God Is Love

“I love you” is a phrase that we hear from another that makes us feel loved and cherished. When we love God and other people in our lives we say, “I love you.” As Christians, we learn about how to receive the special love of God and share this love with others around us.

Love is a person for as we hear in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” God chose to reveal His presence of love by the following truth, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).”

From the example of the Father’s love for each of us in sending His Son, Jesus, Christians, as they mature in their faith, should understand that love is a choice. God chooses to share His love with us and reveals His great love to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. We in turn learn from God’s example how to choose to love those around us.

This weekend, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is another powerful way that the Father reveals His great choice to send love into our midst. “Transfigure” literally means “changing thoroughly” (trans) and “a person’s body” (figure). In this week’s Gospel account, Jesus goes up Mount Tabor with His three closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, and changes His bodily appearance before them.

The action of Jesus’ Transfiguration is not a normal, everyday occurrence and most of us, without a whole lot Divine encounters, could not handle the sight. In the changing thoroughly of His Body, the face of Jesus becomes like the sun and His clothes become white as light. Jesus on Mount Tabor literally becomes Glory before the disciples.

As we pray in the Nicene Creed in stating our belief in Jesus Christ, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” faith compels us to believe that the Glory of Heaven is revealed to us through the Lord. Bathed in this glorious and heavenly light, Jesus offers a glimpse of the ever-present reality of eternal life and His authority over the known things of the earth.

Jesus as the Lord of History fulfills or completes the Torah (Jewish Law) as revealed by Moses and fulfills the messages given through the prophet’s voice that prepares people for the coming of the Messiah embodied in Elijah. In the midst of this intense encounter, Peter offers to build three tents in order to remain in the present, but as the Lord of the past, present, and future, Jesus is revealed as always present love by the Father, “From the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him (Matthew 17:5).'” The Father’s great love for Jesus proclaims and reveals the motivation for salvation, namely, God’s great love for us.

As eyes struggle to see anything after looking up at the sun, so too it is impossible for us to fully grasp the greatness of the love of God for us found in Christ Jesus. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “After the Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of His glorified humanity (CCC 445).”

The Transfiguration for Christians stands as a powerful example of God saying, “I love you,” and should be taken as a gift that reveals the Father’s plan of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Messiah and He reveals the glory of heaven that awaits those who believe in Him. May we receive the gift of faith anew this day so as to have nothing else before our eyes but Jesus alone and hear the voice of the Father saying to Jesus and us, “You are my beloved.”

All Things Work for Good

“Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

St. Paul this week gives us an encouraging word for those who are trying to listen to the voice of God and do what is asked of them. This past week I was reminded of this Scripture verse as I stopped to visit Lake of the Woods Bible Camp by Baudette, MN. This verse from St. Paul was our theme for the youth coming to the camp and became a conversation starter for them to reflect on what they want to do in life and what God wants them to do in life.

As I walked through the camp I prayed in thanksgiving for my summers at that camp on the Rainy River, and I prayed for the young people who now as adults are hopefully living God’s will and serving the purpose intended for them. At times in life we should stop and pause in prayer and reflect upon our past. As we do so hopefully we can see the hand of Our Heavenly Father guiding us through major events and small alike. I know in my own life that God has saved me from my foolishness and led me into places of abiding love and joy with Him.

Our life is a gift from God and we are created with an intentional mission to know, praise and serve Him. If you are feeling that your life is a waste or that you feel out of place in your job or life situation turn to the Lord in prayer, reflect upon the blessed times in life, see the hand of God at work and know that His love is everlasting.

 

Overcoming Lust

Human relationships are meant to be a holy exchange of love. God is love and the author of human relationships and intimacy. Love is a free gift that cannot be authentic if it is based on force or manipulation.

St. John Paul II, as a young pope, gave a series of 129 talks from September 1979 to November 1984 at his Wednesday general audiences on the Theology of the Body. These talks outline how the love of God transforms the world and is mirrored in the human person.

It is in our relationship with a loving God that we learn how to enter deeply into communion with others. Authentic love finds a person loving God and others with no other motive than seeking the good of the other and seeing in them the gift that they are. As St. John Paul II states, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience love and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it (Redemptor Hominis 4).” offering of Jesus who gives us His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

Another great participation in the love of God is when a married man and woman offer themselves freely to each other in ordered love through the sexual conjugal act, which opens them up to the possibility of the creation of human life. St. John Paul II explains, “Through sexual union the body speaks a language and this language must be spoken in truth. Since the very nature of the conjugal act as designed by God includes both the interpersonal union of the couple as well as the potential for procreation (making babies), man and woman cannot contracept their union without violating their dignity as persons and the dignity of the conjugal act itself (TOB August, 24, 1984).”

In human relationships, there can be a great perversion of authentic love and that is lust. Lust as a deadly sin is a disordered desire for sexual pleasure outside of the marriage act. Lustful desires and actions are disordered because they do not conform to the divinely ordained purpose of sexual expression, namely, to foster the mutual love between a husband (man) and a wife (woman) which opens them up to the possibility of having children. True love for the married couple that is open to life leads to freedom, lust for couples or the individual leads to slavery to one’s base desires.

We live in a culture where lust is robbing our families and communities of authentic relationships and selfless acts of service. Our society is so obsessed with sex and sexual pleasure that many people, even good Catholics, can become slaves to lust. Love seeks the good of the other, i.e. I love you for who you are and I desire to serve you. Lust seeks only to satisfy one’s desire for pleasure, i.e. I will be with you for what I can get from you and for as long as it satisfies me.

Lust is a mortal sin and cuts us off from fruitful love of God. The major forms of lust include: masturbation, pornography, promiscuity, adulterous relationships, lesbianism, homosexuality, anal and oral sex, bestiality, contracepted sex, and pedophilia. These forms of lust are linked to the preoccupation with sex and selfish contraceptive attitudes which are taught in our schools and embraced in our state and federal governments. These attitudes are destroying our culture, but more tragically, are destroying the souls of our people.

If you have been deceived by the devil in the area of lust, you need to go to Confession immediately! If you have acted out on any of the major forms of lust listed here your soul is warped by mortal sin and you should not receive communion until you have confessed your sins and received absolution. A soul that is darkened by lust is sick and removed from Gods authentic love and needs healing.

How do Catholics stay pure in a culture filled with sexual pressure and temptation? Bishop Paul Loverde from Arlington, VA, reveals in his book “Bought with a Price” that every man has a duty to protect himself and his family from a pornographic culture.

  1. We have the right to live in a society that supports the full dignity of the human person. We should demand that public officials take action against pornography for the common good (42).
  2. The Sacraments, prayer, and authentic friendship are essential weapons against lust and all serious sin. We need one another to become stronger disciples of Christ (45).
  3. Everyone is capable of self-mastery and chastity. One should not be discouraged by failure but continue to press forward, mindful of Christ’s mercy (49).
  4. Put strict limits on your Internet, tablet, or smartphone use and consider ways to “unplug” for the good of your family life. Re-examine your own use of technology and what you are allowing into your home (53).
  5. As icons of Christ, priests have a special responsibility to lead their flocks in the struggle against lust (55).

In this week’s reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians, it is stated, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything that is exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light (Ephesians 5:11-14).” We are encouraged as Christians to live in the light of Christ and to set aside our hidden life of sinfulness.

Sometimes we cannot see that we are living in the darkness of sin, so like the blind man in John’s Gospel we need to be healed of our inability to see the virtuous way of life that we are called to walk upon. We need Jesus to heal our spiritual blindness in the area of lust or any temptation that keeps the love of God from our vision.

Jesus, help us to see the sinful patterns in our lives so we might repent of them and receive your free gift of mercy and forgiveness! Amen.

Share God’s Love

Last spring I met with my friend’s father, who at that time was going through a difficult stretch in life. We met at a local restaurant and talked about many aspects of life including the failure of his marriage and the resultant divorce process he was going through. During the course of the conversation, I took note that this man in his fatigue and woundedness was crying out for a deeper reception of God’s love.

As our food was served we prayed together and I prayed the meal blessing and for the love of God to heal and strengthen this man’s heart. Through tears he looked at me and smiled and said that was a gift he had been wanting for a long time. I marveled at the goodness of God in bringing some peace this man’s heart.

As we got up to pay our bill, the waitress said that our bill was already paid for. Again, I marveled at the witness of generosity from the community members as a sign of God’s love that gives strength for the journey.

Sometimes in life we may feel that we have no idea what our purpose or goal is. However, when God is in our life and His love is our motivation then we find our purpose in doing His will. In this week’s Responsorial Psalm we hear, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will (Psalm 40:8-9).”

The basic plan for the Christian is to encounter the love of God each day in prayer and share that love with other people. That’s it! It seems so simple, because it is. If everybody in our parishes started to spend time with God in prayer and prayed to receive His love and seek out those who need to have loved shared with them, this area would be transformed greatly.

It is not enough for us to say that someone else will take time to love the people that we see every day. No, we need to be the one who will share the love of God that we have encountered in small and in great ways in our lives. Yes, you and I can share the love of God with a smile, prayer, card, meal, or other kind gesture that can change the course of someone’s life.

Who is one person that you can share the love of God with this week that is in need of God’s love?

 

Life Beautified by Great Love

Although not everyone is called to do great things, everyone has a call to love from God.

Life is like a big puzzle which is made up of many small pieces. Every time we make a decision in life, we either put together those little pieces of life or we tear them apart. Every piece of puzzle offers an opportunity for the makeup of life.

The beauty of life lies in the fact that everyday we do many little things with love. Day in and day out we clean the house, answer the phone, prepare the meals for the family and many other unnamed tasks. We can weave a beautiful piece of fabric or entangle it.

Since the call to love originates from God, the fabric of our life takes on its profound meaning. The great love to which God calls us is to expand the love that we already have. Our humble love is transformed to the great love of God. Every act of self sacrifice manifests the great mystery of God’s love right in our everyday lives. St. Francis and St. Theresa are examples of such people with great love. They do little things with love and they let God beautify their life fabrics.

“We are the clay, you are the potter: We are the work of your hands.” – Isaiah 64:7

 

The Beauty of Love

It is a common mistake that marriage is viewed as a private matter, unrelated to the common good. In this view marriage is only a form of self satisfaction. This view is wrong because marriage has the potential to bring forth human life and so it produces the family, which is the origin of all human society.

When God creates us, he calls us to the most fundamental vocation of every human person which is love. Then God promotes that love to a higher level, beyond the human level, to the divine.

On the wedding day, the couple say “yes” to that divine love. Married couples grow beyond their feelings to a deeper love which emulates the self giving love of Jesus Christ, who dies on the cross still loving. This love knows no boundary. And so married people give themselves completely to each other without counting the cost.

That is precisely where we see the beauty of love.

 

Being a Person of God

If college education is just to make money, we are heading in the wrong direction. We are losing our way to Heaven. College is truly is about finding God in life. And God will show us who we should be.

God has a plan for each one of us. It is essential to understand our role in the life of the world and in the church: What does God want from us and what does the church need from us?

In the catechism we have three important questions:
What is man?
Why did God make you?
What must I do to save my soul?

If God is our love, He deserves the best we have to offer. God made us so that we may love Him forever in Heaven. Selfishness (love of self) is a big obstacle.

When people ask Jesus the question of how to get to Heaven, Jesus answers by talking about denying self and taking up the cross. Astounding! Jesus asks us to make a big sacrifice. Being a person of God, we raise our life ideal to the highest level of sacrifice for God. With that great love of God we can make a big difference in the world and in the church.

 

Respect Life

No society, however developed it may be, can do without fraternal service inspired by love. “Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable” (Deus Caritas Est, 28). It is love which soothes hearts that are hurt, forlorn or abandoned. It is love which brings or restores peace to human hearts and establishes it in our midst.
~ Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus (29), November 19, 2011