Are You Willing to Bear the Weight of Your Neighbour’s Glory?

From C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory (click here for summary of The Weight of Glory): 

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

My neighbour’s glory. A practical note that Lewis uses to conclude his golden sermon. Just a couple thoughts about this:

1. The only way we can carry our neighbour’s glory is through humility. Although charity is the essence of Christian perfection, it is humility that is the ultimate basis of the spiritual life. Therefore, “humility is to charity what the foundation is to the building… Humility forms the foundation of charity by emptying the soul of pride, arrogance, disordered love of self and of one’s own excellence, and by replacing them with love of God and our neighbour” (Divine Intimacy pg. 301-2). No proud man can ever carry the weight of his neighbour’s glory. The proud man’s disordered love and concern for his own glory distorts his love for his neighbour and prevents him from truly caring about another’s eternal destiny. Jesus also spoke of humility in relation to serving others: “If any man desire to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all” (Mk 9:34). 

2. “There are no ordinary people.” Lewis helps us to realize once again how holy our neighbours truly are, most especially in our Christians neighbours, in whom Christ is truly hidden. This reminds me of a story I read in The Hidden Power of Kindness: “Once when St. John of the Cross was washing the feet of a humble beggar, when suddenly there appeared on the feet he was washing the stigmata of our Lord. Unperturbed and with utter simplicity, the saint looked up into the beggar’s eyes and said, “So it is You, Lord.” (Lovasik 219). We need to remind ourselves daily: there are no ordinary people. We need to greet Christ daily in our neighbours, especially those in our families and friends that we have become far too accustomed to seeing their weaknesses and failings.

Two good questions to ask yourself:

1. “Am I willing to carry the weight of my neighbour’s glory?” and

2. “What is the weight that I can help carry for________?” 

Seriously. Each one of our neighbour’s has a different weight that we are given the opportunity to help carry towards our eternal home. Are you willing to carry it? Humbly considering your neighbour better than yourself? Lewis affirms that this “charity must be a real and costly love” in which we love the sinner & hate the sin. This is the price that we can pay. This is the weight that we can carry. It’s a blessed price. A heavenly weight. Carry it today.

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