Archives for posts with tag: Love

 

Christian Unity Week

You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart.

Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.l

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:17-18

This past Tuesday, our Cursillo community met to celebrate Christian Unity Week. Our Cursillo retreats are  unique: both ecumenical and co-ed. A group of us, then, gathered for an Ultreya, with three of us to give a short reflection on the theme ‘Christian Unity’. We did not coordinate our talks, trusting that the Spirit would guide our meditations to fit all together.

A young woman opened the evening with a brilliant PowerPoint presentation on ‘Je Suis Charlie’ and what it meant in her life at work. She did extend Unity week to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Über Atheists… Interestingly, the third and last speaker, while using the parable of The Good Samaritan, also expanded the theme to include all of the above, the Samaritan becoming a Muslim or an Über Atheist.

I came second and my bit went this way —

As a theme for Unity Week, we were given the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

The whole Leviticus quote is fascinating (“You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart”…) because it reflects a rather dark vision of the human heart, a heart that Godde knows well. And so throughout the Bible, Godde reminds us to love our brother, our neighbor. Because we need to be reminded, again and again.

Who is my neighbor? How near or far away is my horizon? How wide is my heart? Does it stop at my own family, my friends, my own denomination, my own country? Or in a Teilhard de Chardin’s way, is my worldview cosmic?

This evening, I would like to add to our Leviticus quote the famous Lucan reply,  — “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Lk 10:25:37

Love Godde — love your neighbor — love yourself.

Loving Godde doesn’t seem so hard. But love my neighbor? Love myself?

When Paul and I walk the Camino de Santiago, I carry one or two stones with me to remind me of one person or another whom I simply cannot forgive. I leave this stone along the way when I feel I have achieved my goal. On one occasion, I nestled my stones next to the reliquary of Santiago in the crypt of the cathedral. Another time, I left a stone on the altar in the beautiful chapel of Cristo de Burgos,.

Often I ask Godde to help me forgive and, when I cannot forgive, I ask Her to forgive for me until I can.

Recently, during two different retreats, I was helped to see how to approach the commandment to love my neighbor as myself in a different way.

First, I was reminded that I cannot expect to love others if I don’t love myself. To love myself I need to connect with Godde’s love for me, to reach that “true self” which was mine at birth, before “life” added layers upon layers of “false self” upon it. I did not find this connection easy to do.

Last November, my director suggested that the point is not so much to tell Godde that I love Her, but that I let Godde love me and that I let myself experience Her love and Her mercy. Basically that I spend time with Godde, in silence, soaking Her presence and Her love for me.

Not long ago I came across a blog which recommends that “we become the Beloved.” The author says, “God calls me to struggle with the demons that insist that I am not the beloved, that I am not even worthy of love. God wants me to face my fears of not being good enough and know that my goodness comes first and foremost from who I am and to whom I belong.”

If I tell Godde that I love Her, which I do, I am in control. When I tune in to Godde’s love and allow Her to melt my heart, I am no longer in control at all.

Godde loves me, — loves each one of us. Godde created me out love and Godde died for me out of love. She sustains me out of love. She showers me with gifts throughout my days. How many proofs of Her love do I need? Godde knows my sin, loves me in spite of it, and, extraordinarily, does not let it come between Her and me.

Like the psalmist, I know my transgressions and my sins are forever in front of me (51). Yes, I see my failings, but Godde does not seem to see them.

If Godde can love me in this most extraordinary way, isn’t the least I can do to love others with all my heart, with all my being, with all my strength and with all my mind? And forgive them not 7 times, but 77 times 7?

For, is not loving Godde loving Her creation and Her creatures? If Godde can forgive these transgressions which I cannot forgive myself, can I not forgive the hurt that this person or that other person did to me?

So, for the love of You, — O Godde whom I want to love with all my heart –, I offer you my anger toward this old boss, this nasty neighbor, this unpleasant relative. I offer it to you and pray that you change it into something pleasing to You. I stand in awe at your love for me which helps me love myself and, in turn, makes all these old grudges become irrelevant.

With you at my side, forever wrapped in that love of yours which never fails me, I finally can begin to learn to love my neighbor as I love myself, thanks to You.

Illustration: A Chance To Meet (found here)

 

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

1 Jn 4:7-16

Today’s readings were truly beautiful. In Deuteronomy, I was touched by “he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery”… Yes, Godde has brought me out many times throughout my life from various places of slavery. Every bit of Ps 103 was a balm to my spirit: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; all my being, bless her holy name”. Matthew’s gospel, of course, was a time of respite and comfort, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

John’s First letter, however, spoke to my heart — “everyone who loves is begotten by Godde and knows Godde”. Reading the excerpt felt like being caught in a river of grace and love… “Godde remains in her and she in Godde”. Love is a fruit of the Spirit.

It dawned on me, then, that anytime I feel love for someone, or feel the need to love someone better, Godde’s spirit is in me. 

I have noticed that after forty three years of marriage, at times Paul and I are like two porcupines. We like to be close, but when we are too close we prick each other. It is then that I call on love to open my heart and my ears, my eyes and my mind, instead of reinforcing the petulance of my False Self with its need to say the last word.

Not long ago, at a dinner with some very dear friends, we started talking of other friends and I heard myself say things which I had carried within my heart and of which I feel little pride. I was given to see then what I was doing and how I was not the person I would like to be. Since then, I have called on love again to return to Godde and remain in Her.

Love is a source of joy, which nestles somewhere inside my heart. It brings about gratitude and hope, and a certain detachment toward the unpleasantnesses in life. Life and love are so much greater than all the frustrations I do run into.

These past nine days I have prayed the Novena to the Sacred Heart with Sacred Space. Beautiful music, beautiful thoughts. A willingness to turn my heart and mind toward a devotion which feels somewhat foreign to me. Still, as a result I stumbled on the prayer to ask for the grace to know Jesus, to love Him and to follow Him. This prayer itself was a grace for me, for it identified clearly the person I would like to become.

Maybe then the nice moment I had this morning with John’s first letter comes as a gift from the Novena: the feeling that whenever I love and wish I could love, I remain in Godde and She remains in me, and I become part of the divine cosmic dance of the Trinity.

 

Photo: Puerto Rico, where Godde never fails to wait for me when I happen to stop there

After yesterday’s post, Feeling Alive, I saw that I had not mentioned those people in my life who make me feel alive and in whom I meet Godde’s presence and love. How could I forget?

I won’t go just yet into friends, siblings, and in-laws. I will just stay with my immediate family, this small community — or commune — that the seven of us make. Paul and I have two daughters; one is married, with two sons; the other is single.

Last Spring while in Manresa, a young man from Zimbabwe came to talk to Paul shortly after we celebrated our forty-second wedding anniversary. How did you manage, Kuda asked, to stay with the same woman all this time? I am not quite sure what Paul answered, but it was something along the lines of, It’s not always easy…

Paul is Godde’s gift to me. I discovered this after twenty-one years of married life during a Marriage Encounter weekend. Once I heard this, it became obvious to me. This was, and still is, true. Paul is Godde’s gift to me — a sign that I am lovable and loving. He made life more exciting. Life’s suddenly seemed more worth living — which is a scary statement when you think about it, because Life is worth living always — or most of the time.

Love is not easy, however. As St Paul wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude…” Paul and I had chosen that passage from the first letter to the Corinthians for our wedding mass, like so many other young couples. After all this time married together, yes, it is true, Love is all this. It does “bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…”

Endures all things… Love teaches dying to oneself. It is only years later, years into a relationship, with many ups and downs, after times of great closeness and frozen distances, that one can see that love requires at times, not always, to let go of one’s hopes, dreams, or plans.

What keeps us together then? How is it that some remarks don’t drive us apart forever?

Well, after all this time, I can say that our twosome is in fact a threesome: Godde is with us as well as within us. Godde is a reality in our life; She is part of our adventure. When we joke about our house in France being a monastery for two (until our children and grandchildren arrive and then it becomes a grandparents’ home), we are really three in our small monastery, because Godde is everywhere — in the house and in the garden, in our hearts, as well as in the little church next door.

Maybe we are still together after all this time because every so often we still help each other Feel Alive — special, sexy, intelligent, good, creative…

And when we are with our children and grandchildren, while our ‘We’ often gets lost in the shuffle, the love we receive from both adults and children also help us Feel Alive: a hug, an attention, a loving remark, a confidence. Suddenly, the connection feels special; the heart opens up, warm and safe; and Godde is with us, because wherever love is, Godde is.

 

Art: Jim Dine, Four Hearts, 1969, found here.