun and her face was indescribably beautiful. She emanated light and was surrounded by light (Walsh 50, 69) Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were startled, fascinated, swept off their feet. The curious crowd was intensely overwhelmed but did not see Our Lady. But they sensed that something extraordinary had occurred (Walsh 69).
On the occasions of the appearances of Our Lady, the sun was considered the forerunner of the apparitions. Some say the sun detached itself from the clouds, that it trembled and “danced” and like a globe of snow, that it revolved on itself and even appeared to threaten to fall on the earth (Walsh 147, 149). It was amidst this flood of light that Our Lady made her appearance. Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were favoured with this remarkable encounter. The curious crowds on the other hand, could only imagine that something extraordinary was afoot. Read more