Thursday, August 29, 2013

To Love and be Loved

The strongest human desire is that of being loved.  It is in the deep recesses of the human heart a burning desire to be loved, to know that someone else treasures, needs, and wants our very existence.  It might well be the impetus that drives us to do the vast majority of what we do.  While in the desert southwest, I noticed a massive concentration of the new age movement.  While talking to a friend about the experience it occurred to me that people are driven to such things because they want to feel love.  They want to feel affirmation in a world that can be very cold and callous.  They want to be told they are good people and all the struggles they go through count for something.  I believe that many who come to Church look for the same thing.  We want to feel loved.  We want to feel as if someone notices and appreciates the struggles we deal with and gives some credence to who we are.  Many leave because they don't feel that.  Many rarely practice the faith because they don't feel that.  I posit it is because we need to tweak our approach a bit.

In the Scriptures, when it comes to love there is a correct order, an order that God Himself models.  The relationship between God and ourselves never begins with "You love me" but with "I love you".  When God establishes a relationship with Israel, it is not because they first approached Him in love, but that he loved them.  Wednesday of last week was the Feast of St. Augustine.  In his memoirs, known as the Confessions of St. Augustine, he acknowledges how God loved him far before Augustine loved God.  He acknowledges how his own heart was restless seeking to be loved until he turn to love God.  It was only after Augustine sought to love rather than to be loved, that the door of God's grace was able to flow in abundance upon him.Augustine came to understand and preach that in order to feel that base desire of being loved, we first had to love.

St. John Chrysostom reminds us that love is primarily an open gift of oneself for the good of another.  Love, by its nature, is outward bound.  It flows from the self as pure gift.  Without the outward flow, the inward flow becomes blocked.  God's love is there long before our response, but our understanding and cognition of it is stymied until we allow ourselves to selflessly love.  This is why love is properly a virtue and not an emotion.  Virtues always seek the good of another, emotions always seek the good of oneself.  If we are to ever properly feel the love of God in its fullness, then we must love God first.

This greatly impacts the practice of faith.  No longer do I come to the Church primarily to receive but to give. I don't come to get something out of it as I come to Church to primarily come to give God my love, adoration, and thanksgiving.  Ironically, it is in giving that thanksgiving offering to God that I receive the fullness of His love, most clearly and powerfully shown through the Eucharist.  That love provokes us not just for an hour on the weekend, but throughout our lives and powerfully get gently transforms us.  It becomes the fulfillment of our desire to be loved.  It continually build upon itself, drawing us closer and closer into a satisfying relationship with God and consequently with His people.

All of this hinges, though, on our own personal decision of focus: Is my life about the search to love or be loved?  One side produces little fruit and the other produces abundant fruit.  One leaves us on a continual search never finding what we are looking for; the other leads us to fulfillment.  If we are to be loved, we must first love.  In love, we open ourselves to God and His will to totally love us.  Sacred Scripture reminds us to be still and know that God is God.  That stillness will never come, as I can attest to, with a preoccupation with self; it only comes with a willingness to love both God and our neighbor.

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