“Another Truth about God”
Valentine’s Day has me thinking of gifts of love and the greatest gift of God’s love, Jesus. One of the important steps in the adult faith journey is growing in awareness of God’s love and coming to accept the truth that God wants us to live lives transformed by the realities of God’s love. Amid a lot of self-loathing that is practiced as religion, the gospel is truly astounding, good news that proclaims:
1. God’s loving presence has come near in Jesus who revealed the depth of God’s love through the cross and resurrection;
2. God’s love invites us to give ourselves to God who truly does love us (you, too) (John 3:16);
3. Living into God’s love means growing to become your true self;
4. Learning to love as God loves means you can love others, and love them so as not to hold them so close they cannot become who God wants them to be, too; and,
5. Loving as God loves means taking the downward path to excellence – following the way of Jesus who we have heard tell disciples then and now: “Greater love has anyone than to give their life for their friends” (John 15:13) – just before they will hear themselves called God’s friends.
The challenge for us comes in clearing space in our spirits to hear and accept that this truth about God is, indeed, true. My experience has been that the predominant culture of our times discourages us to accept this truth about God. Consumerism, tribalism, fame, family dysfunction, greed and fear are more likely to encourage inauthenticity, instead, and dissuade our acting on what we know to be true.
James Martin, SJ, in his book, Becoming Who You Are, quoting Thomas Merton, writes of the alternative, the spiritual journey, in this way: as “discovering myself in discovering God.”
What does this mean on a practical level? And how does one put that insight into action? Simply put, one attempts to move away from those parts of ourselves that prevent us from being closer to God: selfishness, pride, fear, and so on. And one also tries, as far as possible, to move toward those parts of ourselves that draw us nearer to God. In the process, one gradually finds oneself growing more loving and more generous. One also trusts that the very desire to do this comes from God.
That is, the desire for our true selves to be revealed, and for us to move nearer to God, is a desire planted within us by God. Our personalities are not eradicated as much as they are made fuller, more real, and finally more holy.