by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
He that loves Jesus Christ is never angry with his Neighbor.
THE virtue not to be angry at the contrarieties that happen to us is the daughter of meekness. We have already spoken at length of the acts which belong to meekness in preceding chapters; but since this is a virtue which requires to be constantly practiced by every one living among his fellow-men, we will here make some remarks on the same subject more in particular, and more adapted for practice.
Humility and meekness were the favorite virtues of Jesus Christ; so that He bade His disciples learn of Him to be meek and humble: Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart. [Matt. xi. 29.] Our Redeemer was called the Lamb,---Behold the Lamb of God, [John, i. 29.] ---as well in consideration of His having to be offered in sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, as in consideration of the meekness exhibited by Him during His entire life, but more especially at the time of His Passion. When in the house of Caiphas He received a blow from that servant, who at the same time upbraided Him with presumption in those words: Answerest Thou the high-priest so? Jesus only answered: If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me? [John, xviii. 23.] He observed the same invariable meekness of conduct till death. While on the Cross, and made the object of universal scorn and blasphemy, He only besought the Eternal Father to forgive them: Father, forgive them, for they know what they do. [Luke, xxiii. 34.]
Oh, how dear to Jesus Christ are those meek souls who, in suffering affronts, derisions, calumnies, persecutions, and even chastisement and blows, are not irritated against the person that thus injures or strikes them: The prayer of the meek hath always pleased Thee. [Judith, ix. 16.] God is always pleased with the prayers of the meek; that is to say, their prayers are always heard. Heaven is expressly promised to the meek: Blessed are the meek, for they shale possess the land. [Matt. v. 4.] Father Alvarez said that Paradise is the country of those who are despised and persecuted and trodden under foot. Yes, for it is for them that the possession of the eternal Kingdom is reserved, and not for the haughty, who are honored and esteemed by the world.
David declares that the meek shall not only inherit eternal happiness, but shall likewise enjoy great peace in the present life: The meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight in abundance of peace. It is so, because the saints harbor no malice against those who ill-treat them, but rather love them the more; and the Lord, in reward for their patience, gives them an increase of interior peace. [Ps. xxxvi. 11.] St. Teresa said: "I seem to experience a renewed love towards those persons who speak ill of me." [Rib. l. 4, c. 26.] This gave occasion to the Sacred Congregation to say of the Saint, that "even affronts themselves supplied her with the food of charity." Offenses became a fresh reason for her to love the person who had offended her. No one can have such meekness as this, if he has not a great humility and a low opinion of himself, so as to consider himself worthy of every kind of contempt; and hence we see, on the contrary, that the proud are always irritable and vindictive, because they have a high conceit of themselves, and esteem themselves worthy of all honor.
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. [Apoc. xiv. 13.] We must, indeed, die in the Lord to be blessed, and to enjoy that blessedness even in the present life: we mean, such happiness as can be had before entering Heaven, which, though certainly much below that of Heaven, yet far surpasses all the pleasures of sense in this world: And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts; [Phil. iv. 7.] so wrote the Apostle to his disciples. But to gain this peace, even in the midst of affronts and calumnies, we must be dead in the Lord: a dead person, how much soever he may be ill-treated and trampled on by others, resents it not; in like manner, he who is meek, like a dead body, which no longer sees or feels, should endure all the outrages committed against him.
Whoever loves Jesus Christ from his heart easily attains to this; because, as he is conformed in all things to His will, he accepts with equal composure and peace of mind prosperous and adverse occurrences, consolations and afflictions, injuries and courtesies. Such was the conduct of the Apostle; and he says, therefore: I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation. [2 Cor. vii. 4.] Oh, happy the man who reaches this point of virtue! He enjoys a continual peace, which is a treasure precious beyond all other goods of this world. St. Francis de Sales said: "Of what value is the whole universe in comparison with peace of heart?" [Lettre 580.] And, in truth, of what avail are all riches and all the honors of the world to a man that lives in disquiet, and whose heart is not at peace?
In short, in order to remain constantly united with Jesus Christ, we must do all with tranquillity, and not be troubled at any contradiction that we may encounter. The Lord is not in the earthquake. [3 Kings. xix. 11.] The Lord does not abide in troubled hearts. Let us listen to the beautiful lessons given on this subject by that master of meekness, St. Francis de Sales: "Never put yourself in a passion, nor open the door to anger on any pretext whatever; because, when once it has gained an entrance, it is no longer in our power to banish it, or moderate it, when we wish to do so.
The remedies against it are: 1. To check it immediately, by diverting the mind to some other object, and not to speak a word. 2, To imitate the Apostles when they beheld the tempest at sea, and to have recourse to God, to Whom it belongs to restore peace to the soul. 3. If you feel that, owing to your weakness, anger has already got footing in your breast, in that case do yourself violence to regain your composure, and then try to make acts of humility and of sweetness towards the person against whom you are irritated; but all this must be done with sweetness and without violence, for it is of the utmost importance not to irritate the wounds." [Introd. ch. 8.]
The Saint said that he himself was obliged to labor much during his life to overcome two passions which predominated in him, namely, anger and love: to subdue the passion of anger, he avowed it had cost him twenty-two years' hard struggle. As to the passion of love, he had succeeded in changing its object, by leaving creatures, and turning all his affections to God. And in this manner the Saint acquired so great an interior peace, that it was visible even in his exterior; for he was invariably seen with a serene countenance and a smile on his features.