‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.’ Luke 6:36–38
Prayer means entering into communion with the One who loved us before we could love. It is this “first love” that is revealed to us in prayer. The more deeply we enter into the house of God, the house whose language is prayer, the less dependent we are on the blame or praise of those who surround us, and the freer we are to let our whole being be filled with that first love. As long as we are wondering what other people say or think about us and are trying to act in ways that will elicit a positive response, we are still victimized and imprisoned by the dark world in which we live. In that dark world we have to let our surroundings tell us what we are worth. As long as we are in the clutches of that world, we live in darkness, since we do not know our true self. We cling to our false self in the hope that maybe we can find more success, more praise, more satisfaction will give us the experience of being loved, which we crave. That is the fertile ground of bitterness, greed, violence and war.
In prayer, however, again and again we discover that the love we are looking for has already been given to us and that we can come to the experience of that love. Prayer is entering into communion with the One who molded our being in our mother’s womb with love and only love, The in the first love, lies our true self, a self not made up of rejections and acceptance of those with whom we live, but solidly rooted in the One who called us into existence. In the house of God we were created. To that house we are called to return. Prayer is the act of returning. Henri Nouwen, The Road to Peace
It is good to be reminded this morning of the utter clarity with which we are commanded to be compassionate, not to judge and to forgive. Any sort of thinking otherwise is from the Accuser. He came not to condemn the world, rather He came to give His life to His beloved children. And as I consider this week’s prayer: Grant me the grace of your Holy Spirit, that I may be devoted to you with my whole heart, and united to others with pure affection, I am reminded again and again that this pure affection comes from a single-minded heart at rest in His love, because He first loved me.
But this forgiveness and mercy offered up to others is not that of a stoical-grit-my-saintly-teeth sort, mucking about in the gravel pits of life on one’s stomach with one’s face in the dirt. No, rather this is a joyous celebration of His great forgiveness and mercy, somehow accompanied with a full measure of gifts, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, poured into my lap.
That is the sort of mercy I wish to live in today, through His grace, filled with His first love, united with others in pure (not what-is-in-it-for-me) affection.