We sometimes get in our own way when it comes to accepting God’s love for us. We listen to other voices in our life that tell us that we are not worthy to receive God’s love. Voices that speak words such as:
- You have to earn your worth
- You have to get to a certain point on your faith journey before you are loved
- Your worthiness of love is measured by what you own, what you do, or the amount of money you make
- You are not qualified
Sometimes it is not the voices in our lives that we listen to that keep us from accepting God’s love for us. At times, we simply stop showing up in our relationship with God and our hearts are closed off to the gift of God’s love and mercy. Other times, our hearts are hardened because of something that happened to us that hurt so much that we do not trust to open our hearts to anyone, not even God.
The reality of our humanity is that we can close our hearts to God’s love for us by giving into the temptations in our lives, which can cause us to make sinful choices. Perhaps, we choose to live by the world’s standards instead of God’s, or maybe we harbor un-forgiveness in our hearts towards someone that hurt us to the point that it begins to erode away our trust in God’s love and care for us. Or maybe we simply are closed off to the newness God is birthing within us because we are afraid of what we are being asked to do.
The work of our faith journey is to stay close to God and to live an examined life where we are aware of what opens our hearts to receive God’s love, like we talked about last week, and where we are aware of what closes our hearts to receive God’s abundant gift of love and mercy.
Jesus in the Desert:
Just prior to going to the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus was baptized and affirmed by God and strengthened for his mission. Jesus was then led into the desert where he spent days in prayer with God, and as scripture tells us, while he was there he was both tempted by the devil, and he was ministered to by angels (Mk 1: 12-13, Mt 4: 1-11, Lk 4: 1-13).
Jesus’ time in the desert shows us two important insights about overcoming things that can close us off to receive God’s love and mercy. First, time with God in prayer, in silence, and in solitude strengthens us and opens us to receive God’s gift of love and mercy. Second, God helps us overcome our temptations and what closes our hearts off to God’s assistance and love.
Ultimately, Jesus stayed close to his Father.
God’s Advocate Works for Us and With Us:
We, too, are urged to stay close to God through prayer. Our time with God strengthens us and enables us to overcome temptations. Our time with God softens the areas of our hardened hearts as God’s love and mercy continues to shine light into our areas of darkness.
Thankfully, we do not have to carry this responsibility of staying close to God completely by ourselves either. The Holy Spirit is working within us to draw us back to God. We feel this through the restlessness that appears in our lives at times that shows us when we make a misstep or when we are not on the path that opens us to grow in our relationship with God.
St. Ignatius’ names this advocacy of the Holy Spirit on our behalf in his discernment rules:
- Discernment Rule #1: “In those living a life of sin, the Holy Spirit will rouse the sting of conscience and fill them with remorse.”
- Discernment Rule #2: “In those who seek to rise in the service of God, the Holy Spirit gives strength, courage, consolation, inspiration and peace.”
When we are on the right path, the Holy Spirit strengthens us to continue by gifting us with peace and courage. When we are not on the right path, the Holy Spirit stirs a guilty conscience or a dis-ease inside of us that helps us wake up to what’s closing us off from God.
I invite you this week to take an honest assessment of your heart. Are there any areas that seem closed to God’s gift of love? Why? How might staying close to God through prayer help open your capacity to receive God’s love and mercy?
- For more about the Holy Spirit, read Promises of God: We Have An Advocate
- To learn more on Ignatian discernment, read Discernment Wisdom or register for my upcoming Day of Reflection that dives deeper into discerning what God is calling you to
- Read Mary Showed Me Jesus’ Humanity to help understand Jesus’ humanness
- Get to know Jesus deeper by praying the Ignatian Prayer Adventure Week 4: Knowing 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