In this second week of Advent, we continue examining a set of reflections by Saint John Baptist De La Salle. This week the focus is on the relationship with one’s neighbor. It is my sincere hope that these reflections are useful no matter what one’s faith background may be.
The title that Saint John Baptist De La Salle uses for the second meditation is: “How We Have Acted Toward Our Neighbor and in What We Were Lacking This Year.” Let us recall that our neighbor is made in the image and likeness of God. This is the foundation for a relationship of respect, love, and authentic dialogue with our neighbor. Pope Francis said in 2013, “It is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.” Saint John Baptist De La Salle suggests three points for us to consider regarding one’s neighbor – relating to superiors, brothers, and students. He gives this meditation with his religious community in mind, but we can adapt it here to the university community.
- Regarding Your Superiors. “How have you acted during this year toward your superiors?” Saint John Baptist De La Salle writes this meditation concerning superiors in religious life. The religious superior is one “whose duty it is to hold God’s place in your regard and to guide you on the way to heaven externally as God guides you internally.” This relationship properly applies to religious life; however, we can adapt it: Have I treated those in authority with respect even if I have disagreed with their decisions? Have I sought to build communion and a culture of dialogue with them?
- Regarding Your Brothers. “The first reason why there is sometimes little union in a community is that some wish to place themselves above others on the basis of human reasoning. … If you have experienced any ill feeling toward any of [your brothers], think of what Moses said to the two Israelites in his day who were giving trouble to one another and quarreling: that they are our brothers.” It is inevitable that conflicts or disagreements arise in communities. However, it is up to us what to do afterwards. Do we sincerely strive to reconcile for the sake of the community? Have I tried to place myself above or ahead of others? As St. John Baptist De La Salle wrote, “Union in a community is a precious gem … Preserve it with care, therefore, if you want your community to survive.” Have I done everything possible to preserve and enhance union within the communities I am part of?
- Regarding Your Students. “The first thing you owe your students is edification and good example. Have you earnestly practiced virtue with the intention of edifying your disciples? Have you reflected that you must be their models of the virtues you wish them to practice?” Our Lasallian mission is to awaken, nurture, and empower learners to “ethical lives of service and leadership.” This won’t be done if we don’t live these values first. Have I lived in a way such that my students learn from me not only the material of the course, but also the Lasallian mission through my example?
A person who genuinely loves God also loves one’s neighbor. Let us seek to give the very best to our neighbors, to see each one as a beloved child of God, and to give them our love. Live Jesus in our hearts … forever.
Note: Words in italics are taken from Meditations by Saint John Baptist De La Salle.