To the casual observer, I appear to be a devoted Catholic mother who has lived a sacrificial life worthy of a modern saint. Little do people realize that although I did pour out my life struggling to raise nine kids on a small farm with little disposable income, I actually missed the core of Christ’s message; I tried too hard to be a perfect Christian rather than allowing myself to be loved by God.
The stress of my lifestyle brought me low, low enough to finally realize I was not as Christian as I had once supposed. In fact, I realized I was actually a verified Pharisee, striving to please God. When I confessed this devastating insight about fifteen years ago, the priest told me he had never heard a better confession but I had missed the next step after my brutal self-examination, the most important step for a disciple of Jesus. I was refusing to accept the forgiveness and love of God.
I recently confessed to an Augustinian priest that my biggest sin was still egocentricity. I added my biggest fear was that I would die, only to discover that I had missed out on what is most important to life on earth by wearing masks, playing society’s games, accepting current attitudes and populist belief’s. Basically, what I meant was I understood that playing a role in a man written play is not the same as living authentically in God’s reality. Even though I saw my ridiculous stance, I felt stuck.
Most of us are stuck in egocentricity; we see the world as if it is revolving around us because we live as if we are the centre of our tiny universe. Since few of us stand with our fellow believers praising Christ, the only true centre of the entire universe, few of us are living in reality. We are blinded by pride which prevents us from receiving Divine love.
So what was this Augustinian’s solution to the problem of my egocentricity, to my spiritual dilemma?
Rather than allowing me to wallow in negativity bemoaning my weaknesses, he instead gave me an ejaculatory prayer, in the tradition of St. Augustine, who loved the short prayers of the early Christians. It was a prayer which simply raised my spirit to God.
“Jesus, I love you; possess me.”
This is a prayer which brought a smile to my face while giving God permission to have His way with me at the same time. It was a brilliant way to bring me into reality, to see again what is most important in life. It opened my heart to love, God’s love for me, my love for God and love for God’s people.
Love Is The Most Important Thing in Life
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the most important thing about life in Christ is love for:
2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord.”
God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” The commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.
The saints not only knew the most important thing in this life is love, they actually lived in love:
All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself because God is love. (St. Maria Teresa of the Cross [Edith Stein])
You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. (Saint Therese of Lisieux)
Pure love … knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love — love, and always love. (St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul)
HOW Do We Live in Love?
But how do we live as saints today, in the here and now? How do we live in, with, and through the Spirit of Christ?
Some religious people would maintain that only an active adult Christian can act live as a saint. Yet even Sacred Scriptures disagrees with this narrow view. Saint Paul assures us that all men have the basic laws of God carved into their hearts. In modern language, we all have an awareness of good and evil or a conscience, even the smallest child
The problem is how to tap into and live out of our core, where God has inscribed His moral code on our hearts since it is hidden in our deepest selves. Actually, if we can block out our own ego and selfishness, and simply stop and listen, even a child knows what is right and what is wrong. In my experience, children are capable of the highest moral action, acting purely from a heart full of love.
Thank God for Christ, because He offers even adults an easy way to love and to put that love into action. Relax. Give up striving. Surrender to His love and let it saturate every cell of your body. Then simply let His love flow through you. It ends up being a long journey to such carefree lifestyle because pride and ego get in the way. It is so simple that it seems complicated to our adult, logical minds.
No wonder Jesus praises the child:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
Love like a Child
A relationship to the living God is actually child’s play. Listen to this exchange between my young children.
One afternoon, I was making dinner, standing at the counter with my back to our three youngest children. Katie and Anthony were lounging around the kitchen table, with three-year-old Lucy perched like a little elf on a high stool, happily swinging her legs.
Simply making conversation, Katie, who was about eight years old, asked Lucy, “Lucy, whose your favorite, mum or dad?”
Lucy replied, “Both!”
Still facing the counter, I looked over my shoulder and intruded on their conversation. “Smart answer, Lucy.”
But Lucy was not done; she responded, “But she’s not my real mum. Mary is.”
Katie rolled her eyes, slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand and said incredulously, “Where does she get this stuff?”
I tried to explain as simply as I could. “Well, the Holy Spirit is in her heart and she listens to His voice.”
Lucy jumped right back into the discussion and chanted in a sing-song, lilting voice. “That’s right. God the Father in my heart. Baby Jesus in my heart. Holy Spirit in my heart. Mother Mary in my heart … but … I still like mum and dad the best!”
Katie rolled her eyes and plunked her head down on the table with a loud sigh. “Where does she get this stuff?”
I just laughed.
A few weeks later, as I crouched down to tie Lucy’s shoelace, Lucy picked up the small gold cross I wore around my neck and said, “This is the cross of Jesus and the glory of God shines all around it.”
Katie rolled her eyes again, slapped her forehead and asked, “Where does she get this stuff?”
This three-year-old got it right from the source of all truth. She was humble and little enough to remain open long enough to listen to the voice of God within her and to love Him in return. She was pure enough to love those around her with a child’s devoted love — a love, in fact, that is worthy of a saint.
connecting with theology is a verb