Reflection #4: Love is Giving and Receiving

Reflections on Loving God is a series about understanding love, seeing how God loves you, and learning how to love God more. God has loved you before you were born. Take the first step today to loving him back. You won’t regret it!

Definitions of Love

I. There are two roles in relationships: lover and beloved.

In any expression of love, one person is the giver of love and the other person is the receiver of love. The lover is the one who loves. They are the giver of love. The beloved is the one who is loved. They are the receiver of love. In modern culture these terms are used most often in the context of romance, but they really apply to all relationships. The kind of love may be different, but the roles are the same.

In a parent-child relationship, the parent makes dinner for the child. The parent gives love (making dinner) and the child receives love (eats dinner). The parent is the lover and the child is the beloved. Say the child thanks the parent for the meal. Now the child is the lover (giving thanks) and the parent is the beloved (accepting thanks).

For an example in a friendship, think of a person who invites a friend to see a movie with them. The person who invited is the lover and the friend is the beloved. Maybe later on, the friend invites the first person to go to Bible study together. Now the friend is the lover and the first person is the beloved.

The obvious examples are in dating and marriage relationships. Maybe the husband offers to do an extra chore for the wife. The husband is the lover and the wife is the beloved. Later the wife makes the husband’s favorite dish for dinner. The wife has taken on the role of lover and the husband the role of beloved.

Relationship with God begins with God as lover and you as beloved. This is because he loved you before you knew him (Jer 1:5). Since you didn’t know him, you could benefit from his love but couldn’t really receive it into your heart. It is only with faith that the love of God can be received. At that point, God invites you to imitate him, to become the lover, see him as the beloved, and love him back starting with Baptism. This is really God’s entire plan for you.

God is hoping you will accept his love and begin a relationship which will have no end. Your love for God will never be as great as his love for you because his love is infinite, but God has made your heart to never be truly satisfied except in relationship with him. Regardless of how insignificant your little acts of love towards God are, they ultimately lead to eternal happiness.

II. Giving love is performing an action for the good of another.

Giving love begins in the heart. The lover wills in their heart to give love to the beloved. They then perform some action that benefits the beloved. The love itself is invisible, so the action becomes a sign of their love. At the same time, the action is also an instrument of their love. In performing the action, love is able to move from their heart to the heart of the person they are doing good for. This action can be called an expression of love, act of love, or offering of love.

Actually, to give love is to open some or all of the heart to the beloved. When love is given and then received, the hearts of the two are joined by the love between them. They have a bond of love however weak it maybe. For the lover, there can be some hesitation in this because they are opening at least some of their heart to the beloved. How will the beloved respond to their love? Will they ignore their love, leaving their heart feeling empty?Will they respond with hate, wounding their heart? Or will they respond with love of their own? This is the risk that everyone must take to love another human. There is hope the beloved will respond with love, but the lover never knows beforehand.

The beauty of relationship with God is that God will never ignore your love or wound your heart. God can only love because he is love itself (1 Jn 4:8). When you love God, you only ever get love back from him. Relationship with God is a place of trust and security, which can be the launchpad for taking the risk of loving fellow humans. Others may hurt you, but you can always retreat into the heart of God whenever you need. God’s chief commandment is to love others even when they do not love you, something very difficult to do consistently without God’s constant, unfailing support.

Those well-versed in theology may see some familiar words here. The seven sacraments are a sign and instrument of God’s grace (CCC 774, 1127-1128). The sacraments are ways Jesus gave his people to receive specific graces from God. If the signs are performed, they become an instrument for one of God’s specific graces. For example, Jesus told the disciples to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). The specific graces given were forgiveness of sins and adoption into the divine family (Acts 2:38). However, God’s grace, the miracles and blessings he gives his people, is really just the way God loves. Sign and instrument can then be generalized to giving love in general, not just giving love the way God does.

III. Receiving love is accepting the good action of another.

Once the lover gives love to the beloved through some action, the hope is that the beloved will receive that love and respond to it with love of their own. The beloved must do a couple things to receive that love. They have to be able to see or recognize that the lover did some good for them. If they don’t see the sign of the lover’s love, they may still benefit from the good that comes from it but won’t be able to receive that love into their heart.

In some cases, a lack of knowledge prevents a person from seeing a sign of love. Think of a person that passes out from a fire but is rescued by firefighters. The person benefitted from the rescue — they are still alive — but they were not conscious when it happened and could not receive the love given into their heart. Fortunately, once they gain that knowledge, they can receive that love, for love is not limited by time or space. It remains there to be received when the person is able and willing.

For relationship with God it is a case of lack of faith. A person may benefit from God’s blessings but can’t receive God’s love into their heart until they believe in him and begin to consent to his will.

Another case is an impediment to receiving love. Think of a newborn who benefits from the love of their parents but hasn’t developed enough to really open their heart to their parents’ love. Just like lack of knowledge though, they can receive that love when they get older and are able to understand what their parents did. A developmental disability such as autism would also be an impediment, which sadly might not be healed until they are reborn in glory with God in heaven.

Only after recognizing the sign of the lover’s love, can the beloved accept that good action. In accepting it, the beloved opens their heart, at least partially, to the lover’s heart, allowing their heart to receive the invisible love behind the action. A bond of love has formed between them.

Acceptance is not a given. People reject love all the time. Sometimes it is out of selfishness. Someone buys a gift for the beloved, but they don’t want it and reject it. Sometimes it’s for good reasons, for example, a woman turning down a man’s invitation to go on a date because she is already married. One of the main reasons love is rejected is due to lack of trust.

Because receiving love requires the opening the heart, the beloved can be just as hesitant as the lover. They are opening up this vulnerable part of themselves to hopefully be given something good, but the lover is maybe not a lover at all. Maybe they are just going to wound their heart. Sometimes a person has been hurt many times in the past and has difficulty opening their heart to others.

Acceptance is not all or nothing. If the beloved has a limited or partial trust of the lover, they can partially open their heart and receive part of the love given. As before, love is not limited to time or space. If they become more trusting in the future, they will be able to receive all of the love that was given before.

Just as in giving love, a good relationship with God will make receiving love much easier. God will never hurt you, so you can open your whole heart to his love, healing whatever damage someone else may have done to it. Even with God, however, building trust takes many years as a person slowly gives more control of their actions to God.

Accepting the love of others is part of God’s commandment to love. This does not mean you have to always accept. Just as loving others involves different acts of love depending on the type of relationship, the love you will accept from others depends on the type of relationship you have with them. A man probably shouldn’t accept a kiss from a woman he isn’t married to or dating, but a simple handshake is acceptable. A child should not accept a car ride from a stranger but should accept a hello from a stranger.

IV. Giving and receiving love can be reciprocal.

It’s clear from the examples above that after receiving love from the lover, the beloved has the option to respond with love of their own. This is the case in any relationship between two people. Love doesn’t just go in one direction, for example from Person A to Person B. Person B, the beloved, can later take on the role of lover and give love back to the original lover, Person A, making them the beloved in that moment. This reciprocal love is a cycle. This cycle is what builds relationships up, how the bond of love between people is strengthened. As they open more of their heart to each other, they become capable of loving each other that much more.

The cycle of giving and receiving love is really important to understand well, for all relationships are made up of people taking turns in these roles. Whether it be relationships with children, friends, or a spouse, to grow in love for each other requires you to continually give love to the other person and accept the love they give back. Because humans are sinners, they may ignore your love or even sin against you. You might love but they do not, the cycle doesn’t happen, the bond between you isn’t strengthened. Patience is required to continue loving even when they are not, with the hope that they will come around someday.

Because God does not sin, you never have to worry about God not loving you, but you do have to worry about yourself not loving God. Some obstacles are lack of faith and your own sin. Sometimes God will feel distant or missing in your life. You may be tempted to stop loving God. It takes faith to know that God is always there even when you don’t feel it. More clearly, it’s an issue of trust.

Over time with many small acts of trusting in God, you are able to open more of your heart to God, possibly even reaching union with God, where you and God have truly become one just like the Virgin Mary. As St. Paul wrote, “…it is no longer I that live but Christ (Gal 2:20).”

The other obstacle, sin, leads to unholiness. Since God is holy, relationship with him will always be hard when unholiness is present. Sin causes the soul to become unclean and need cleansing. God will do this work, but it takes time, slowing the growth of your relationship. In relationship with God, it is God who is hoping you will come around.

V. God is the giver of all love received.

Because God is love (1 Jn 4:8), everything he creates, being made in his image, is made to love. The whole universe, the plants & animals, and even humans are made to love. As a result, people receive love from God himself, all his creation (including the plants & animals), and also other people. When people use their free will to choose to love another, they are cooperating with God’s will. Therefore, whenever someone loves you in someway, you should see two things. First, that person is loving you through their own free will. Second, that God himself is loving you through that person’s cooperation with his will. In other words, you are being loved both by that person and by God simultaneously. This is a beautiful fact to remember.

VI. God is the receiver of all love given.

One of the interesting things Jesus said in the Bible is in the passage Matthew 25: 40-45. In this passage, Jesus exhorted his followers to serve the poor, not just because they were poor and needed help but also because whenever they served the poor, they served him. In other words, to love the poor was to love Jesus. Now, the poor are needy, so they obviously need love, but all people are needy in some way, so Jesus is with all people, not just the more obvious poor. Therefore, when you serve a person, which is to give them love, Jesus says you are giving him love as well. Since Jesus is God, you are giving God love. Just as God is the giver of all love, God is also the receiver of all love, and when you love a person you are both loving that person and God simultaneously.

This fits with Jesus’ statements about the greatest commandment. He made it clear the first commandment is to love God. Love of neighbor is only second in priority. Love of neighbor would be quite difficult if spending time loving God competed with spending time loving your neighbor. Instead, God enables you to do both simultaneously as long as you are conscious of God being present as well. Remembering statements V and VI will really enrich your life as God will be part of everything you do, allowing you to love him and receive his love in every moment.

Prayer to Imitate God in Relationships

Lord, help me to understand what it means to give and receive love. May I always understand my role in my relationships whether it be lover or beloved. Help me to never forget that I am your beloved and always will be, so that I will never question your mercy or stop loving you. Grant me the grace to imitate you in all my relationships. Amen.

Your friend in Christ,
Jared

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Reflections on Loving God #3: Love God by Receiving the Eucharist

Reflections on Loving God is a series about understanding love, seeing how God loves you, and learning how to love God more. God has loved you before you were born. Take the first step today to loving him back. You won’t regret it!

Ways to Love God

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the greatest Catholic prayer (CCC 1324). It takes place in the part of the Catholic Mass called the Liturgy of the Eucharist (CCC 1346). The priest, acting in the person of Christ, says the Eucharistic Prayer and the Holy Spirit transforms the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood (CCC 1348, 1353). As a baptized Christian, Jesus (along with the Father and Holy Spirit) is always with you spiritually in your heart as long as you haven’t committed any serious (or mortal) sins (CCC 1999, 1861). However, in the Eucharist Jesus is there before your eyes totally and completely, in both spiritual and physical form (CCC 1374). Since Jesus is God, the God who loves you is literally there in the flesh before your eyes!

If you saw Jesus in human form, what would you do? You would probably kneel down, knowing how unworthy you are. Jesus would have mercy and give you a big hug. This is exactly what happens during mass. The priest holds up the Eucharist and you say how unworthy you are during the “Invitation to Communion” (“Lord, I am not worthy…”). Then you offer your whole self, body and soul, to Jesus in the Eucharist to be hugged by God (CCC 1391). In this embrace you are healed of your venial sins (CCC 1394) and made more holy (CCC 1392), enabling you to love God and others more than you could before.

In order to keep your mind focused on God during the reception of Eucharist, it helps to say some prayers in the silence of your heart. Immediately after the Invitation to Communion, confess your sins to Jesus by asking forgiveness for a few prominent sins you committed during the last week. Then ask God to accept the temple of your heart (1 Cor 6:19) and make his home there (Jn 12:23).

After you return to your seat, let the Eucharist dissolve in your mouth rather than immediately chewing and swallowing it. While not necessary, this will help you remember how close you are to God in this moment. Savor this moment with the One who loves you more than anyone else. Ask for protection from mortal sin (CCC 1395) and to be made into a new man or woman. Then pray about anything you like: your sorrows, your joys, and everything in between. This is truly the closest you can be to God on earth.

If you really want to love God, you must receive the Eucharist. It is the highlight of the Catholic faith because for a brief moment, you are no longer on earth, but in heaven with God. Look forward to it every week. Go to mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation. As you grow closer to God, you might even one day want to go to mass every day. Even if you find everything else at mass boring or too long, just go for the Eucharist. Forget about everything else if you have to, but when it comes time to receive the Eucharist, remember the profound opportunity before you.

Prayer to Love God More Fully in the Eucharist

Lord, you love me more than anyone else and have given me all that I have. Help me to always see you in the Eucharist so I may give you the attention and love you deserve. My God, whenever I receive you in the Eucharist, help me to fully open my heart to your presence so you can do the healing and transformative work my soul needs. Amen.

Your friend in Christ,
Jared

Reflections on Loving God #2: God Loves You through the Gift of Your Life

Reflections on Loving God is a series about understanding love, seeing how God loves you, and learning how to love God more. God has loved you before you were born. Take the first step today to loving him back. You won’t regret it!

How God Loves You

God loves you so much, he wants you to be in heaven with him for all eternity, but God is holy. Anything that is not holy cannot be in his presence, so God gave you life on earth to grow in holiness. God is all-knowing (omniscient), so he knows everything that has and will happen to you. While still respecting your free will, he somehow uses every moment of your life for the purpose of helping you become holy and make the choice to be with him in heaven (predestination, CCC 600). God has already loved you by giving you this life and putting you on this path to holiness, but he continues to love you every moment of your life, guiding you to heaven.

You have bad times and good times in life. During bad times, you make mistakes or others treat you badly and it causes you to suffer, sometimes greatly. Whatever the case, God knows exactly where you are in holiness. He knows exactly what virtues you need to grow in or sins you need to conquer to be with him in heaven. That bad time didn’t just happen randomly. God saw the possibility for you to grow in a virtue and permitted that time of suffering so that you might be one step closer to heaven.

God is not the cause of your suffering and doesn’t want you to suffer, but God is able to use all things for his purposes. His purposes in your life, indeed all lives, all come down to teaching you to love. He wants you to love him and everyone else in your life. Growing in holiness is simply growing in your ability to love others. God wants you to give everything of yourself to the people in your life, holding nothing back.

Just when the bad times become unbearable God gives you a break with good times. God knows when it’s too much. He knows when you need rest. He gives you what you need when you need it. The good times are not just about resting though. During these times, God shows you how much he knows the deepest longings of your heart. He gives you what you need uniquely in that moment to be happy or pleased. He does this because he loves you but even more, to give you a taste of heaven. That pleasing moment is just a taste of what God has in store for you. He knows exactly what you need and will gladly give you that for all eternity. All you have to do is love him and his creation, your fellow brothers and sisters on earth.

In summary, think of every moment of your life as part of your path to being with God, the one who loves you. No matter what’s going on, God is there helping you learn the truth. The truth is the only thing that matters is love. That is what your heart desires. That is what God desires. You’ve resisted love so many times and chosen evil instead. Why not put an end to that today and commit yourself to love always?

Prayer to Love God in Every Moment

Lord, help me to see the work of your hands in every moment of my life. Grant that I can accept the bad times as part of my salvation journey and see the good times as a taste of your loving plans for me in heaven. My God, I put my whole trust in you to lead me to eternal happiness. Amen.

Your friend in Christ,
Jared

Reflections on Loving God #1: Love and Relationships

Reflections on Loving God is a series about understanding love, seeing how God loves you, and learning how to love God more. God has loved you before you were born. Take the first step today to loving him back. You won’t regret it!

Definitions of Love

I. Loving relationships involve giving and receiving love.

There are many kinds of relationships from business relationships to diplomatic relationships to friendships, but not all relationships are loving relationships. A business may be a person by law, but it does not have a heart. It cannot love. The same is true for a country. However, people do have hearts, so they can form relationships based on love. In a loving relationship, people take turns giving and receiving love towards each other. In giving love, one person gives something good to the other person. In receiving love, the other person accepts the good thing from the other person and has an opportunity to respond to the gift by giving love back in some form.

A human is a person and God the Holy Trinity is three Divine Persons (CCC 253), so humans are capable of giving and receiving love in a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Additionally, since each Divine Person is the entire Being, when a person loves one of the Divine Persons, they love the entire Being. In a similar way, when one of the Divine Persons loves a person, the entire Being loves that person.

For example, Jesus loved you by dying so that you might have eternal life. In that act, Jesus loved you but also the entire Being of God loved you because Jesus is also the entire Being. You can then say both “Jesus (the Person) loved you” and “God (the Being) loved you”. Likewise, when you love Jesus, for example by praying to him, you love both the Person of Jesus and the Being of God because Jesus also is the entire Being. You can then say “I love Jesus” and “I love God”. In short, when Jesus loves you, God loves you as well; when you love Jesus, you love God as well.

II. Loving relationships involve needs and wants for love, or a combination of the two.

Relationships where one person needs the love that another person provides are very strong. The person in need knows they cannot get by without the other person, so they will do their best to love the other person even if that person doesn’t treat them well. This is the case in relationships between parents and children. The children can’t survive without their parents, so even if they do misbehave at times, they eventually have to obey.

Relationships based on wants are much weaker. Usually, the people have common interests like a hobby, whether it be quilting or running. Relationships based on wants are the basis of most friendships. The love of a friend enriches the hobby for the person, but they have no actual need for the friend. This gives them the freedom to choose another hobby if the original one becomes boring, possibly losing the friend.

Most long-lasting relationships have a combination of needs and wants. Best friends are usually based on wants, but in difficult times they develop a need for love from each other from money to emotional support. Relationships with relatives can also have this dynamic. Marriage relationships usually start like best friends with mostly wants and the occasional need, with needs becoming a bigger part of the relationship over time as they make choices to depend on each other more.

Relationships with God are unique in that they combine elements of parent-child, friendship, and marriage relationships. As the Creator, God is each person’s divine parent. A person’s life itself is dependent on his constant grace, so they absolutely need him. Like a parent he is more knowledgeable, intelligent, and wise than they are. Just as a person’s parents taught them to how to be an adult, God teaches them how to elevate their adulthood into sainthood.

Relationships with God are also like a friendship. The person has things in common with God because they were made in his image. Their heart desires to love others just as God does. They seek order over chaos just as God does. Likewise, for justice and many other things. The person has common interests with God and they pursue those interests together.

Lastly, relationships with God are like a marriage because God calls each person to be faithful to him and not worship other gods. If a person chooses to get married (or is already married), they have to be faithful to their spouse and not love any other person romantically. In both cases, this faithfulness is for life.

Keeping these aspects of relationships with God in mind, it means you will love God different ways in each moment. In one moment, you are in desperate need and beg God for help just as you did as a child. Another moment, you are working with God as a friend to serve others or solve problems in the world. And then there are those moments when you rededicate your life to serving the one true God, much like a renewal of marriage vows. This is one reason why having a relationship with God is so important. By working on your relationship with God, you will learn about every kind of relationship, helping you love all people in your life no matter what sort of relationship it is.

III. Loving relationships begin when both people freely will to give and receive love.

If one person gives love to another person, but the other person doesn’t see it, there is no relationship. For example, a person says hello to another person while walking down the street, but the person is distracted by their cell phone and doesn’t hear it. The person was unable to receive that love because they did not know they were loved. This is the case for every person before they believe in God. They didn’t sense God’s love for them and didn’t have faith, so they had no relationship with him.

Another possibility is when the person rejects the relationship. Maybe the person on the street does hear the hello but chooses to ignore it. They have willed not to start a relationship with that person. With God this can happen when he blesses a person with the faith to believe, but they find his call to love too difficult (Mt 13:20-21) and choose to ignore it. God is all-powerful but no matter what, he will always respect a person’s free will. He will never force anyone into a relationship.

IV. Loving relationships take work to maintain.

For a relationship to last, both people must actively participate. A relationship can survive a short time with one or both people not giving and receiving love, but in time other relationships or interests can quickly fill the space the original relationship occupied.

Because we live in a changing world, all our relationships are either growing or shrinking. One of the big reasons is forgetfulness. When a person doesn’t actively give love to or receive love from another person, they quickly forget that person exists. They can’t love what they don’t know. Therefore, maintaining a relationship requires effort over time. Time and energy must be dedicated to it.

This is never an issue for God because he is not limited by time or space. He can love each person constantly all the time. People, on the other hand, stop loving God by not spending time with him in prayer or worship. The needs of each person will be different. Some people will need 2 hours of prayer or worship each day to maintain their relationship while others will need only 20 minutes. Overall, each person needs some daily time with God.

Beyond simple neglect, a great source of difficulty in relationships is sin. When one person sins against another, the other person will have a harder time loving them in return. They lose trust, fearing the person will respond to their love with more sin. Sin against another also affects the sinner themselves. It becomes easier for them to sin again and harder for them to love. Because of original sin people on earth will continually go back and forth between holiness and sinfulness (CCC 405). Every relationship struggles with times of sinfulness. Only if both people work together to improve can these trials be overcome.

In relationships with God, people never have to worry about sin from God because he is perfect and all-loving. However, people are not perfect, they sin. When that happens it becomes harder for them to love God and easier to sin more. Like human relationships, each person will have periods of sin where their relationship with God is a struggle and periods of holiness where it is easy.

V. Loving relationships end when one or both people stop giving and receiving love.

The ending of a relationship can be a deliberate act or through inaction. After a heated argument, one person might tell the other person it’s over. They have deliberately chosen to end the relationship. They will now no longer spend time with them. Much stress and uncertainty can result from sudden changes like this.

Sometimes a relationship can’t be totally ended, such as parents who separate that had children. The parents might want to end the relationship, but for the sake of their children they have to maintain some sort of relationship, at least until the children become independent.

Some relationships end through the inaction of one person slowly spending less and less time with the other person. It could be friends that have drifted apart into other interests. Even after losing interest, they might still spend time with each other out of habit for a short time, but sooner or later they stop accepting invitations to spend time together or don’t make an effort to make invitations.

Relationships with God can also be ended deliberately or through inaction. A person might get angry with God for not answering a prayer the way they wanted, saying they are done and won’t love him anymore. They deliberately ended the relationship. For inaction, they might just get distracted by something in life and forget about God, as Jesus said in the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:22).

VI. Loving relationships are usually paused not ended.

Whatever the reason two people stop spending time with each other, there is still a history between them. The memories of what once was are still there. If there comes a time where they agree on things or have enough in common again, the relationship can be resumed. Resuming a relationship can be very difficult depending on the reasons it was paused, but relationships can almost always be resumed. For clarity, I will say still say “ended” anytime I refer to this in later reflections, but as long as they live on earth, people are in a state of change, which may lead to old relationships becoming new again.

While people live on earth, their relationship with God can only ever be paused because God continues to love them even if they stop loving him. However, at the time of death their relationship with God is finalized. If they have rejected God at that point, the relationship will have truly ended. This is why it is so important to keep loving God throughout life. You never know when your time on earth will end, so you can never guarantee you will have a chance to return to relationship with God if you end it. It is better to love God and work on this relationship all the time. Jesus gave good advice on this: The servants must always watch for the master of the house, never knowing when he will return (Mk 13:35).

The “house” is all God gives to a person. He, the “master” in this parable, expects those things to be used to love others. When people, the “servants”, don’t use them to love, they will receive their just punishment, possibly eternal death or hell if their sins are evil enough. In short, you don’t want God to catch you at a bad time when he decides your earthly life is at an end.

Prayer to Grow in Relationship with God

Lord, help me to understand what it means to love in a relationship. With this understanding, grant that I can accept your love for me in whatever form it takes and love you in all that I do. Never allow me to fall away from you, my God, but if this should happen, please have mercy on my soul and accept me into your life again. Amen.

Your friend in Christ,
Jared

Reflections on Loving God: Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters,
I had a good time away from writing. Now I am back and excited to write again! The past year I’ve been working on a new writing project. The inspiration for this project came from a huge transformation in my faith in the last year.

Most of my life, my motivation to practice the faith has been the reward God promises us. I generally did okay at following God’s commandments, but many times it was for selfish reasons. However, in Lent 2017 I learned to truth: the faith is about love not rewards. In following the commandments, we are loving God. God in turn loves us by giving us a reward at the end of our earthly lives. This was always there, but it went right over my head. Then I saw that God wasn’t just going to love me at my earthly death with the reward of heaven, he had already loved me for years and continued to love me in the present. The only appropriate response from me was to love him back. The problem was I didn’t know all that well how to do that.

Over the next sixth months, I studied love in relation to the faith. God revealed so much to me, it totally transformed how I saw God, the faith, and the world. I now understood how all the pieces fit together. It was no longer a struggle to avoid sin or serve others. They were just more opportunities to love God. I had a newfound sense of peace and satisfaction with life. It was then that I knew I couldn’t keep this to myself. Jesus shared everything God gave him to world, so I had to share the wisdom God gave me to the world.

I started writing in Thanksgiving 2017 but had a lot of trouble explaining love. I wanted to create a comprehensive guide, but love was just too complex. There were times I gave up on the project, but God eventually led me back by revealing to me it was okay if I didn’t know everything. He just wanted me to write what I did know. I don’t think I will ever fully understand love, but understanding some part of it has still been very helpful to me, and I think it will be very helpful to you as well.

Focusing on love is not the only way to sainthood. There are saints that went to heaven through a complete dedication to obedience. Others lived a life of penance for their sins. However, consciously or subconsciously love is always the foundation underneath. Because love is the foundation behind everything, why not focus on love?

In Reflections on Loving God each post will be a reflection on some aspect of love or loving God. God and the faith will be the focus. There are countless resources for human relationships — I don’t see a huge need for a focus there — but there are not nearly as many resources on loving God. Despite this, if you improve your relationship with God, I believe your human relationships will also improve. The same skills are used in both situations.

This project is open-ended. I will have more to write in the beginning, but love is a complex subject. God might reveal more to me, and I will have more reflections to write. The reflections will mostly fall into three groups:

  • Definitions of love – Looking at love from just one narrow angle in an attempt to understand it more
  • How God loves you – Seeing how God loves you in one aspect of your life
  • Ways to love God – Something you can do to love God more

As I wrote above, I’m really excited about this project. I really believe it will make a difference in your life. It might even be life changing. I’m sure you have things you don’t like about yourself. Why not let God work on those things? You only need to understand love more. Then you can fully receive God into your life. Do you feel lonely or unloved by others? God is here to comfort you and give you all the love you have ever wanted if you can only see his presence in your life. Do you already love God but wish to love him even more? Start practicing a new way to love him.

Note that everything I write can be found somewhere in the Bible or at least implied. Never think that God has somehow given me exclusive wisdom, not found anywhere else. The Bible is the only inspired (“God-breathed”) word of God. Anything I write is just a reinforcement or supplement to the Bible. I apologize in advance for not having extensive knowledge of the Bible to provide chapter and verse for everything. I will include them when I can remember them.

Your friend in Christ,
~Jared
All Saints Day
November 1, 2018

The Easy Yoke

I’ve written before how tough times can either make a person better and closer to God or worse and further from God. This is the decision I faced when my health went downhill. As I developed social anxiety, digestive problems, and several other health problems, I suffered more and more. My health was not looking good. Without seeing anything in the world able to help me, I made the decision to become better and focused on God.

First was the complaining:

“God, you have to help me with this. I need healing. I can’t do anything with these health problems.”

After a few years came acceptance:

“God, I don’t like my suffering, but you’re not going to heal me. My health is so bad I could die at any moment. I will follow your will and prepare myself for heaven.”

Another few years I reached gratitude:

“My God, thank you for the blessing of being able to offer my suffering as a gift for Jesus on the cross. I still don’t like suffering, but I thank you for giving me a use for it.”

Most recently I found joy:

“Glory to you, O Lord, for allowing me to do penance for the world. My God, whether you will that I suffer or not, I welcome your plan with all my heart!

As I went through these stages, I became closer to God. The big breakthrough was when I saw for the first time all the ways God loved me. God was expressing his love to me in unique ways just for me and no one else. While God had always loved me, it was only when I recognized his love that I was able to love him back and form a real relationship. I no longer cared much what others thought of me. I didn’t need anyone else’s love to be happy. God’s love for me was enough. With that the anxiety started to dissipate.

I still deal with social anxiety every time I’m around strangers. My body automatically becomes stressed even when my mind is calm and clear of worry, but most times, prayer, putting my trust in God, and offering my suffering dissipates the anxiety after a few minutes. Sometimes my anxiety does get out of control, but it’s pretty rare. I am still working on introducing myself to more stressful situations as well. It’s not over with but progress is being made. I will probably always have to deal with anxiety at the beginning of social situations, a temporary suffering before my body relaxes and I can have a good time.

Years of chronic anxiety and stress has caused permanent damage to my body though. This means my digestive problems, chronic injuries, muscle weakness, trouble sleeping, and more will not be going away, no matter how much better my anxiety gets. My suffering from these problems will continue, though I can work on treating each of them individually for some improvements. There is always the chance I could be completely cured, but I don’t expect that at this point.

My suffering rarely bothers me now. Some days I do feel pretty bad physically, but those days have their own blessing, patiently offering up my suffering for Jesus and the world. Despite the difficulty of getting through those days, this is usually when I am most close to God. As Jesus said in the Bible, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). It’s not that my suffering is gone, but my closeness to God makes me so happy, positive, and joyful, suffering just doesn’t bother me anymore. In short, I will continue to work on treating the health problems and hope for an end to my suffering, but with God and his love, I can endure any suffering, put it to good use, and even be joyful about it.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

The Depth of the Commandments According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

While The Ten Commandments are popularly known as God’s rules for Christians to live by, there really is just one commandment: the commandment to love. All the others follow from just this one overarching commandment. The commandment to love can be split into two more specific commandments: love God and love one another. The commandments to love God and one another can then be expanded further into The Ten Commandments. The first through third commandments involve loving God. The fourth through tenth commandments involve loving one another.

Every single sin can be described by how it opposes one of these commandments. There are no sins that do not fit under a commandment. In some cases, it’s not clear why a sin fits under a commandment, but that’s where the Catechism of the Catholic Church fits in. It explains each commandment in detail including all the opposing sins.

Interesting is the fact that the ninth and tenth commandments are more extensions of the sixth and seventh commandments than entirely new commandments. The sixth commandment (“You shall not commit adultery.”) covers the sinful actions related to impurity while the ninth commandment (“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”) covers the sinful thoughts related to impurity. The seventh and tenth commandments follow the same model except covering sinful actions (seventh) and thoughts (tenth) related to stealing.

I have summarized this information in the chart below. It starts at the top with the commandment to love, then to love God and one another, then to the ten commandments, and finally, the sins that oppose those commandments. I have made the ninth and tenth commandments extensions of the sixth and seventh commandments, all under Love One Another. The commandments are in circles with orange text while the sins are in rectangles with red text. In parentheses next to each sin is the reference number of the corresponding passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for further reading.

The commandments and their opposing sins.

Click image to view full screen.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared