I am shaped by what I love. In loving You, Lord,
may I keep Your word and do Your will. Come
and make Your dwelling with me (John 14:23)
as I follow in Mary’s footsteps of faith.
Life is full of choices. Some we make consciously as we go through our day. Some have become habit and the ongoing result of prior choices. All of the choices are ours to make. All of the patterns are ours to break.
One of the greatest choices we make is choosing who—and what—we love. The poets like to paint a picture of love as a force unto itself—something outside and greater than ourselves that we are powerless to resist. The first part is true. God is love and He is greater than anything in this world. Sadly, the second part is false. We can resist love… even love Himself. If history repeats itself, it’s a repetition of humanity seeking someone—something—else to love besides the God who made him… the God who loves him… to death… and beyond.
When we love, we change. We conform ourselves to the object of our affections. We want to spend time with the ones we love. We remake ourselves in their image. For a significant other, we style our clothing, manners, and appearance to be pleasing to them. We take up new hobbies to impress them with our commitment to the things that matter to them. We show an interest. We are shaped by what we love.
If we love the wrong things, we become the wrong things. Embracing darkness, we become dark. Loving those with a revolutionary spirit, we become a revolutionary. We rebel. It doesn’t end well.
There is no true love outside of God. God is love. Apart from Him, we can not know love (1 John 4:8). A rebellious heart is narcissistic… seeking its own satisfaction… its own fulfillment. It is the opposite of love—selfishness. Love gives. Selfishness takes. Love requires sacrifice. Selfishness sacrifices others. Love blesses. Selfishness curses.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the Lord swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them (Deut 30:19-20).
We were made by God for communion with God. He made us to experience His unfathomable love for us. Until our hearts rest in Him, they are restless (St Augustine). In restlessness, our hearts stray from Him even as they search for Him. Can we keep God’s Law and commandments? Yes… when we are in communion with Him.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me” (John 14:15-24).
It is only by conforming ourselves to Him that we can do His will.
Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good (Romans 12:9-21).
Only God is good (Luke 18:19). We conquer evil through communion with God. God’s Law is eternal and unchanging. In Baptism, we haven’t been saved from being under the Law, we have been made a new creation for the accomplishment of His will.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:17-20).
God’s standards are higher than man’s.
- Where we are satisfied with avoiding violence, Jesus wants us to control our anger (Matt 5:21-26).
- Where we are happy avoiding physical acts of adultery, Jesus tells us to control our lustful desires (Matt 5:27-30)
- Where we struggle with the idea of “til death do us part” and seek to redo marital relationships when they become inconvenient, Jesus tells us to love our spouses (Matt 5:31-32).
- When we are cavalier about the oaths we take, Jesus warns us to be simple in our responses (Matt 5:33-37).
- When we want revenge, Jesus reminds us of generosity (Matt 5:38-42).
- When we harbor resentments and enmity toward people, Jesus calls us to be different from the rest of the world. He tells us to choose love and treat an enemy like a friend. (Matt 5:43-47).
- In short, we are called to be perfect (Matt 5:48) and we can be with the indwelling of the Spirit of God (Ez 36:27).
It is difficult to let go of our own selfish desires and let God bless us in His own way. We want to be forgiven of our sins… so we must forgive. In a world full of unforgiveness, it can be a lonely road to travel… but we don’t travel it alone. The saints who have gone before have lighted our way… starting with the mother of our Lord. As Mary gave her whole self in service to God’s will, she is our model of faith.
By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity (CCC 967).
If we want to follow Christ, we can have no greater model to follow than His mother. I pray for the grace to learn from her simple example and follow her as she leads the way to communion with her holy Son. It is in love that we commune with God. Indwelling with us, the love we have to give is His love (1 John 4:16). Crucified with Christ, He lives in us (Gal 2:20). We are able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We can trust in His promises as we walk in this valley of tears—following His mother’s example of simple faith.