CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Allow God to love you

By Tricia Bølle
 
Last year I was invited to give a talk to the novices of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. During my talk, I spoke of how important it is to simply allow God to love you. It seems easy enough. Yet many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, seek to reject God’s love and mercy. We feel unworthy of God’s love and so we seek to earn God’s love through good works. But this thinking is not only wrong, it actually hurts us by leading us farther from God’s love and into the trap of pelagianism.
 
Pelagianism was a 5th century heresy that manifests today by essentially overlooking what is offered by God’s grace by emphasising that our human will and labouring for good can earn the way to God’s salvation and love. In Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad), Pope Francis describes how contemporary pelagianism goes against the Scriptural understanding that everything “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16) and that “he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). 
 
The idea of trying to earn God’s love is a common misperception that has pervaded religious thinking since the dawn of humanity. This partially comes from man’s own experience of imperfect love, for example, conditional love based on one’s ability to meet certain perceived expectations, a need to prove oneself in a relationship, emotional neglect within important relationships as well as society, issues of broken trust and betrayal. These negative experiences of conditional, imperfect love misconstrue our understanding of God’s love—a love that is perfect, holy and unconditional.
 
When I attend Mass in different parts of Asia, I often hear repeated from the local Catholics: “天主是愛 or “God is Love.” But when I would sit down and listen to the personal stories of many of the young people I engaged with, I realised that most of them didn’t really know what this simple aphorism means. It is like a nice Hallmark greeting—a warm, fluffy thing to say to yourself and others to, at least temporarily, feel good about yourself, your faith and the nice concept of a loving God. 
 
However, there wasn’t a real depth of understanding about what God’s love meant, especially for each of their lives. As with any society, quite a few of the young people I have come across hail from broken or abusive homes and never truly experienced real love. Others had grown up experiencing conditional love, in which their academic performance or socio-economic achievements determined the degree to which they received any felt expression of love or affirmation. So while these young Christians would often say, “God is love,” it seemed more an empty phrase; its true meaning escaping them.
 
So it seems therefore only natural for human beings to attribute to God the same qualifications on his love for us that we have experienced in our own lives. The result is that we don’t find ourselves truly believing in a God of love, a God overflowing with mercy and compassion for us. We may even be afraid of experiencing his love, and so we harden our hearts and reject God’s love out of our sense of unworthiness. Thus we seek to labour even harder to somehow attain Christ’s love and earn our way to heaven. 
 
But we can’t! We can never earn God’s love. Two simple reasons: our sinful nature takes us too far apart (Ephesians 2), and that real love—God’s love—is never something that has to be earned, for it is already freely given, wholly and completely. 
 
 God’s love transcends our own. He knows exactly who we are—better than we know ourselves—and he still loves us. Because that is the love of God—unconditional and unfailing. He loved us into existence. Each of us unique and created out of love for love. He calls us his own—his beloved. God loves you. He loves you and never wants to let you go. He loves you for all of who you are and all that you are called to become. He sees in you beauty itself.
 
So allow God to love you. Allow yourself to enter into his healing embrace. He is calling you to be a saint. To strive towards holiness requires us first to allow God’s infinite love and mercy to permeate our very being. 
 
The saints recognised not only their sinful nature, but how God’s great mercy and love embraced them anyway and drew forth from them the desire to love like Christ and strive towards holiness.
 
Jesus wants to love you. This Lenten season, let Him.
 
Go deeper in the knowledge of your faith this Lent! Join us Fridays 7pm at IFC Rooftop for a special faith study on Pope Francis’ exhortation Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice & Be Glad).
Info: www.laymissionary.org/lentjavascript:void(0);/*1551865781105*/


Tricia Bølle is the founder of the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary Society. Our mission is to draw all people, especially young adults, into a deeper and more
meaningful relationship with God and to encourage Christians to actively live out their faith and calling in Christ.