I first heard the phrase “will the good of the other, because they are other” while listening to a documentary on the Catholic Faith, which is derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (CCC – S1, A1, Ch5, 1766) This was a lightning bolt moment for me, when I heard it, it brought me back to the understanding of Luke 6:32-33, “If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much.”. Though, we are all sinners and we all tend to do good, especially for those we are agreeable with, and those people who don’t pose any sort of threat, as far as our social standings, or physical health are concerned. I’ve entered conversations in the past where a challenge to help a stranded motorist on a desolate highway late at night, is answered with “um, nope” from most people in the conversation. A common and not unexpected response from reasonable people, who are looking to preserve their life (for familial and personal reasons no doubt), and prevent undo danger from occurring. Ok, so, are we missing something when it comes to following Jesus’s example in the Gospels? Should we help those motorists, or enter the home of someone who is potentially sick with a deadly disease? Do we help those people at work who’ve hurt us or caused tremendous discomfort with a reality they’ve set forth, to complicate and degrade our lives? In short, yes! We are Christians, and we are the true reflections of God’s light to those who may dwell in their own darkness. We are the truth, and if we’re unwilling to trust in God, then our faith is nothing more than a whimsical notion of right and wrong which we can project on others and stand in judgement when they fail. When we can’t be happy for the success and blessings of another, we fail, and our soul’s sadness is magnified through and increased distance (distance is the best analogy of measure when talking about God, not good, but the best I can do) from God.
Willing the good of the other doesn’t always mean we put ourselves in harm’s way, but does mean, we are willing to see the success of another and want the success from a purely loving and genuine perspective. This is to say, watching a coworker succeed you in promotion and being as happy for them as you would yourself, happier even. Failing to acknowledge or even will the good of the other, as Barron points out is a matter of reverse egotism. When we are angered and jealous because they are unwilling to impart a semblance of good will upon us, based in a deluded expectational goal of social interaction, we fall short of the charity needed to imbue God’s love in this world. So, what does this mean exactly? Do we walk around with a goofy smile on our lips everywhere we go, no, not necessarily, but if smiling all the time makes you cognizant of your love for God, then do it all day every day. Who cares what others think of your incessant smiling, maybe they are where you were at before you began your smiling conversion. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” Although, Lewis, has great advice, I’m thinking more along the lines of a perception of will as it relates to us all.
Culture today, is based on an increased awareness of self. A push to look out for one’s self before moving forward with anything else of a charitable nature. When dealing with people who are infirmed or homeless, we ponder what this will mean for us in a far-reaching way. Of course, I don’t want to sound pessimistic, I know everyone is on their own spiritual journey, and everyone comes to the conclusions of faith when it is the right time. Though, for my own purposes, I’ve felt this way many times, and regret my personal and selfish motives for completing any good will regarding anyone else. It doesn’t change the good work which was accomplished, and it doesn’t negate the benefit anyone may have received from our unselfish acts, although I acknowledge my own selfish motivations.
Though, since I was moved to action by Barron’s simple words, I’ve found different motivation in my perception of the people who surround me. The first being, I truly want what is best around me, and secondly, I recognize the very nature of our existence, and why we were created in the first place. God’s will was to love us into existence, and all he wants in return is our love, but to have our pure love, He is willing to allow us a choice. Within our daily actions, our choice is our will to capitulate to God’s never-ending love. This is to say, when we focus on God’s warmth and light, we are focused on willing the good in everything we possibly do. We are transcended, as it were, to a higher plane where more than ever before we see truth more clearly. We accept a harder understanding of life, and yet we attain a greater level of joy, which creates an inexplicable sense of calm, like oil smoothing itself over the surface of the water.
While wanton of the best outcomes for everyone I have ever met and those I’m sure to meet in the future, I have experienced a sense of destruction, at least as far as tearing away those old constructs which seemingly were strong and rightfully perceived, but when exposed to the light of truth, were seen for what they were. Duplicities, meant to merely hide a façade of wretchedness, focused on self, and self-aggrandizing. It was an awful sight, when exposed to the light, yet in its exposure, there was a feeling of righteousness as I began to tear all of it down to the very foundation. The foundation was the love of God, the existence of faith, and our general understanding of who Jesus was/is, and how this would ultimately pertain to my life as it was and how it will ever be going forward. The truth of charity as it pertains to my existence among all God’s creatures, especially as we are a part of the overall Body of Christ and the Church’s mission to bring everyone into the fold. We can’t of course do this, if we are seeking our own ends, by seeking our own means. We want to control how we show our charity to one another, and in doing so, we hope to control our destiny, which in a very rudimentary way, we hope to be gods over our own individual universes. Our will is not God’s will, except when we hope to reflect God’s will by our very own actions and thoughts. It requires our thoughts to be as pure as our actions, and we begin to purify our thoughts by prayer. Prayer was the single most effective tool for me, in my approach to the good of everyone I meet. My prayer for the person who was out to ruin my day, made all the difference in the world. My wife would say to me, “you never know what they are going through!”, and so she is right as usual. She is an example of God’s grace for me, she is wonderfully strong and capable of keeping things together so we can come to God, evenly yoked.
Another strong point which should all give us pause is, when we think about willing the good of the other, this other person is beloved by God, just as we are, and our will to love them becomes an indirect experience to love God, but to love God through His creations. God doesn’t make mistakes, and in the overall process of love, if God can find something to love about our enemies, so can we. In the movie, The Shack, the father, played by Sam Worthington is bitterly angry at the loss of his kid (sorry, to spoil this if you haven’t seen it yet), but is then given a choice to pick if he had to choose between his two remaining kids, which one would he pick. An impossible task, and one which no parent can do, no creator can do. God, does not choose between any one of us, instead, he allows us to choose him, and he never leaves our side, nor does he abandon us when we’ve pushed him away with our incessant need to sin. As this understanding should unfold for us, we can also understand, God, wants us to love our brothers and sisters as much as he does. This love begins with a wanton effort to will the best possible circumstance we can. We pray, whatever the bad times are, they may turn to good. We are excited for the great outcome of their personal life, and we above all else seek to understand who they are to God and to us.
Men, here is where we are at. We must be willing to stand up and will the good of the person who stands near us, even when they wish to do us harm. So, back to the original set of questions. Do we help those who might be willing to hurt us? The answer to this question is yes. A resounding yes, our eternity is with God, and not here, Earth is a stopping off point before we embark on all eternity. Why are we this concerned about a material life? Could it be we would miss our wives, or our children, possibly the creature comforts we’ve become accustomed to in this life so far. Our lives are not about comfort, although we are the most comfortable humans who’ve ever lived, our lives are about sacrifice and devotion. Our devotion to God above all else, our devotion to or family, and our devotion to all peoples. It’s not about the best animal activist group, or who won which award, or how much money did we make, and it’s not about where we are in the line. It’s about our individual efforts to be a driving force for the world, in love, in giving of ourselves for the best possible outcomes and understandings of those who are God’s children.
I’ve had many conversations on this topic in the past, and I think we could at some level agree, on the positive outcomes for everyone. Though this leads to two opposed methods of thought, the first being a pursuit for an equality of outcome, and the second, is an abandonment when the risk of death is introduced.
An equality of outcome is an ideal place to be, but equality of outcome isn’t a biblical understanding, it’s a manmade desire. Even within the confines of Heaven, there are different levels, and different positions of placement; though the different positions don’t correspond with achievement as say would be won in a race. Instead, the difference of level is based more on the graces with which God has poured out to us. Even the angels have varied degrees of importance, though all love God fully, enough to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” without ceasing. We are where we are, because this is where we are. Cryptic, and not satisfying, I know, but truthful nevertheless. Your ability to be a father isn’t translatable to another paradigm, although, your actions may be. A father may see your love for God, and in this he will be led to the light, and may become a reflection for his own family. We can inspire to love God, but we can never replace, or expect identical outcomes, our only expectation is God lifts us up, and we can accept or deny him, it’s our choice.
Finally, faith is our compass and our tool as we search for God, and pertaining to God alone (in the Trinity of course), when death becomes a reality, what were our efforts in this life. I will never suggest anyone do anything they are not prepared to do, but for me, my faith is one of hard decisions. Unto death do we realize our existence as a matter of time, but on the overall perception and functionality of objective reality, there is a bigger context which we must accept if we are to accept Christ. We must accept, death, Christ died for all mankind, and in doing so wiped away the original sin Adam and Eve brought about by their “original sin” and eating the forbidden fruit. Though, we all must die, and for some this is a very disagreeable notion, they must leave everything they know, and all the people they love. Faith is our function to overcome this fear of death, our ability to look past, although we aren’t sure what we’re really looking at, and accept the unfettered goodness of which God is. The pure love which envelopes us, and permeates our existence to the ends with which no one can imagine. Even those numerous near-death experiences (NDEs) which have been given to us in detail, have no explanation or wording to describe their experiences. They are changed though, they are transformed into a greater understanding of their short-comings and willing to accept their sin for what it is. When St. Thomas Aquinas was amid writing the third section of the Summa Theologica (his masterwork of over 3,500 pages, and subsequently the explanation of Christian theology as we know it), while in Matins, he was in intense prayer when a voice from the image of Christ on the cross and it said, “Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?” St. Thomas replied, “None other than Thyself, Lord.” When he was asked to continue his writings, Thomas stated, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value”. His transformation had less to do with himself or what anyone else could provide, but more to do with what God had in store for him.
Willing the good of the other because they are other, is a very foundational understanding of who Christ is to each one of us. God’s loving will to create us, is a matter of agony in love, then of warmth within love. The agony of knowing something you love unconditionally, has turned away from because of their refusal to accept your love, must be agonizing. This is represented in the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, to show every one of us, how much his love is willing to go, for all of us, to endure unspeakable amounts of pain, and still as he hangs on the tree, he wills the good to the thief by saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Before he expires and lifts the whole existence of mankind and he says “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Jesus was the true example of willing the good of the other, and loving those who would hate us. We must teach this to our kids, we must be examples of this to our spouses. Our responsibilities to our families and to the world we live in cannot be overstated, it’s up to every one of us daily to be the examples for everyone, by following the examples Jesus set forth on the day when he hung from a tree for our transgressions.
I hope and pray the words you read today, will help strike a chord in your heart, and help you to pursue a life of love in God’s name. I pray your families will become stronger with each passing day, and never fear what is hard or ever fear the reflective light of God you bring to them. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!