Today we are reading Luke 6:35-38 and “Way of the Ascetics” Ch.3
Love & Give
” In 1944, the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s mother took him from Siberia to Moscow. They were among those who witnessed a procession of twenty-thousand German war prisoners marching through the streets of Moscow:
The pavements swarmed with onlookers, cordoned off by soldiers and police. The crowd was mostly women — Russian women with hands roughened by hard work, lips untouched by lipstick, and with thin hunched shoulders which had borne half of the burden of the war. Every one of them must have had a father or a husband, a brother or a son killed by the Germans. They gazed with hatred in the direction from which the column was to appear.
At last we saw it. The generals marched at the head, massive chins stuck out, lips folded disdainfully, their whole demeanor meant to show superiority over their plebian victors.
“‘They smell of perfume, the bastards,” someone in the crowd said with hatred. The women were clenching their fists. The soldiers and policemen had all they could do to hold them back.
All at once something happened to them. They saw German soldiers, thin, unshaven, wearing dirty blood-stained bandages, hobbling on crutches or leaning on the shoulders of their comrades; the soldiers walked with their heads down. The street became dead silent — the only sound was the shuffling of boots and the thumping of crutches.
Then I saw an elderly woman in broken-down boots push herself forward and touch a policeman’s shoulder, saying, “Let me through.” There must have been something about her that made him step aside. She went up to the column, took from inside her coat something wrapped in a colored handkerchief and unfolded it. It was a crust of black bread. She pushed it awkwardly into the pocket of a soldier, so exhausted that he was tottering on his feet. And now from every side women were running toward the soldiers, pushing into their hands bread, cigarettes, whatever they had. The soldiers were no longer enemies. They were people. A Precocious Autobiography, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Collins, London
Be free, my sister. Be free from the burden of bearing grudges, the burden of hate, the burden of greed, the burden of mercilessness. Do you see this elderly woman’s act? She chose to free herself from hate, and by so doing she obtained divine rest and led others on the road to the Kingdom. The Physician of our souls knows the remedy to heal a cold and injured heart. “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return”, says Christ. But, He doesn’t stop there; “and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 5:35). Ah! What an undeserved grace! Do you hear? “Sons of the Most High”, daughters of the Most High! For what? Forgiving, giving, lending, and being merciful. In the very remedies for our souls, God has hidden treasures. Be not cast down by the commandment which seems hard to carry out. Do you think such a gracious and loving God will not help? No, read on, He later says “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27). “Ask and you shall receive”. You cannot love your enemy? Ask. Your hand is hardened by greed? Ask. You are unmerciful? Ask. This Lenten season is a period for change and repentance. Ask. Dare to. And dare to do your share. Remember Zacchaeus? God’s love transforms and gives us the power to carry out His commandments. Be she who is free from hate, be she who gives unsparingly, be she who loves, for in so doing the King will call you She who is daughter of the Most High.
From the Way of the Ascetics Chapter 3:“The garden that we have undertaken to tend watch over is the field of our own heart; the harvest is eternal life. Eternal, because it is independent of time and space and other external circumstances: it is the true life of freedom, the life of love and mercy and light, that has no bounds whatever, and for just that reason is eternal. It is a spiritual life in a spiritual dominion: a state of being. It begins here, and has no end, and no earthly power can coerce it; and it is to be found in the human heart. Persecute yourself, says St. Isaac of Syria, and your enemy is routed as fast as you approach. Make peace with yourself, and heaven and earth make peace with you. Take pains to enter your own innermost chamber and you will see the chamber of heaven, for they are one and the same, and in entering one you behold them both. The stairway to the kingdom is within you, secret in your soul. Cast off the burden of sin and you will find within you the upward path that will make your ascent possible. The heavenly chamber of which the saint speaks here is another name for eternal life. It is also called the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, or quite simply, Christ. To live in Christ is to live in eternal life.”