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The Perfection of Brotherly Love

The Perfection of Brotherly Love

The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ. He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men; he allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace.

LisboaMuseuNacionalDeArteAntigaEcceHomo20140917In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity—Father, forgive them—and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgment; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord. Further, if he wishes to savor the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.

But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Savior.


From the “Mirror of Love” by Saint Aelred, abbott, Second Reading, Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings for Friday of the First Week of Lent.


Art: Partial restoration of Ecce Homo, anonymous artist, 15th century, Daniel Villafruela photographer own work, 17 September 2014, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, CCA-SA, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Maryse Gattereau

    He has suffered so much for us !!for being the Son of God , he did not have to go through all these sufferings . But He is teaching us by His example the way to true Feeedom.and to His Kingdom

  • Guest

    Love gives everything and asks for nothing.

  • Tory

    We forget all the time the fact that the real enemy is not the person (our brothers and sisters) but the Satan behind him or her.

    • LizEst

      True. But, when Christ told us to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us, he was referring to people, not Satan.

  • LizEst

    Pray for the people of Brussels. Have mercy, Lord!

    • MariaGo

      Not just Brussels but pray for Ivory Coast, Turkey and Yemen too! There have also been terrorist attacks there in recent days. But nowhere nearly as much news coverage.

  • LizEst

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing marybernadette! God bless you!

    • marybernadette

      God Bless you too, Liz!

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