Love, kindness, gentleness, meekness: may the Sacred Heart of Jesus help us discern the spirit of holiness.
“You know not of what spirit you are.” Such were the words of Jesus Christ to His disciples James and John, when they would have brought down chastisements on the Samaritans for expelling them from their country. Ah, said the Lord to them, and what spirit is this? -- this is not my spirit, which is sweet and gentle; for I am come not to destroy but to save souls: “The Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save.” And would you induce me to destroy them? Oh, hush! and never make the like request to Me, for such is not according to My spirit. And, in fact, with what meekness did Jesus Christ treat the adulteress! “Woman, said He, hath no man condemned thee? Neither will I condemn thee! Go, and now sin no more.” He was satisfied with merely warning her not to sin again, and sent her away in peace. With what meekness, again, did He seek the conversion of the Samaritan woman, and so, in fact, converted her! He first asked her to give Him to drink; then He said to her: If thou didst know who He is that saith to thee, Give me to drink! And then He revealed to her that he was the expected Messiah. And, again, with what meekness did He strive to convert the impious Judas, admitting him to eat of the same dish with Him, washing his feet and admonishing him in the very act of his betrayal: “Judas, and dost thou thus betray Me with a kiss? Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And see how He converted Peter after his denial of Him! “And the Lord turning, looked on Peter.” On leaving the house of the High Priest, without making him a single reproach, He cast on him a look of tenderness, and thus converted him; and so effectually did He convert him, that during his whole life long Peter never ceased to bewail the injury he had done to his Master.Oh, how much more is to be gained by meekness than by harshness! St. Francis de Sales said there was nothing more bitter than the bitter almond, but if made into a preserve, it becomes sweet and agreeable: thus corrections, though in their nature very unpleasant, are rendered pleasant by love and meekness, and so are attended with more beneficial results. St. Vincent of Paul said of himself that in the government of his own congregation he had never corrected anyone with severity, except on three occasions, when he supposed there was reason to do so, but that he regretted it ever afterwards, because he found it turned out badly; whereas he had always admirably succeeded by gentle correction.St. Francis de Sales obtained from others whatever he wished by his meek behavior; and by this means he managed to gain the most hardened sinners to God. It was the same with St. Vincent of Paul, who taught his disciples this maxim: "Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in winning the hearts of men, and in prevailing on them to undertake things most repugnant to nature." He once gave a great sinner to the care of one of his Fathers, to bring him to sentiments of true repentance; but that Father, in spite of all his endeavors, found his labor fruitless, so that he begged the Saint to speak a word to him. The Saint accordingly spoke with him, and converted him. That sinner subsequently declared that the singular sweetness of Father Vincent had worked upon his heart. Wherefore it was that the Saint could not bear his missionaries to treat sinners with severity; and he told them that the infernal spirit took advantage of the strictness of some to work the greater ruin of souls.Kindness should be observed towards all on all occasions and at all times. St. Bernard remarks that certain persons are gentle as long as things proceed to their taste; but scarcely do they experience some opposition or contradiction than they are instantly on fire, like Mount Vesuvius itself. Such as these may be called burning coals, but hidden under the embers. Whoever would become a Saint must, during this life, resemble the lily among thorns, which, however much it may be pricked by them, never ceases to be a lily; that is, it is always equally sweet and serene. The soul that loves God maintains an imperturbable peace of heart; and he shows this in her very countenance, being ever mistress of herself, alike in prosperity and adversity, according to the lines of Cardinal Petrucci:Of outward things he views the varying guise,
While in his soul's most inmost depth
Undimmed God's image lies.
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ[Personal recess for several days.]