Growing In Love
The capacity of any man’s soul is judged by the amount of love he possess; hence he who loves much is great, he who loves little is small, he who has no love is nothing as Paul said: “If I have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2), But if he begins to acquire some love however, if he tries at least to love those who love him (Lk 6:32), and salutes the brethren and others who salute him (Mt 5:4), I may no longer describe him as nothing because some love must be present in the give and take of social life (Phil 4:15). In the words of the Lord however, what more is he doing than others (Mt 5:47)? When I discover a love as mediocre as this, I cannot call such a man noble or great: he is obviously narrow minded and mean.
But if his love expands and continues to advance till it outgrows narrow, servile confines, and finds itself in the open ranges where love is freely given in full liberty of spirit; when from the generous bounty of his goodwill he strives to reach out to all his neighbors, loving each of them as himself (Mt 19:19), surely one may no longer query, “What more are you doing than others?”
Indeed he has made himself vast. His heart is filled with a love that embraces everybody, even those to whom it is not tied by the inseparable bonds of family relationship; a love that is not allured by any hope of personal gain, that possesses nothing it is obliged to restore, that bears no burden of debt whatever, apart from that one of which it is said: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another” (Rom 13:8). Progressing further still . . . instead of shutting off your affections from your enemies (1 Jn 3:17), you will do good to those who hate you, you will pray for those who persecute and slander you (Mt 5:44), you will strive to be peaceful even with those who hate peace (Ps 119:7). Then the width, height and beauty of our soul will be the width, height and beauty of heaven itself.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux