Acts of Goodness

Three Steps to Learn and Grow in Love

Recovering the divine image.

The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. It is to mirror things correctly, deeply, and fully until all things know who they are. A mirror by its nature reflects impartially, equally, effortlessly, spontaneously, and endlessly. It does not produce the image, nor does it filter the image according to its perceptions or preferences. Authentic mirroring can only call forth what is already there and what is in our heart.  We are called to love and to be God’s Light.

As Pope Francis recently said, “The Lord of life wants us to be full of life, and he tells us the secret of life: we come to possess it only by giving it away.

This past week, we focused on encountering God and growing in our personal relationship. We do this through prayer and knowing the truth in scripture.  As we learned in the Three Tips to Grow Closer to God post, we can take simple concrete steps daily to develop this divine intimacy we seek.  First, we can decide, then open our heart, focus, and put God first.  These actions show our intention and willingness to love Him and start us on the lifetime journey of living the greatest and first commandment:  Loving the Lord, my God, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind.  When we spiritually mature, we begin to reflect God’s image, learn to love and effectively live out the second greatest commandment:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Focus on His truth, Matthew 22:39

The concept of love included in the two greatest commandments is difficult to understand because many of us did not have the opportunity to witness love in our key relationships growing up.  If we did not have a solid foundation in divine love, our definition becomes complicated as we fill in the gaps and look to our culture’s definition. 

The only way to bring healing love to the world which we are all seeking, is to learn how to do this from perfect love in Jesus Christ. It is only by us bringing the image of God to the world, can we become love and put aside our selfish and harmful human ways to both ourselves and others. 

The definition of genuine love is to desire the good of another with this ultimate good having eternal life.   As we continue in the Easter season, we see how God the Father exemplifies this love par excellence in sending his only son, Jesus, so “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  This kind of selfless, sacrificial love could entail literally laying down your life for your friends (John 15:13), and unquestionably requires that we will the true good even of our enemies and persecutors (Matt. 5:43-48), as Jesus himself did, so they that might be reconciled with and transformed by the Lord (see John 10:10, 14:27), and so we might be perfected ourselves (Matt. 5:48).

How do we put all this into practice?  Why not try these three steps to learn to love and Be His Light.

Step One: Learn to Be. 

By learning to be, we broaden ourperspective, lift the veil of self, and create the environment to tap into the divine within us. This allows us to not live out the ego drama of life and places us on the firm foundation to participate in the great Theo drama, when we draw our energy from outside ourself in God.  We learn to be still and know who God is.  We create the space to see, hear, and feel God’s presence in our daily lives.  From contemplative practice, we remember our wholeness; we are able to see past the divisions we create with our egos and minds and rediscover the truth that we are all of one creation.

This past year has been a gift in learning to be.  With not working and my husband spending much of his time at MD Anderson Cancer Center recovering from his bone marrow transplant, I was quarantined by myself.  Trust me, I had my moments but, in the silence, I let God draw me into Him.  It was a struggle to break down the walls I had built-up in the doing of my life.  This year I was given the grace to slow down and be, to realign my mindset and perfect my vision. Through prayer and fasting, I began to see, know, and trust Him.

Charity is love given by God, received by us, and given to others.  In Caritas Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI teaches us about charity and truth which come from God and are planted within each of our hearts just waiting to break out.  Charity is the heart of the Church’s social doctrine because God is love.  Truth and charity are deeply connected. Truth is sought, found, and expressed within charity, and charity is understood, confirmed, and practiced in the light of truth. Truth is important because today’s world can relativize it. Truth enables people to move beyond cultural and historical differences and provides the foundation we need to come together.

Step Two: Be His Beloved.

Being His is understanding the truth about who we are, why we were created, and our mission during our life on this earth.  We stand firm in our deepest identity in the image and likeness of God. We live our life through the lens of our identity as Beloved sons and daughters and not stay stuck in our human brokenness.   We learn to heal and live in truth.

“We are not what we do, we are not what we have, we are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth. I am the beloved child of a loving creator.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

As Pope Benedict writes, “Truth is what keeps this love, this charity, authentic. Without God’s truth, any Christian charitable act would be interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments. The Pope warns that without the truth which comes from God, “social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power” rather than the common good of all peoples.”

His words are our truth. We imprint scripture on our minds, lips, and hearts so we can love ourselves and others with compassion, and patience. I am a work in progress, but as I work to find my identity as His Beloved, I will share with you who God says I am in Him:

I have hope and the eyes of my heart can be enlightened.

I am His special possession, and He feels wealthy because I belong to Him. 

I have access to divine power within me. 

I am blessed, chosen and an adopted Beloved daughter. 

I am redeemed, forgiven, and lavished with grace. 

I am here for a purpose and a unique mission that only I can fill. 

I can know His will, His plan for me and can align myself to Him.

I exist for God’s glory.

I have eternal life and an inheritance in heaven. 

I can know Him through Jesus Christ. 

I have a spirit of wisdom. I have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit and can cooperate with their good use.  I can exercise good judgment (wisdom), think clearly, and interpret information (understanding).  I have the ability to teach, guide and encourage as well as receive (counsel). I have moral strength, courage, stamina and resiliency (fortitude). I can study and learn (knowledge).  I am smitten with God’s goodness (fear of the Lord) and I am devoted to God prayer, virtue, goodness avoiding sin and selfishness and obeying God’s will (piety).

I am precious and special

I AM God’s inheritance.

This is who you are too my friend when you are His.  Please do not let the world minimize who you are and define you by what you do, what you own, or what others think of you. 

What do you think of yourself? What is your internal narrative and how do you talk to yourself?  Ask yourself: “would I be speaking in a loving or charitable way were I to say this to a friend?”  Even more pointedly, “would Christ say these things to me if we were conversing right now?” If the answer to either question is no, try to imagine what Christ might say to you or what you might say to a close friend. The more we learn to effectively do this, the more likely we are to mature both psychologically and spiritually.  With time and practice, such a reflection may help us to truly love ourselves; not in a selfish or indulgent way, but in the way that we are called to – as Christ does.

Step Three:  We are His Light. 

God is counting on us to be His light and current day advocates bringing hope and good news to those we can influence.  It is by this service we participate in the loop of grace, giving away the gifts of what has been given to us.  This grace loop allows our own gifts to grow and mature, keeping our ego and small self in check while we learn to live our true authentic self.  Our authentic self is the person that is unique in design, created by God for a singular purpose.   It is my part in the Theo drama and Divine plan.  This is what I believe is meant by our part in living out “Loving our neighbor.”

Smitten with Goodness is this love and service in action.    It is through action and contemplation we bring God’s love into the world.  As I have learned how to be in God, get curious about His truth and be smitten with goodness, I am called to share my story, what I am learning with you, and Be His Light.  I dream of a community where we share and help each other to become who we were meant to be in God’s love and perfect image.  Our world is hurting for this.  It is groaning for us to live our authentic selves and to help other find their way. 

Without God’s love, there is no justice.  Charity demands justice.

As Pope Benedict further explains, to love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it. This is both individual good and common good, which is lacking right now especially in our more prosperous countries.  Striving for the common good is a requirement of charity and justice. Justice is intrinsic to love since if we love others with charity, then first we are just towards them. If we love in this way, charity demands justice.

On this fourth Sunday of Easter, let us hear the voice of our good shepherd.  The good shepherd is so other-oriented, so devoted to his sheep, that he is willing to surrender his life that they may live.

In Him, I lack nothing, he refreshes my soul, he guides me on right paths.  Even when I walk through darkness, I do not fear because you comfort me.  You prepare me and my cup overflows.  Your goodness and love follow me as I forever dwell in You.

This week, we will be sharing simple ideas to Be His Light, to be love in action.

Smitten with God’s Charity and Goodness,

Cynthia

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