Editor’s note: Throughout Lent, Fathers John Rose and Louis Sogliuzzo, SJ will offer readers of the Sun a series of “5-minute retreats.” These retreats will put a Lenten focus on coming to “live, know and love” the Catholic faith during this Year of Faith. This is the first retreat in the series.
One of the ways that we grow in our relationship with God is to pay attention to God’s activity in our lives. God is always trying to get our attention. During Lent we might decide to try to be more consciously aware of what God is doing in our lives.
If I were to ask you if you have noticed any growth or change in yourself since last week, you would probably say you have not noticed any difference at all, unless perhaps you experienced some significant joyous event in your life like getting engaged or becoming a parent, or a catastrophic event such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness or getting divorced. However, if I were to ask you to look back 10 years or more, you could more readily identify some changes and hopefully some growth. You may feel more confident about yourself, you may like yourself more, you may find yourself being more calm in challenging situations, you may be more accepting of others and yourself and life itself. The spiritual question here would be, did God have anything to do with this growth in your life. If so, what part did God play in this change?
God is always trying to invite us to the “more” in our life, whether that be more trust, more hope or more patience. God is always persistent and insistent. God will never give up on us. God wants to make us aware of how much God loves us, unconditionally. Even in our sinfulness or our addictions God will wait for us to come to our senses that worthiness is not the issue with God. God never tires of waiting. Imagine, God waits for me. Phew! How humbling is that! God waiting for me.
God can only love us. We may find this love difficult to acknowledge. We may avoid praying because we feel that, “God could never love me if God really knew me.” That’s the point. God does know you, sins and all. You do not have to be perfect (when will that be?) before God loves you. God loves you in your imperfection and your humanness with all your failures, angers, resentments and bitterness. God forgives you unconditionally. You are a sinner, but you are a loved sinner. It does not get any better than that. That is the stuff of transformation. That experience of God loving me as a sinner will bring about a significant moment of growth …. or a moment of significant growth.
What if, instead of focusing on your sinfulness and your unworthiness, you put the focus on God’s compassion and mercy and desire for you? Try it. It makes a world of difference. Otherwise, you are making God’s love for you dependent on you and your behavior, rather than allowing God to choose to love you as God desires. That would be codependent, which God is not. The experience of the Divine loving you will want you to be more loving. You will yearn for more of God’s love and want to love like God.
Once I am connected to God life becomes far more adventuress. I know I am not alone. So, how has God been trying to get your attention these days? You may want to ask God.
Father John Rose is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center in Syracuse.