I have just recently come across an extract from Mother Angelica’s book, “A Guide to Practical Holiness”, which resonated with me. Anyone who has been engaged in political activity in any organization will understand the pitfalls around conflict in terms of how it is managed for conflict can be healthy if it is managed properly. Both Helen and I have engaged politically in a Society entrusted with the management of recreational property we have a financial interest in near Keremeos, B.C. We have both been severely tested in our Christian principles in terms of love so this extract from Mother Angelica’s book has poignancy for us. The reality in life is that when you step up to assist in any enterprise you expose yourself to risk. You are very likely going to be the object of criticism you find unjust and the response to the individual serving up the criticism can be uncharitable to say the least. Nonetheless, as Christians, we are called to “serve” as Jesus made very clear in the “washing of the feet” on the eve of His passion.
As Christians we accept that we are called to love our neighbor. In fact, Jesus makes it quite clear that this is our obligation. “This is my commandment, love one another as I love you——As the Father has loved me, so I love you” [John 15:12]. In her book, Mother Angelica points out that if we are engaged in developing an interior life in the Spirit, although we may not realize it, we are acquiring both “natural” and “supernatural” self knowledge. This self knowledge is a gift of the Spirit who calls all of us to holiness. Natural self knowledge, as Mother Angelica points out, discloses to us our weaknesses [ impatience, anger, self pity etc] but self knowledge tends to place most of the blame for our difficulties with our neighbor since we tend to focus not on our own weaknesses but on those of our neighbor who gets blamed for our response to his or her activities. When we come to understand that we cannot change our neighbor except through love and example, we seek new ways of prayer and begin to understand that if the conflict is to become healthy we need to seek from the Spirit direction as to how we can overcome our own weaknesses. This is supernatural self knowledge. It comes from the Spirit. It is not offered to make us feel guilty or inferior but it does change the focus from neighbor to self. “It brings acknowledgement of our weaknesses, repentance, compassion for self and neighbor, a determination to do better and a deeper love for God”. Although our neighbor may be the cause of an assault on our virtue, we are the cause of our response to the assault. “Supernatural self knowledge enables the soul to be attuned to the needs of others and at the same time aware of what response is best suited to the occasion. It looks at the soul almost as a third person, honestly evaluating its weaknesses, loving with the love of Jesus and dying to itself in order to witness to Jesus’ love for another”.
As each of us seeks ever increasing intimacy with God, our souls require a healthy infusion of supernatural self knowledge. We cannot expect to reside in the presence of Holiness itself unless we earnestly strive to be the hands, feet, voice and heart of Jesus to those around us.