Sister Rosemary Murphy shared a story about one Thanksgiving long ago – back when the community still lived in Nauvoo – in which she took dinner to an elderly lady.
Sister Rosemary entered her cold house and found the lady cuddled up close to an old cob stove. It was all she had for warmth.
Sister Rosemary stayed and ate with the lady, and saw to it she had plenty of warmth for the winter.
That is doing something to be loving.
I thought of this story while reading a reflection on the difference between doing something to be loving, and doing something to be loved.
Doing something to be loving is a selfless act, done for another person, done with the hands of Jesus. Surely Sister Rosemary was doing that.
Doing something to be loved, or for love, is – when you think about it – more about us than who we’re trying to help. That is, we often think we are being of service when we’re not.
Say we make extra toast every day for our roommate or loved one (or Sister), without asking. We do it to be of service! We do it to show our love and to be loved! If we haven’t asked if they wish to eat the toast, but just make it, they may end up being annoyed by our action. They may feel they must eat it to not waste it … but they do so despite not wanting it.
In Sister Rosemary’s case, the meal she provided wasn’t requested. But her motive was different. It was about loving God in another, caring for and about one who needed help.
As Chiara Lubich, the Italian activist, wrote, “Love, which is God, is light and with the light we see whether our way of approaching and serving our brother or sister is according to the heart of God, as our brother or sister would wish it to be, as they would dream of it being, if they had beside them not us, but Jesus.”
In other words – if we want to be loving – we must ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” And do it.