This is our fifth week of the Lenten series, Fully Loved: Encountering the Heart of Christ. We began with looking at Jesus entering our humanity, then turned to how do we come to know and accept God’s love for us. We also looked last week at what blocks us from accepting God’s love for us.
This week, we will focus on what helps us receive God’s love for us. Next week, we will focus on what gifts we receive by letting God’s love fully enter our hearts.
The Challenge of Receiving God’s Love:
It is one thing to intellectually understand God’s love for us, but it is a whole other thing to actually open our hearts to receive God’s love. To be honest, sometimes the light and gift of God’s love is so bright that we turn from it. The gift of love from God is so good, true, honest, and real that we are sometimes afraid to let ourselves receive it. It can feel too good to be true so we sometimes doubt it or resist being offered love that is given freely, unconditionally, and without earning it.
Our intelligence and brain can get in the way because we can rationalize and list all the ways we are not worthy of God’s love (or maybe that we feel another person is not worthy of this freely given gift). As we’ve discussed the last few weeks, God thankfully doesn’t operate out of our standards. Fr. Joe Tetlow, SJ, in his book Making Choices in Christ, reminds us of how God loves us in the here and now.
God loves us as we are— not as we should be or could be. God loves us as we are because God is making us who we are. When we understand this, we understand a relationship that fills all things.
We are loved as we are right now. Our task on our journey of faith is to open our capacity to receive God’s gift of love, and yet again, Jesus models the way for us to do this.
Jesus had a desire for a relationship with God even as a young boy when Mary and Joseph couldn’t find him because he was in the temple. “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Jesus, even at the age of twelve had a desire for God.
Jesus nurtured this desire for God through prayer. As he grew into an adulthood, we see he was supported on his journey of faith by his family and closest friends, his disciples. Jesus had moments like his baptism and desert time also that strengthened his relationship with God. Each of these things show us ways we can open our capacity to receive God’s love. And if we forget this, let’s turn to the words of God spoken about Jesus at the Transfiguration to remind us of where to model our lives, ” This is my beloved son. Listen to him!”(Matthew 17:5)
How can we open our capacity to receive love?
Let’s look at a few ways we can open our capacity to receive love:
- Our Desire for God: Our desire to be loved fully and whole-heartedly by God is one of the ways the Holy Spirit works within us. As Pope Francis reminds us all we need is to desire to take the step, “The medicine is there, the healing is there- if only we take a small step toward God…or even just desire to take that step.” God will meet us in this desire to be loved and grow our desire to be loved.
- Prayer: We can grow this desire to receive God’s love by going to our inner chapel inside each of us in prayer and showing up. Remember, two weeks ago we talked about how the Holy Spirit supports us in showing up to prayer and in opening us up to receive God’s love for us.
- People who remind us we are lovable: Jesus surrounded himself with close friends. We, too, can seek to spend time with those who love us as we are. Receiving love from others opens us to receive love from God. Who are these people in your life?
- The Sacraments: As most of you know, I am a practicing Catholic, and I believe the Sacraments offer us special graces that we often cannot fully understand or name when we receive them. The Eucharist reminds us each week of sacrificial love for God. Reconciliation reminds us of God’s gift of mercy and healing. Anointing of the Sick reminds us of God’s care, when are physical body weakens.
- Spiritual Direction: I’ve worked with a spiritual director for nearly 19 years now. In my own personal faith life, the gift of another compassionately listening to me and helping me deepen in my relationship with God has helped me open my capacity to receive God’s love. It’s one of the many reasons, I became a spiritual director, to help others come to know this also. If you are looking for a spiritual director, here is a video from a few years ago where I offer a few suggestions on how to find one and also one on what to expect from Spiritual Direction.
- Retreats: If you have never made a silent retreat, I highly recommend considering attending one. This time away with God opens us in ways I cannot really put into words. Attending annual silent retreats has blessed me considerably in my own life. Like spiritual direction, the gifts I received on retreats is part of the reason I am involved in retreat minsitry today. I want others to experience the gift of God’s profound love, mercy, and healing that can happen when we still and silent ourselves. Looking for a retreat, I suggest checking out this list of Jesuit Retreat Houses. If you live near my hometown of Baton Rouge, I suggest checking out the Retreat Center of the Archdiocese of New Orleans , Rosaryville Spirit and Life Center, Manresa Retreat House, Jesuit Spirituality Center or Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House.
Take a gander at this list above. Which of these ways to further open your capacity to receive God’s love resonates with you? What might God be inviting you to consider committing to in these last few weeks of Lent?
- Read Saying “Yes” to the Call
- Watch this 3-minute Retreat on Remembering God’s Love for You.
- Pray with the Ignatian Prayer Adventure Week 6: Public Ministry of Jesus
Cultivating Space for God Together:
- April 9: Women’s Evening of Reflection,St. Patrick’s Parish, Baton Rouge
- April 13: Lenten Day of Reflection, “Taking Stock: Living Your Greater Yes,” Rosaryville Spirit & Life Center, Ponchatoula, LA
- May 15: Calgary Catholic Leadership Retreat
- May 20: Facilitating Retreat Day at the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership