Beyond Endearment

4942_4520152765_18d684150b_o-628x284

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a fellow brother about love of neighbor and, specifically, about love of the “neighbors” with whom we happen to live. (In our case here at the House of Studies, that means seventy-nine fellow friars!) We were discussing the great need for self-sacrifice in any vocation, be it religious life or marriage. Agreeing with a comment he had made, I said, “Yes, it goes beyond endearment,” and he responded, “Good point.” Eureka! I knew I had a topic for my next Dominicana post!

“Endearing” is defined as “inspiring affection or warm sympathy,” and “to endear” is “to cause to become beloved or admired.” It is a quality we find in many people, but we encounter it more often, it seems, in those we with whom don’t live with than in those with whom we do. When the next-door neighbor gives us fresh-baked cookies, we certainly find it endearing. We take the cookies, say thank you, shut the door, and enjoy. No more neighbor. But now, as we eat the cookies, we look across the room to the overflowing garbage can that our spouse or fellow friar promised to empty earlier that morning. This is not endearing. In fact, it might be enraging!

Of course, fellow friars and spouses, like the next-door neighbor with the fresh-baked cookies, also have their winsome qualities. They, too, can be endearing, if we take the time to notice it. (In this regard, it helps to remember that we may not be the easiest people to live with, either.) But, even so, endearment only goes so far, and, when we live with someone on a daily basis, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Perhaps, among the apostles, St. Peter’s gruffness was endearing, or St. John’s youthful enthusiasm. Yet, endearment did not get them through the arrest, torture, and death of Jesus, their teacher, brother, friend, savior, Lord, and God. Christ’s self-sacrificing love did. Hard, scary, and unpleasant as it was, self-sacrificing love is what got them through over the long haul. Self-sacrificing love, not endearment, is what led to their salvation.

And yet, endearment is very often part of the story. If we didn’t try “to inspire affection or warm sympathy” in each other, and if we didn’t try to be inspired with affection and warm sympathy for one another, it would be harder to go further and deeper in our love of neighbor. We can, however, rely on Christ’s self-sacrificing love to give us the grace to love our neighbor always, regardless of appeal or not—even beyond endearment.

Image: Trash Can Jenga

You May Also Enjoy:

Secular Sciences and the So-Called Liberal Arts I figured it would come up eventually, but it took until the end of the very last class. I had wrapped things up, giving a few tips about the final and a reminder about the optional review session. As the students packed up to leave, I reminded them that I would be skipping town the day after the final exam, returning here to Washington, DC, and to my studies for the priesthood, but that I would still be accessible by email. Although I mentioned ...
An Arduous Proposal On hearing the word "asceticism," a number of associations rush to mind. Most typically, we recall the standard fare of Lenten practices—fasting, abstinence, perhaps the sacrifice of some beloved comfort. For the most part, we tend to associate asceticism with foregoing some secondary good, be it satiety at the end of a meal, red meat, or warm showers. While this is the beginning of a healthy understanding of penance, it does not entirely capture...
Saying Farewell It was a Saturday afternoon in early July 2008. My uncle was walking around the house when a call came through on his cell. He answered to hear his friend's voice speaking with a frightening tone, “Mark, I’m calling to say goodbye. You’ve always been a good friend to me...” (more…)
Transitional Atheism I remember when my sister became a detective. We were probably about seven and eight years old. Christmas was rolling around again, and she was suspicious. It started with simple questions. Mom, why does Santa have the same handwriting you do? And next, why does Santa use the same wrapping paper you and Dad use? You really have to admire her logic. Something didn't quite add up. (more…)