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Fraternal charity based on the example of Christ

"The highest type of brotherly love is to love our enemies and there is no greater encouragement to do this than the remembrance of the wondrous patience exercised by him who, fairest of the sons of men, offered his gracious face to be spat upon by his enemies. All creation is ruled by a glance from his eyes and yet he allowed them to be blindfolded by wicked men. His body he exposed to scourging and, although his head strikes fear in the principalities and powers, he bowed it to the pain of the crown of thorns. He submitted himself to insults and finally gave us an example by enduring in peace with gentleness, patience and meekness, the cross, the nails, the lance, the vinegar and gall. Then as a sheep he was led to the slaughter and, like a lamb before his shearer, he remained silent and did not open his mouth.

Hearing that wondrous voice, full of gentleness and love, saying, ‘Father, forgive them’, who would not immediately embrace his enemies? Father, forgive them; can any greater degree of gentleness and love be added to this prayer? However, he did add something. To pray for them was too little, he wished also to make excuses for them. He said: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

They are great sinners but with little understanding; and so he said: Father, forgive them. They are crucifying without knowing who it is that they are crucifying, for, if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, and so he said: Father, forgive them.

They think of him as a law-breaker, as one who falsely claims to be God, and as a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, says the Lord, and they have not recognized my majesty, and so: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

It follows that, if a man would really love himself, he should avoid any corrupt love of the flesh. Not to be overcome by fleshly concupiscence, he should turn all his love to the sweetness of the flesh of our Lord. To love his brethren even more perfectly, he should open his arms to embrace even his enemies. In case this divine fire should grow cold by injuries done to him, a man should gaze constantly in his mind on the tranquil patience of his Lord and Saviour."

A reading from the book of St Aelred (The Mirror of Charity)


Bend our wills, Lord, so that by this Lenten observance we may fit ourselves to celebrate the Easter festival; and as we have all undertaken to subdue the body, may we all be renewed in spirit.
(We make our prayer) through our Lord.
(Through Christ our Lord.)

Prepared by Pontifical University Saint Thomas Aquinas