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The Indian Jesuit, Anthony de Mello, recounts with great humour that when a young man was asked what it was that his girlfriend most liked about him, he answered, “She says that I am tall, handsome, smart and that I dance really well.” Then he was asked what he most liked about her and the answer was almost identical: “She says that I am tall, handsome, smart and that I dance really well”. Commenting on fables distorts them, suffice to say that this young man did not love, he did not know how to go beyond himself.
The Gospels, and the New Testament in general, constantly deal with the concept of gratitude, whether in these or other words. The Father makes it rain on good men and evil, without noticing what one or other deserves. Jesus chooses very limited people as his followers: among them there are jealousies, the wish for aggrandisement, desires for vengeance. They do not merit his choice. In ancient Israel the object of Yahweh’s gratuitous love was already known: ‘Rather, he has chosen you because of his love for you…’ (Deut 7:8)
Love, if it is not free, is not love but a mercantile relationship: quid pro quo. The well-known hymn of love expressly teaches that love ‘does [not] seek its own interest’ (1Cor 13:4). To love is to like and defend the other, seeking his good for its own sake, because he is a person and a child of God and our brother, without secondary intentions.
When we look at Claret’s life, our attention is drawn by his disinterested love for others. In the years in Catalonia, his apostolic giving resulted in persecution but for him doing good was more important than his own life and safety. From the Canary Islanders, who ‘had stolen his heart’, he bore the reward of several tears in his cassock. In Cuba he did his utmost for the poor, slaves, exploited, prisoners, etc; also for his priests, whose economic recompense he managed to improve notably. As a reward he returned to Spain with a sizeable scar on his cheek and one on his arm. He asked for the attacker to be pardoned.
Do I feel compassion in the face of the suffering of the poor and marginalised? How do I behave with difficult, disagreeable or ungrateful people?