Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
St. Teresa of Avila
God is perfect. If we want to join Him in heaven one day then we are the ones who must change, we must become like Him. And who is He? He is Love Eternal. And what is love, we often have to ask ourselves, when our daily experience reminds us that love is not simply an emotion. Paul tells us in First Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love]is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Love, Paul tells us, is not pompous. It does not bend the truth to make daily life more tolerable by justifying our own bad behavior. The great saints of our time: Blessed Mother Theresa, Pope St. John Paul II, and St. Therese of Lisieux, to name a few, are held up as living examples of Christ’s love for us. In their very different life experiences they embraced the wholeness of truth, the fullness of our faith and the sometimes extremely difficult demands that Love made on their lives.
Blessed Mother Theresa was sent to care for Jesus in the poor and she devoted her life to doing so, even becoming as poor as the people she served in order to fully show her love for Jesus in them. She, for example, could have glossed over the truth or emphasized a more acceptable part of our faith in order to raise more money for her order or her people, but she did not.
Pope St. John Paul II gave himself body and soul to his call to the papacy. When Parkinson’s Disease relentlessly overran his body, John Paul II did not hide himself from view but instead courageously continued his public duties even as his once-athletic body became visibly frail, encouraging countless others to carry the cross of their diseases with courage and confidence in their inherent dignity.
When the pressure of common life with her religious sisters felt overwhelming, St. Therese bravely embraced those opportunities to shower love on those who repulsed or angered her, laying aside her pride in obedience to Jesus’s call to love everyone to such a degree as to make those unlovable sisters wonder why St. Therese loved them so much.
These ordinary people became saints because they yielded to God’s love for them instead of their own self-love. Instead of trying to shape the world around them to their own liking, they embraced the opportunity to give themselves away for the sake of Christ’s truth. Their example invites us to reflect on our own sinfulness: where in my life am I insisting on my own truth instead of Christ’s? What sins am I justifying out of fear of change? What demands does my faith place on me that feel overwhelming today?
In prayer we can bring to Our Lord through the intercession of Our Lady our fears and weaknesses, the things that love demands and which fill us with loathing. Instead of hiding from Him or insisting that we’re doing the best that we can, we can instead run to Christ who can begin the sanctifying work of conforming us to His will. He is waiting for us with expansive patience and tenderness, He who was crucified for us. The same love that kept Him in torment for us is still there, unchanged, waiting to change us into beauty and light.
Copyright 2016 Meg Matenaer
Photo: “God-sky” by Plume (2014) via Morguefile