“Love one another. As I have loved you” (Joh. 15,12)
It’s the sweet word that our Lord addresses to us in the twilight of His earthly life, before his Passion started.
The precept of love is often quoted in the Gospel. Christ tells us that it is the greatest commandment that summarizes the Law and the Prophets. (Mth. 22,34-40)
Jesus makes it the driving force of His earthly life, it is not indicating the same simply much as to offer – for His love to all mankind – His own life on the Cross. Jesus immolated Himself for us so we might have life, and we might have it more abundantly. (Joh.10,10)
This is the example of a more active and holy love that our Lord induces us to follow with an increasing persistence.
Maria Valtorta’s Work teaches us that each gesture done with goodness for our sisters and brothers can bring graces to our neighbours.
So each little daily gesture, each small sacrifice and each deed can be useful to the welfare of someone on the earth. To abstain from saying a bad word, abstain from doing a small courtesy, doing it with the intent of giving joy to others as being my equal, can provide a soul to Heaven by helping your neighbour. Similarly our anonymous gestures can transform itself into spiritual treasures, always is offered with love.
As it is written in The Gospel as it was revealed to me, Jesus visited a grandmother who had lost several members of her family. As she is very poor Jesus grants her a bag with some offerings to help her till the following harvest. Next to Him there is Marjiam, young disciple and Peter’s stepchild. He soon finds himself involved to sustain a conversation with other children of his age. As he exhorts them to help their grandmother, the children start to tell him about their sister:
[…] Rachel is good! She stays up until late to spin the little wool we have and she became feverish working in the field to prepare it to be sown when our father was dying.
– God will reward you for that, says Marjiam seriously.
– He has already rewarded me by relieving my granny of her worry.
– Do you not want anything else?
– No, Lord.
– But are you cured?
– No, Lord. But it does not matter. Even if I die now, my grandmother is assisted. Previously I was sorry to die because I helped her.
– But death is dreadful, child…
– As God helps me in life, He will help me in death and I will go to my mother… Oh! don’t weep, grandmother! I love you, too, dear grandmother. I will not say that again if it makes you weep. On the contrary, if you wish so, I will ask the Lord to cure me… Don’t weep, my little mother…
And she embraces the desolate old woman.
– Cure her, Lord. You made my grandfather happy because of me. Make this old woman happy now.
– Graces are obtained through sacrifices. What sacrifice will you make to obtain it? asks Jesus seriously.
Marjiam thinks… He seeks the most painful thing to give up… and then he smiles:
– I will have no more honey for a whole month.
– That is not much! The month of Chislev is already far gone…
– When I say a month I mean the four phases of the moon… And just think… during these days there is the Feast of Lights and honey cakes…
– That is true. Well, Rachel will recover, thanks to you. (MV, The Gospel, 309.3)
Thence Marjiam is willing to offer a sacrifice out of his love for the young girl, so that she could quickly recover from her bad health. We ought to notice the simplicity of his gesture. He does not intend to become a great ascetic or a mystic to perform great gestures. He examines himself with simplicity and sweetness and rapidly understands what he can give up. He offers the honey cakes he loves so much.
It’s not a sensational great offer, nevertheless it’s all he can offer and he does it with a good heart. From the story, it arises Marjiam’s goodwill and his simplicity, all profound virtues dear to Jesus.
Jesus agrees to Marjiam’s request and soon he will find himself dealing with the temptation of eating the honey cakes when Peter brings them to Nazareth where Jesus resides for a few days.
– Ah! honey cakes!… shouts Marjiam. Then he turns silent.
– Yes. They are in here with figs dried in the oven, olives and red apples. […]Are you not tasting the honey?
– I cannot, says Marjiam seriously.
– Why? Are you not well?
– No. But I cannot take it.
– But why?
The boy blushes but does not reply. He looks at Jesus and is silent. Jesus smiles and explains:
– Marjiam made a vow to obtain a grace. He cannot eat honey for four weeks.
– All right. You will eat it after… Take the jar just the same… Just imagine! I didn’t think he was… so…
– So generous, Simon. He who becomes accustomed to penance from his childhood will find the path of virtue easy throughout life, says Jesus, while the boy goes away with the jar in his hands. (MV, The Gospel, 310.2-3)
The sacrifice – we can offer in each moment of our life – should be correctly understood. Jesus does not ask us to distress ourselves against our own body in a sort of physical or moral torture. On a contrary He asks us to have a good and healthy balance, giving our own body all we need and to our soul what is necessary for growth in peace and joy.
Afterwards, if we can offer a small gesture to God (either a piece of chocolate, or the self-control over our faults), Jesus gladly accepts them and thanks us. But first of all, our Lord asks us a good discernment into understanding what we can do and offer to Him.
Our little gesture of love and our renounces don’t have to be disproportionate to the possibility of each one of us. The risk is like becoming like an alpinist who pretends to reach the summit of a mountain without hiking the slopes.
It’s necessary to climb gently, according to our physical ability, yet always inflamed and lightened with love. It is with love that our works become extremely valuable; it is by love that we become similar to God. It is with love, finally, that we bring graces to our brothers and sisters. In Maria Valtorta’s Work we can see Marjiam’s profound wish to see the heeling of the young girl, till the point of becoming heroic when everybody is sitting at the table. This is how he speaks to Mary:
– Mother, why have You not put the honey cakes on the table? Jesus likes them and they are good for John’s throat. And my father likes them, too…
– And you, too, concludes Peter.
– As far as I am concerned… they do not exist. I promised…
– That is why I did not put them on the table, My dear…, says Mary caressing him. […]
– No, no. You can bring them. Or rather: You must bring them. And I will hand them out to everybody.
[…] Marjiam takes the tray and begins to hand them out.
[…] He then goes back to his place lays the tray in the middle of the table resolutely and folds his arms.
– You make this delicious cake go the wrong way, says Peter when he sees that Marjiam does not take any.
And he adds:
– At least a little bit. Here, take some of mine, so that you will not die to have some. You are suffering too much… Jesus will let you have it.
– But if I did not suffer, I would have no merit, father. I offered this sacrifice exactly because I knew that it would make me suffer. After all… I have been so happy since I made it, that I seem to be full of honey. I taste it in everything, and I even seem to breathe it in the air…
– That’s because you are dying to have some…
– No. It’s because I know that God says to me: “You are doing the right thing, My son”.
– The Master would have satisfied you, even without this sacrifice. He loves you so much!
– Yes. But it is not fair that I should take advantage of it, just because He loves me. In any case, He says, that great is the reward in Heaven even for a cup of water offered in His name. I think that if it is great for a cup of water given to other people in His name, it must also be great for a cake or a little honey which one gives up out of love for a brother. Am I wrong, Master? (MV, The Gospel, 311.3-4)
At this point Jesus, who is questioned by Marjiam about it, intervenes explaining the power that a generous act of love is obtained.
No, you have spoken wisely. In fact, I could have granted you what you asked for, in favour of little Rachel, also without your sacrifice, because it was a good thing to do and My Heart desired it. But I did it with greater joy because I was helped by you. The love for our brothers is not confined to human means and limits, but it rises to much higher levels. When it is perfect, it really touches the throne of God and blends with His infinite Charity and Bounty. The communion of saints is just this continuous activity, as God works continuously and in every way, to assist our brothers both in their material and spiritual needs or in both as it is in the case of Marjiam, who relieves Rachel of her illness by obtaining her cure, and at the same time he relieves the dejected spirit of old Johanna and kindles greater and greater trust in the Lord in all the hearts in the family. Even a spoonful of honey, offered as a sacrifice, can help to bring peace and hope to an afflicted soul as a cake or any other food given up out of love, may obtain some bread, offered miraculously, for some starving person who is remote from us and will never be known to us; and an angry word, not uttered out of spirit of sacrifice, although justified, may prevent a remote crime, as to resist the desire to pick a fruit, out of love, may bring about a thought of resipiscence in a thief and thwart a theft. Nothing is lost in the holy economy of universal love: neither the heroic sacrifice of a boy before a dish of honey cakes, nor the holocaust of a martyr. In fact, I tell you that the holocaust of a martyr often originates from the heroic upbreeding imparted to him since his childhood for the love of God and his neighbour. (MV, The Gospel, 311.4)
Therefore, Marjiam’s example shows us how far the power of love can reach. But we can even go beyond if we search for an intimate union with God in our actions connected to everyday life. To learn from Saint Therese of Lisieux who met God in every moment of her daily gestures even in adversities, can be of help.
Little Therese was confronted with enormous difficulties in her relationship with the Mother Superior of the convent, who saw negative things in every action of the young sister. Saint Therese made a great effort into learning how to love this sister of hers through this relationship.
“I wasn’t happy enough to pray a lot for this sister of mine who gave me such a hard time, I tried to please her in all possible ways”, little Therese wrote, and “when I was tempted to answer her in an unpleasant way, I was happy to give her my best smile”.
In our everyday life, and our harmless gestures, or in our small acts of renunciation, all done for love, the Lord blesses us and takes our offerings to help a brother or a sister in Christ.
“Nothing is lost in the holy economy of universal love”, says Christ in Maria Valtorta’s Work. It is just what we have to keep in mind in order to grow in the life of God and with our neighbours.