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A Living Reminder on Love
It is good to be constantly reminded on love. I quote extensively from the Christian Bible not because other religions do not write on love but because I am more familiar with the Bible.
1. Where do we start on love?
The full truth
about love can be found in the Bible. So, we have to start by believing that “All
Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth,
rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living,
so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do
every kind of good deed.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 TEV) And that "Everything written
in the Scriptures was written to teach us, in order that we might have hope
through the patience and encouragement which the Scriptures give us." (Romans
15:4 TEV) St Paul says “I have complete confidence in the Gospel; it is God’s
power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. For the
Gospel reveals how God puts people right with Himself: it is through faith from
beginning to end. As the Scripture says, ‘The person who is put right with God
through faith shall live.’”(Romans 1:16-17 TEV)
love, what must we believe first?
If we want to know about love, we have to believe in God first. If we do not believe, we will not have faith. Without faith we cannot please God “No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists” (Hebrew 11:6 TEV). But what is faith? St Paul says “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”(Hebrew 11:1 TEV) Faith is accepting Jesus at His word. Faith is taking Jesus completely and absolutely at His word. Faith is complete trust that what Jesus said and taught about God is true. Faith is complete trust and complete confidence in Jesus.
St James declares that faith without action is useless. And that even Abraham had to prove his faith to God by his action of offering his only son, Isaac, as the sacrificial lamb. “Do you want to be shown that faith without action is useless? How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his action, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions. And the scripture came true that said, ‘Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.’ And so Abraham was called God’s friend. You see, then, that it is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone. . . . So then, as the body without the spirit is dead, also faith without actions is dead.”(James 2:20-26 TEV)
What types of action? Jesus says “’I was hungry and you fed Me, thirsty and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger and you received Me in your homes, naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me, in prison and you visited Me.’ The righteous will then answer Him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see You hungry and fed You, or thirsty and give You a drink? When did we ever see You a stranger and welcome You into our homes, or naked and clothe You? When did we ever see You sick or in prison, and visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of Mine, you did it for Me!’” (Matthew 25:35-40 TEV) We must not lose sight that we have to do all these good works with love as Jesus says “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you”(John 15:12 TEV). In fact, St Paul emphasizes that all the sacrifices and all the good works we do are nothing, if we do not do them in a spirit of love: “I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned--but if I have no love, this does me no good.”(1 Corinthians 13:3 TEV)
Mother Teresa said: “God pays attention to our love. Not one of us is indispensable. God has the means to do all things and to do away with the work of the most capable human being.
We can work until we drop. We can work excessively. If what we do is not connected to love, however, our work is useless in God’s eyes.” (“In My Own Words,” 39)
3. How is love being defined in the Bible?
St. Paul’s definition of love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8(NKJV):
and is not puffed up --- Humility (Less ego)
Iniquity but rejoices in
the truth --- Sincerity (Not judgmental)
· Love bears all things --- Forbearance (Accepting)
· Love believes all things --- Faithfulness (Committed)
· Love hopes all things --- Hopefulness (Less despair)
· Love endures all things --- Endurance (Gutsy) &
4. How is love being practiced in daily living?
· Love is growth in goodness
· Love is the opposite of all our tendencies to division---hatred, quarrelling, jealousy, rage, disputes, dissension, schism.
5. How do we know that 'God is love'?
St John tells us "God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them"(1 John 4:16 TEV). Again it says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love"(1 John 4:8 TEV). “Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God.”(1 John 4:7 TEV)
Mother Teresa said, “God is purity Himself; nothing impure can come before Him, but I don’t think God can hate, because God is love and God loves us in spite of our misery and sinfulness. He is our loving Father and so we have only to turn to Him. God cannot hate; God loves because He is love, but impurity is an obstacle to seeing God. This doesn’t mean only the sin of impurity, but any attachment, anything that takes us away from God, anything that makes us less Christ-like, any hatred, any uncharitableness is also impurity. If we are full of sin, God cannot fill what is full. That’s why we need forgiveness to become empty, and then God fills us with Himself.” (A Gift for God, 45-46)
Henri Nouwen said, “What can we say about God’s love? We can say that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, “I love you, if. . . “ There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.
Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.” (“Bread for the Journey,” Feb 5)
“We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behaviour. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God.
God’s unconditional love means that God continues to love us when we say or think evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love.” (“Bread for the Journey,” Feb 6)
6. How does God show us that He loves us?
The Bible tells us
that God sent His only Son to the world to save us. "For God loved the world so
much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die
but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 TEV) St Paul says "For it is by grace we have
been saved, through faith--and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of
God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8 TEV) No amount of
our own good deeds will be able to save us. For "it was not because of any good
deed that we ourselves had done, but because of His own mercy that He saves us,
through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us"
(Titus 3:5 TEV). Jesus assures us “...for the Father Himself loves you. He loves
you because you love Me and have believed that I come from God.” (John 16:27
TEV) Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.”(John 10:30 TEV) “Whoever sees Me
sees also Him who sent Me.”(John 12:45 TEV) St Paul says, “Christ is the visible
likeness of the invisible God.”(Colossians 1:15 TEV) When Jesus was questioned,
“Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor my Father. If
you knew Me, you would know my Father also.”(John 8:19 TEV) St John tells us
"God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so that we
might have life through Him"(1 John 4:9 TEV). This was clearly emphasized by
Jesus, who said, "I have come in order that you might have life---life in all
its fullness." (John 10:10 TEV) As St Paul stated "God has shown us how much He
loves us--it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By His
blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by
Him from God's anger." (Romans 5:8-9 TEV) Have we ever thought for a moment what
it means to God to sacrifice His beloved and sinless Son to die as atonement for
our sins? Can we imagine the pain and sufferings God and Jesus had to endure for
our sins? The cross was so horrible that Jesus Christ asked His Father three
times, at the Garden of Gethsemane, to remove it if it was possible, but He was
obedient to His Father to the very end. ”My Father, if it is possible, take this
cup of suffering from Me! Yet not what I want, but what You want.”(Matthew 26:39
TEV) Every time we look at Jesus on the cross, we see the enormous love of God
for us. The Lord is indeed a God of love. "Greater love has no one than this,
than to lay down one’s life for his friends."(John 15:13 NKJV)
Henri Nouwen said: “This morning I meditated on God’s eagerness to forgive me, revealed in the words of the One Hundred Third Psalm: ‘As far as the East is from the West, so far does God remove my sin.’ In the midst of all my distractions, I was touched by God’s desire to forgive me again and again. If I return to God with a repentant heart after I have sinned, God is always there to embrace me and let me start afresh. ‘The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’
It is hard for me to forgive someone who has really offended me, especially when it happens more than once. I begin to doubt the sincerity of the one who asks forgiveness for a second, third, or fourth time. But God does not keep count. God just waits for our return, without resentment or desire for revenge. God wants us home. ‘The love of the Lord is everlasting.’
Maybe the reason it seems hard for me to forgive others is that I do not fully believe that I am a forgiven person. If I could fully accept the truth that I am forgiven and do not have to live in guilt or shame, I would really be free. By not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom. A forgiven person forgives. This is what we proclaim when we pray, ‘and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.’
This lifelong struggle lies at the heart of the Christian life.” (“The Road to Daybreak,” Nov 11, 1985)
7. How do we know that Jesus loves us?
Jesus tells us that He loves us “I love you just as the Father loves Me”(John 15:9 TEV) “I am the good Shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep” (John 10:11 TEV). Jesus says, “I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me,”(John 6:37 TEV) “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.”(Hebrew 13:5 TEV) and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NKJV) We are important in the sight of God. He says, "You are precious to me...because I love you" (Isaiah 43:4 TEV).
But how do we personally know that Jesus loves us? If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That He came down from heaven to die in our place, to atone for our sins and to put us right with God, then we know we are loved by Jesus. Jesus showed us His love when He took our sins in order that we might have His righteousness. He took our curse so that we might have His blessing. He took our rejection so that we might experience His acceptance. He suffered our shame so that we might share in His glory and He died our death so that we might receive His life.
We know that Jesus loves us when through our faith, we ask Christ to “make His home in our hearts”(Ephesians 3:17 TEV) and as we “come near to God,(and) He will come near to us” (James 4:8 TEV), so that we can be transformed to be more Christ-like. Jesus says, “Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear My voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with Me.”(Revelation 3:20 TEV) When Jesus comes into our hearts, we will be transformed. Then we will be able to bear everyday trials cheerfully and will be patient even under persistent irritation. We learn to return good for evil, meet the friction of everyday living with gentleness and sweetness and do not envy others. We learn to be humble and not boast about ourselves. We learn not to be easily provoked and we bear no malice. We learn not to fear as St Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”(2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) We learn to be kind and compassionate, having a tender heart and not a stony heart “full of hypocrisy and sins.” (Matthew 23:28 TEV)
Mother Teresa said: “Let’s believe in God’s love, and let’s be faithful to Him. If you look at the cross, you will see His head lowered to kiss you. You will see His arms stretched out to embrace you. You will see His heart open to welcome you. Don’t be afraid. He loves us in spite of how poor and sinful we are. His love is true, and we should believe in His love. If we truly believe, it will not be hard for us to identify with the poor, even the poor in our own homes.” (“One Heart Full of Love,” 44-45)
8. How, as explained by Henri Nouwen, did Jesus open Peter’s ears to the voice of love, after he had denied Jesus three times?
Henri Nouwen explained: “During this week Judas and Peter present me with the choice between running away from Jesus in despair or returning to Him in hope. Judas betrayed Jesus and hanged himself. Peter denied Jesus and returned to Him in tears.
Sometimes despair seems an attractive choice, solving everything in the negative. The voice of despair says, ‘I sin over and over again. After endless promises to myself and others to do better next time, I find myself back again in the old dark places. Forget about trying to change. I have tried for years. It didn’t work and it will never work. It is better that I get out of people’s way, be forgotten, no longer around, dead.’
This strangely attractive voice takes all uncertainties away and puts an end to the struggle. It speaks unambiguously for the darkness and offers a clear-cut negative identity.
But Jesus came to open my ears to another voice that says, ‘I am your God, I have moulded you with My own hands, and I love what I have made. I love you with a love that has no limits, because I love you as I am loved. Do not run away from Me. Come back to Me---not once, not twice, but always again. You are My child. How can you ever doubt that I will embrace you again, hold you against My breast, kiss you and let My hands run through your hair? I am your God---the God of mercy and compassion, the God of pardon and love, the God of tenderness and care. Please do not say that I have given up on you, that I cannot stand you anymore, that there is no way back. It is not true. I so much want you to be with Me. I so much want you to be close to Me. I know all your thoughts. I hear all your words. I see all of your actions. And I love you because you are beautiful, made in My own image, an expression of My most intimate love. Do not judge yourself. Do not condemn yourself. Do not reject yourself. Let My love touch the deepest, most hidden corners of your heart and reveal to you your own beauty, a beauty that you have lost sight of, but which will become visible to you again in the light of My mercy. Come, come, let Me wipe your tears, and let My mouth come close to your ear and say to you, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’
This is the voice that Jesus wants us to hear. It is the voice that calls us always to return to the One who has created us in love and wants to re-create us in mercy. Peter heard that voice and trusted it. As he lets that voice touch his heart, tears came---tears of sorrow and tears of joy, tears of remorse and tears of peace, tears of repentance and tears of gratitude.
It is not easy to let the voice of God’s mercy speak to us because it is a voice asking for an always open relationship, one in which sins are acknowledged, forgiveness received, and love renewed. It does not offer us a solution, but a friendship. It does not take away our problems, but promises not to avoid them. It does not tell us where it all will end, but assures us that we will never be alone. A true relationship is hard work because loving is hard work, with many tears and many smiles. But it is God’s work and worth every part of it.
O Lord, my Lord, help me to listen to Your voice and choose Your mercy.” (“The Road to Daybreak,” March 26 1986)
Finally, to touch base with love, we need to believe that:
By God’s love, we have been created by God, to love and to be loved.
And by God’s grace, we have been re-created by God in mercy, again and again, to love and to be loved.
9. Do we always believe that God loves us with a “first love”?
St John emphasizes, "we love because God first loved us"(1 John 4:19 TEV) but many of us cannot always believe that God loves us with a “first love”. Even monks sometimes doubt that God loves them.
Henri Nouwen said, “One thought in John Eudes’ conference touched me very much. He said that to respond to God’s love was a great act of faith. He compared it to people who have felt very lonely and isolated, very rejected and unloved during many years of their life and who suddenly meet someone who cares. For such people it is very hard to believe that his or her care is authentic and honest. It requires a great act of faith to accept the love that is offered to us and to live, not with suspicion and distrust, but with the inner conviction that we are worth being loved.
This is the great adventure of the monk: to really believe that God loves you, to really give yourself to God in trust, even while you are aware of your sinfulness, weaknesses, and miseries.
I suddenly saw much better than before that one of the greatest temptations of a monk is to doubt God’s love. Those who enter a contemplative monastery with the intention of staying for life must be very much aware of their own brokenness and need for redemption. If the monastic life should lead them to a morbid introspection of their own sinfulness, it would lead them away from God for whom they came to the monastery. Therefore, the growing realisation of one’s sins and weaknesses must open the contemplative to a growing awareness of God’s love and care.” (“The Genesee Diary”, Oct 27 1974)
Henri Nouwen’s in his book “The Road to Peace,” said in his interview with Arthur Boers: “In all those earlier years of my career, I had tried hard to prove to myself and the world that I’m OK. But now God was saying, ‘I love you even when none of that takes place.’ I didn’t know how to believe that God loves me with a first love.
God wants my heart to be totally given to the first love, so that I will really trust God and give everything away. I’m still not able to do that. I say, ‘Leave your father, leave your mother, leave your brother, leave your sister, leave your possessions, leave your success. Don’t cling to friends. Trust that God will give all you need.” But do I really believe it? Jesus said, “Are you able to drink the cup? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism I’m baptized with?’ I say I can---sometimes. But when I realize what it means, I start balking.
I’m still in the middle of a journey. It’s not like I have figured it all out and now everything is wonderful. In fact, coming to L’Arche has opened up so much I’m just beginning to discover. There’s so much more to go through. I have an incredible feeling that I’m called to be here (L’Arche), but it’s also the hardest place for me to be.” (157)
10. In what ways are we to love God?
Jesus says: “The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’”(Mark 12:30-31 TEV) The first and second commandments are like two sides on the same coin for it to be of any value. Again, Jesus Christ says, "My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you" (John 15:12 TEV). “If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are My disciples.”(John 13:35 TEV) St John tells us that God wants us to "love one another, because love comes from God"(1 John 4:7 TEV). "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love"(1 John 4:8 TEV).
in her book, ”A Gift for God” edited by Malcolm Muggeridge, said: “’Thou
shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul; and with
thy whole mind.’ This is the commandment of the great God, and He cannot
command the impossible. Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within
reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set. Everyone can
reach this love through meditation, spirit of prayer, and sacrifice, by an
intense inner life.” (81)
Henri Nouwen explained: “Over the years we have developed the idea that being present to people in all their needs is our greatest and primary vocation. The Bible does not seem to support this. Jesus’ primary concern was to be obedient to His Father, to live constantly in His presence. Only then did it become clear to Him what His task was in His relationships with people. This also is the way He proposes for His apostles: “It is to the glory of My Father that you should bear much fruit and then you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8) Perhaps we must continually remind ourselves that the first commandment requiring us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind is indeed the first. I wonder if we really believe this. It seems that in fact we live as if we should give as much of our heart, soul, and mind as possible to our fellow human beings, while trying hard not to forget God. At least we feel that our attention should be divided evenly between God and our neighbor. But Jesus’ claim is much more radical. He asks for a single-minded commitment to God and God alone. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. It is this unconditional and unreserved love for God that leads to the care for our neighbor, not as an activity which distracts us from God or competes with our attention to God, but as an expression of our love for God who reveals Himself to us as the God of all people. It is in God that we find our neighbors and discover our responsibility to them. We might even say that only in God does our neighbor become a neighbor rather than an infringement upon our autonomy, and that only in and through God service become possible.
At first this may appear to contradict the widely shared perspective which maintains that we come to know God only through relationships with our neighbors, and that service to the neighbor is also service to God (Matthew 25:34-40). This viewpoint is firmly rooted in our personal experience and so has an immediacy which is convincing. And it is indeed true that God may meet us in the neighbor. But it is crucial for our ministry that we not confuse our relationship with God with our relationships with our neighbors. It is because God first loved us that we can love our neighbors rather than demand things of them. The first commandment receives concreteness and specificity through the second; the second commandment becomes possible through the first. The first and second commandments should never be separated or made mutually exclusive, neither should they be confused or substituted one for the other. That is why the second commandment is equal to the first, and that is why all ministry is based on our personal and communal relationship with God. This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his books, The Communion of Saints and The Cost of Discipleship. It is also the core idea of Thomas Merton’s writings, and it was the intuition of all the great Christian leaders, who considered a growing intimacy with Christ the source of all their actions.
And so, to be living reminders of God we must be concerned first of all with our own intimacy with God. Once we have heard, seen, watched, and touched the Word who is life, we cannot do other than be living reminders. Once our lives are connected with His, we will speak about Him, sing His praise, and proclaim His great deeds, not out of obligation but as a free, spontaneous response. In order for this response to be lasting and oriented to the felt needs of those to whom we minister, we need discipline, formation, and training. But these can do little more than offer channels for the lived experience of God.” (The Living Reminder, 30-33)
11. How do we love God first?
Jesus tells us, first thing first, that God wants us to love Him first with all our strength, all our mind, our heart and our soul. How do we do that? To love a person we need to know the person and to spend time with that person. So, the first thing we have to do is to fix specific time in silence with God at least once a day to listen to Him. When we spend time with God and listen to God in silence and pray to Him, He will reward us. Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6 NKJV)
Mother Teresa has distilled and systemized her experiences in life into a Simple Way for us to follow:
THE SIMPLE PATH
The fruit of silence is PRAYER
The fruit of prayer is FAITH
The fruit of faith is LOVE
The fruit of love is SERVICE
The fruit of service is PEACE (JOY)
(A Simple Path, xxxvii)
Mother Teresa said in her book “In My Own Words” the following:
“I am asked what is one to do to be sure that one is following the way of salvation. I answer: ‘Love God. And, above all, pray.’(11)
“My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love Him.”(8)
Henri Nouwen said: “Why should I spend an hour in prayer when I do nothing during that time but think about people I am angry with, people who are angry with me, books I should read and books I should write, and thousand of other silly things that happen to grab my mind for a moment?
The answer is: because God is greater than my mind and my heart, and what it really happening in the house of prayer is not measurable in terms of human success and failure.
What I must do first of all is be faithful. If I believe that the first commandment is to love God with my whole heart, mind, and soul, then I should at least be able to spend one hour a day with nobody else but God. The question as to whether it is helpful, useful, practical, or fruitful is completely irrelevant, since the only reason to love is love itself. Everything else is secondary.
The remarkable thing, however, is that sitting in the presence of God for one hour each morning---day after day, week after week, month after month---in total confusion and with myriad distractions radically changes my life. God, who loves me so much that He sent His only Son not to condemn me but to save me, does not leave me waiting in the dark too long. I might think that each hour is useless, but after thirty or sixty such useless hours, I gradually realise that I was not as alone as I thought; a very small, gentle voice has been speaking to me far beyond my noisy place.
So: Be confident and trust in the Lord.” (The Road to Daybreak, 317)
12. How do we love God, whom we cannot see?
St John said, "if we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen."(1 John 4:20 TEV)
Mother Teresa tells us how we can love God whom we have not seen:
“Where is God? We believe He is everywhere---He is the creator, He is everything. But where is He to my human eyes? To make it possible for me to see the face of God with my human eyes, He has made Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the lonely one and He says: ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of My brethren you do it to Me.’ Gandhiji has said: ‘He who serves the poor serves God.’” ("The Joy in Loving," 7 September)
“Once more, today and yesterday, Jesus comes to His own and His own refuse to welcome Him (John 1:11).
He comes in the broken bodies of the poor.
He also comes in the rich who are drowning in the loneliness of their own riches. He also comes in their lonely hearts, when there is no one to offer them love.” (“In My Own Words,” 37)
“Because we cannot see Christ we cannot express our love to Him; but our neighbors we can always see, and we can each do for them what if we saw Him, we would like to do for Christ.” (A Gift for God, 36)
“Today, the same Christ is in people who are unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked, and homeless. They seem useless to the states and to society; nobody has time for them. It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them, and help them; they are there for the finding. (A Gift for God, 36)
“Christ made Himself the Bread of Life. He wanted to give Himself to us in a very special way---in a simple, tangible way---because it is hard for human beings to love God whom they cannot see. He made Himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our love for God, our hunger for God. We have been created for greater things. We have been created in God’s image and likeness. We have been created to love and to be loved.
Jesus put a condition on His self-giving: ‘If you do not eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will have no life in you. You will be unable to love or to give.’ The condition is very simple and clear, even a child is able to eat bread. Bread is the simplest food for people everywhere, and it is usually the cheapest. Well, then, Christ became the Bread of Life.
But it seems that this act of self-giving wasn’t enough for Him. He wanted to give something more. He wanted to pass on to us the opportunity to give of ourselves to Him, so we could turn our love for Him into living deeds after eating the Bread of Life. To accomplish that, He became the hungry one, the naked one, stripped of all earthly goods and comforts. Christ says: ‘For I was hungry and you gave Me to eat. I was homeless and you offered Me shelter. I was illiterate and you taught Me to read. I was alone and you kept Me company. You gave Me your understanding and your love.’
Christ made this kind of total self-giving a condition for life. He will judge us at the hour of our death. We will be judged by what we have done, by what we have been, to the poor. He says to us: “I was hungry and you did not feed Me. I hungered for bread, for justice, and for human dignity; yet you passed Me by! I was naked and stripped of every necessity, denied justice and even the simple recognition that I am just like you, created by the same loving God to love and to be loved. But I was left for dead, alone and dejected. I was thrown out into the streets, unwanted, unloved, and ignored.
The lepers, the blind, the invalid, and the handicapped are asking if you notice them, if you recognise them in your midst. This is the reason why I am speaking to you. You need to become aware of these people and their needs. Do you know them?” (One Heart Full of Love, 2-3)
“Who are the poorest of the poor? They are the unwanted, the unloved, the ignored, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the leper, and the alcoholic in our midst.
To live out such a calling every Missionary of Charity must have a life focused on the Eucharist. We see Christ in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread, while we see Him in the poor under the distressing disguise of poverty. The Eucharist and the poor are nothing more than the same love of God. To be able to see and love Jesus in the poor, we must be one with Christ through a life of deep prayer. That is why the sisters start their day with Mass and meditation. And they finish it with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Communion with Christ gives us our strength, our joy, and our love.” (“One Heart Full of Love,”26-27)
“We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve the poor because they are Jesus.” (“In My Own Words,” 30)
Henri Nouwen writes: “Where is Jesus today? Jesus is where those who believe in Him and express that belief in baptism and the Eucharist become one body. As long as we think about the body of believers as a group of people who share a common faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus remains an inspirational historical figure. But when we realize that the body of Jesus fashions in the Eucharist is His body, we can start to see what real presence is. Jesus, who is present in the gifts of His Body and Blood, becomes present in the body of believers that is formed by these gifts. We who receive the Body of Christ become the living Christ.” (“Bread for the Journey,” Oct 14)
“Jesus is the Word of God, who came from heaven, was born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, and became a human being. This happened in a specific place at a specific time. But each day when we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus comes down from heaven, takes bread and wine, and by the power of the Holy Spirit becomes our food and drink. Indeed, through the Eucharist, God’s incarnation continues to happen at any time and at any place.
Sometimes we might think, ‘I wish I had been there with Jesus and His apostles long ago!’ But Jesus is closer to us now than He was to His friends. Today He is our daily bread!” (“Bread for the Journey,” Oct 4)
13. What happens when we actually love God?
Before we can
love God, we have to know His Word, His teaching, His commands. We have to know
the Scriptures. We cannot love Jesus if we do not obey His commandments as Jesus
says, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.”(John 14:15 TEV) and “If
you obey My commands you will remain in My love.” (John 15:10 TEV) and “My
commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you”(John 15:12 TEV).
Again Jesus says, “Whoever loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love
him, and My Father and I will come to him and live with him.”(John 14:23 TEV) We
need always to remember that if we do not obey His teachings, we don’t love Him,
as Jesus says, “He who does not love Me does not keep My Words.” (John 14:24
St Paul tells us of the salvation God has prepared for those who love Him “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love Him.”(1 Corinthians 2:9 TEV) When we love God, God works for our good as St Paul says “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love Him” (Romans 8:28 TEV). When we love God, God will also give us freely all things as St Paul says, “He gave us His Son---will He not also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 TEV) But what are the things God freely gives us? Obviously they are not the material things but the spiritual things like giving us the Holy Spirit, which “produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control”(Galatians 5:22 TEV) and giving us the means to live life “more abundantly”(John 10:10 NKJV) and “fill us with all joy”(Romans 15:13 TEV) and giving us “God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding” (Philippians 4:7 TEV). Ultimately, He is our Rock and Refuge for “If God is for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31 TEV)
Mother Teresa said on obedience: “Poverty and obedience are very closely united. These complete each other. One cannot be without the other. That is why scripture says, ‘He, being rich, became poor.’ Also, ‘Behold, I come to do Thy will, Oh God.’ ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.’ I don’t think Jesus would have been able to live His life if He had not accepted this. He had to become poor and to obey His Father fully. He became both materially and spiritually poor. If we are proud and uncharitable, rather than empty, then we cannot really obey.
Obedience is more difficult than poverty. Our will is the only thing we can claim. In poverty nothing is ours. In obedience I have my will, the only thing God will not take by force. The more you love God the more you will obey.” (“Total Surrender,” 75)
Henri Nouwen said about spiritual reading: “Reading often means gathering information, acquiring new insight and knowledge, and mastering a new field. It can lead to degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Spiritual reading, however, is different. It means not simply reading about spiritual things but also reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words. As long as we read the Bible or a spiritual book simply to acquire knowledge, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people.
As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God’s voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying through its words” (“Bread for the Journey,” April 15)
14. How do we put our love for God into practice?
One of the practical ways to show our love for God is to love our family members first.
In her book “One Heart full of Love,” Mother Teresa said, “In your family, if it is your vocation to have a family, love one another as husband and wife and have a family. The service you perform and the work you accomplish are your love for God put into practice.”(43) “The work that each one of you carries out on your families for those you love is an expression of your love for God. Love starts at home. For your love to be real, it cannot waver at home.” (91) Mother Teresa asked, “Who are the poorest of the poor? They are the unwanted, the unloved, the ignored, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the leper, and the alcoholic in our midst.”(26) And “In your homes you have a starving Christ, a naked Christ, a homeless Christ. Are you capable of recognizing Him in your own homes? Do you realize that He is right there in your midst?” (21) She further asked, “Does each of you, before anything else, know the poor in your homes? Are you aware that in your own family, in your own living situation, there may be someone who is very lonely, who feels unloved or hurt? Are you aware of this? Maybe that lonely or hurt one is your own husband, your wife or your child, who is lonely at home, in the same home where you live. Are you aware of that?”(4)
Mother Teresa suggested that poverty comes into our homes to give us a chance to love, “Jesus became the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the forsaken, and the unwanted in our midst. And He says, ‘And you did it unto Me.’ They are hungry for our love. That is the hunger of our poor. That is the hunger that you and I must meet, because it may even exist in our own homes.
See, here is where love finds its place. Poverty comes into our homes to give us the chance to love. Perhaps in our own families, there is someone who feels lonely, who is sick, or who is overwhelmed with worry. Are we there, open and willing to offer support and affection? Are you, mothers, available to your children?” (79)
“ What you and I must do is nothing less than putting our love for Christ into practice. The important thing is not how much we accomplish, but how much love we put into our deeds every day. That is the measure of our love for God.”(26)
15. How do we learn to love ourselves?
We should learn to love all of our life: the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, the blessings and the sorrows, the easy times and the hard times, the successes and the failures, the holy and the not-so-holy. Why all? Why not only the good experiences? It is because all these experiences bring us to where we are, here and now. And, if we believe in Christ, then we have to trust that He has led us to this moment. He orchestrates and guides our life.
Henri Nouwen said: “We tend, however, to divide our past into good things to remember with gratitude and painful things to accept or forget. This way of thinking, which at first glance seems quite natural, prevents us from allowing our whole past to be the source from which we live our future. It locks us into a self-involved focus on our gain or comfort. It becomes a way to categorise, and in a way, control. Such an outlook becomes another attempt to avoid facing our suffering. Once we accept this division, we develop a mentality in which we hope to collect more good memories than bad memories, more things to be glad about than things to be resentful about, more things to celebrate than to complain about.
Gratitude in its deepest sense means to live life as a gift to be received thankfully. And true gratitude embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and the not-so-holy. We do this because we become aware of God’s life, God’s presence in the middle of all that happens.
Is it possible in a society where joy and sorrow remain radically separated? Where comfort is something we not only expect, but are told to demand? Advertisements tell us that we cannot experience joy in the midst of sadness. ‘Buy this,’ they say, ‘do that, go there, and you will have a moment of happiness during which you will forget your sorrow.’ But is it not possible to embrace with gratitude all of our life and not just the good things we like to remember?
If mourning and dancing are part of the same movement of grace, we can be grateful for every moment we have lived. We can claim our unique journey as God’s way to mould our hearts to greater conformity to Christ. The cross, the primary symbol of our faith, invites us to see grace where there is pain; to see resurrection where there is death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads to new life. When Jesus spoke to His disciples before His death and offered them His body and blood as gifts of life, He shared with them everything He had lived---His joy as well as His pain, His suffering as well as His glory---and enabled them to move into their own mission in deep gratitude. Day by day we find new reasons to believe that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Of course, it is easy for me to push the bad memories under the rug of my consciousness and think only about the good things that please me. It seems to be the way to fulfilment. By doing so, however, I keep myself from discovering the joy beneath the sorrow, the meaning to be coaxed out of even painful memories. I miss finding the strength that becomes visible in my weakness, the grace God told Paul would be ‘sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Gratitude helps us in this dance only if we cultivate it. For gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. Living gratefully requires practice. It takes sustained effort to reclaim my whole past as the concrete way God has led me to this moment. For in doing so I must face not only today’s hurts, but the past’s experiences of rejection or abandonment or failure or fear. While Jesus told His followers that they were intimately related to Him as branches are to a vine, they still needed to be pruned to bear more fruit (John 15:1-5). Pruning means cutting, reshaping, removing what diminishes vitality. When we look at a pruned vineyard, we can hardly believe it will bear fruit. But when harvest comes, we realise that the pruning allowed the vines to concentrate their energy and produce more grapes.
Grateful people learn to celebrate even amid life’s hard and harrowing memories because they know that pruning is no mere punishment, but preparation. When our gratitude for the past is only partial, our hope for the future can likewise never be full. But our submitting to God’s pruning work will not ultimately leave us sad, but hopeful for what can happen in us and through us. Harvest time will bring its own blessings.
I am gradually learning that the call to gratitude asks us to say, ‘Everything is grace.’ As long as we remain resentful about things we wish had not happened, about relationships that we wish had turned out differently, mistakes we wish we had not made, part of our heart remains isolated, unable to bear fruit in the new life ahead of us. It is a way we hold part of ourselves apart from God.
Instead, we can learn to see our remembered experience of our past as an opportunity for ongoing conversion of the heart. We let what we remember remind us of whose we are---not our own, but God’s. If we are to be truly ready for a new life in the service of God, truly joyful at the prospect of God’s unfolding vocation for our lives, truly free to be sent wherever God guides, our entire past, gathered into the spaciousness of a converted heart, must become the source of energy that moves us onward.” (“Turn My Mourning into Dancing,” 17-20)
16. How does God want us to show love in practical ways?
In practical terms, it means that God wants us to learn to be tender hearted, to have a kind heart, a patient heart and be compassionate, smiles more, thoughtful and selfless. As St John says, ”If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.”(1 John 3:17-18 TEV) We must not give in easily to anger and temper. We must be humble and considerate. God does not want us to harden our hearts towards others. He does not wish us to have a stony heart, a hard heart, which wants to control others by temper and intimidation. For love cannot flow in such a marble heart. In fact Jesus says "if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother 'You good-for-nothing!’ you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother ‘a worthless fool’ you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell."(Matthew 5:22 TEV) He does not want us to hurt others and to use harmful words to wound others. ”Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”(Ephesians 4:29 TEV) He does not want us to be arrogant and selfish, which is the mother of all evils. He wants us to deny ourselves, to die unto self and to forgive readily. As Jesus commands us "Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek also"(Mathew 5:39 TEV). The message and the commandments are for us to learn to love by self-giving and not grasping for number one.
Before I have the ability to do the above I have to ask myself, “Do I truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” Many of us are like doubting Thomas, who said, “Unless I can see the scars of the nails in His hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand on His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25 TEV) But, if we do believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then, we “will share in the glory of God” (Colossians 1:28 TEV). And when we believe in Jesus, we share in the glory of His resurrection. And our glory is, therefore, our resurrection with Jesus Christ. So, every time we forgive instead of being resentful or revengeful because of injuries done to us, we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we renew our hope instead of giving in to despair in our hardship, we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we repent and say sorry instead of standing on our pride when we do wrong, we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we are gentle and slow to anger instead of flying into temper explosion when we quarrel, we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we care and be present to our suffering poor instead of avoiding or ignoring them, we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we are thoughtful instead of looking out only after number one (ourselves), we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we are obedient to Christ’s teachings instead of giving in to our willfulness when we have to make a tough decision, we are resurrected with Jesus. Every time we love more and hate less in our daily contact with one another, we are resurrected with Jesus. When we believe in Jesus, Jesus helps us to be better and more loving people.
Mother Teresa said: “There are little things that inevitably happens in our lives and in our homes. Misunderstandings and suffering come to everyone, even in our own congregation. Someone said to me one day, ‘You never talk to us about problems.’ I said that I didn’t need to talk about such things precisely because everyone knows that there are always problems. What I do have to say again and again is that sometimes it seems we aren’t aware of them when we should be. We don’t recognise that a problem exists. This is something that often happens. Let’s focus more on the things we ought to do in serving our husband, our wife, our children, our brothers---rather than on other people’s shortcomings.
I feel that we too often focus only on the negative aspect of life, on what is bad. If we are more willing to see the good and the beautiful things that surround us, we would be able to transform our families. From there, we would change our next-door neighbours and then others who live in our neighbourhood or city. We would be able to bring peace and love to our world which hungers so much for these things.
I have another conviction that I want to share with you. Love begins at home, and every co-worker should try to make sure that deep family love abides in his or her home. Only when love abides at home can we share it with our next-door neighbour. Then it will show forth and you will be able to say to them, ‘Yes, love is here.’ And then you will be able to share it with everyone around you.” (“One Heart Full of Love,” 55-57)
17. Can we learn to love others?
Christ knows that He has a very tough commandment (love God and love others) for us to obey and He promises us that if we ask Him, He will give us the means to learn to love. We have but to only call on Him whenever we are facing difficulty to obey His commandment. "Ask and you will receive...For everyone who asks will receive."(Matthew 7:7-8 TEV) But we need to abide in Christ and to obey His Words to get what we asked, as Jesus says “If you remain in Me and My Words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you want, and you shall have it.”(John 15:7 TEV) If we obey His commands and do what pleases Him, "we (will) receive from Him whatever we ask"(1 John 3:22 TEV). “As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him”(Matthew 7:11 TEV). Jesus promised, “When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.”(Mark 11:24 TEV) As Christians, we are to "ask God to bless those who persecute us--yes, ask Him to bless, not curse." (Romans 12:14 TEV) We are also asked to fill our minds with virtuous thoughts, in order that we "do not let evil defeat us; instead, conquer evil with good"(Romans 12:21) and as St Paul tells us “whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV) The Christian life is one of faith, hope and love.
Mother Teresa prayed: “Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto You. Though You hide Yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize You, and say: ‘Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve You.’” (A Gift for God, 87)
18. When we love others, do we criticize or speak ill or quarrel with them?
It is vitally
important that we do not criticize or speak ill of other Christians as St James
says “Do not criticize one another, my friends. If you criticize or judge
another Christian, you criticize and judge the Law. If you judge the Law, then
you are no longer one who obeys the Law, but one who judges it. God is the only
lawgiver and judge, He alone can save and destroy. Who do you think you are, to
judge someone else?” (James 4:11-12 TEV) And St Paul asked us to be tolerant,
patient and forgiving whenever we quarrel with others “Be tolerant with one
another and forgive one another whenever any of you have a complaint against
someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.”
(Colossians 3:13 TEV) Jesus advises us to settle our faults privately “If your
brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately,
just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother
back.”(Matthew 18:15 TEV) Should we ever point out the faults of anyone, we are
to do so gently to him “My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of
wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right, but you must do
it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be
tempted too. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the
law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2 TEV) We are not to complain against others “Do
not complain against one another, my friends, so that God will not judge you.”
(James 5:9 TEV) But we are asked to pray for one another as the prayer of a good
man has a powerful effect “So then confess your sins to one another and pray for
one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a
powerful effect.” (James 5:16 TEV)
Henri Nouwen said: “To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our minds about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we only create more division. Jesus says it clearly, ‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge. . . do not condemn . . .forgive.’(Luke 6:36-37 NJB)
In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.” (Bread for the Journey, Dec 27)
19. When we love others, do we judge them?
We are not to judge others on hearsay or one-sided views as St Paul advises, “Let us stop judging one another. Instead you should decide never to do anything that would make others stumble or fall into sin.”(Romans 14:13 TEV) And Jesus says “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and He will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?”(Matthew 7:1-2 TEV) People often use this quotation to stop others from passing judgment on their wicked deed. But, there is an equally pertinent saying by Jesus that we are to judge rightly by God’s standard “Stop judging by external standards, and judge by true standards.” (John 7:24 TEV) Jesus also questioned His disciples as to why they do not use their judgment to judge what is the right thing to do for themselves “Why do you not judge for yourselves the right thing to do?”(Luke 12:57 TEV) We must be constantly alert to exercise our judgment at all times so that we do not fall into sins by a temporary lapse in our judgment. We are asked to use our judgment not to associate with Christian brothers who do wicked deeds. As St Paul has clearly stated “What I meant was that you should not associate with a person who calls himself a believer but is immoral or greedy or worships idols or is a slanderer or a drunkard or a thief. Don’t even sit down to eat with such a person.”(1 Corinthians 5:11 TEV) We should be discerning to “Watch out for those who cause divisions and upset people’s faith and go against the teaching you have received. Keep away from them! For those who do such things are not serving Christ our Lord, but their own appetites. By their fine words and flattering speech they deceive innocent people.”(Romans 16:17-18 TEV) But, as for non-Christian, St Paul said that we are to leave it to God to judge them “After all, it is none of my business to judge outsiders. God will judge them. But should you not judge the members of your own fellowship? As the scripture says ’Remove the evil person from your group.’”(1 Corinthians 5:12-13 TEV) As for the time to pass final judgment on ourselves and others, we are to wait until the Lord comes. As St Paul advised “Now, I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass judgement on myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I am really innocent. The Lord is the One who passes judgement on me. So you should not pass judgement on anyone before the right time comes. Final judgement must wait until the Lord comes; He will bring to light the dark secrets and expose the hidden purpose of people’s minds. And then all will receive from God the praise they deserve.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5 TEV)
Mother Teresa said: “Who are we to accuse anybody? It is possible that we see them do something we think is not right, but we do not know why they are doing it.
Jesus encouraged us not to judge anyone.
Maybe we are the ones responsible for others doing things we think are not right.
Let us not forget that we are dealing with our brothers and sisters. That leper, that sick person, that drunk, are all our brothers and sisters. They, too, have been created by a greater love.
This is something we should never forget.
That sick person, that alcoholic, that thief, are my brothers and sisters.
It is possible that they find themselves abandoned in the street because no one gave them love and understanding. You and I could be in their place if we had not received love and understanding from other human beings.
I will never forget the alcoholic man who told me his story. He was a man who had surrendered to alcohol to forget the fact that no one loved him.
Before we judge the poor, we have the duty to look inside ourselves.” (“In My Own Words,” 55)
20. Can we learn to love our enemies?
How can we love them? We can’t love them in the sense of feeling good about them but we can control our behaviour towards them. We can "if someone has done us wrong, do not repay him with a wrong.” (Romans 12:17 TEV) We are asked to “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it.” (Romans 12:18-19 TEV) Again St Paul says "if you love others, you will never do them wrong"(Romans 13:10 TEV). We can decide to be kind, patient, compassionate, not rude, envious, boastful or arrogant towards them. We can will ourselves to treat them kindly and not rudely. As the Scripture says “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.”(Matthew 9:13 TEV) It is within our control and our will to wish them well. This is an act of our will, not our feeling. This is what St Paul meant by love--AGAPE. It is also the kind of love Jesus demanded of us for our enemies. "You have heard that it was said, 'love your friends, hate your enemies'. But now I tell you; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven...You must be perfect--just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48 TEV) As the Scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.”(Romans 12:20 TEV)
21. Can we learn to love the people closest to us?
Since God is love "whoever does not love
does not know God"(1 John 4:8 TEV). All good things come out of love and God
wants us to learn how to love others. But first, we must also learn how to love
the people who are constantly in front of us and closest to us (ie our families
and relatives). As St Paul says “But if any do not take care of their relatives,
especially the members of their own family, they have denied the faith and are
worse than an unbeliever.”(1 Timothy 5:8 TEV) We cannot claim that we love
others, who are not daily in contact with us, if we have not learnt to love our
families and relatives. It goes without doubt, that if we do not first love our
family members, then we are hypocrites, if we say we love others. But, have we
been able to meet all the friction and irritation of daily living with patience,
gentleness, temperance and tender heartedness towards our families and
relatives? If not, what we have to do is ask Jesus for help. As Jesus says “If
you ask Me for anything in My Name, I will do it.”(John 14:14 TEV) “As bad as
you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then,
will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”(Luke 11:13
TEV) and St Paul added “the (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22
NKJV) So, when we are faced with petty, annoying, tormenting and peevish
problems, we are to immediately pray and ask God for the help of
His Holy Spirit. For it is the Holy Spirit alone that will give us the attitude
of Christ. And Christ alone will make it possible for us to react to
aggravations, annoyances and bugging with calmness, patience, gentleness and
peace. St James tells us that when we pray, we are not to doubt at all “But when
you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave
in the sea that is driven and blown about in the wind. If you are like that,
unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that
you will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-8 TEV) Ultimately, our
ability to be Christ-like will be in direct proportion to the depth of our faith
Mother Teresa said: "It is easy to smile at people outside your own home. It is so easy to take care of the people that you don't know well. It is difficult to be thoughtful and kind and to smile and be loving to your own in the house day after day, especially when we are tired and in a bad temper or bad mood. We all have these moments and that is the time that Christ comes to us in distressing disguise." ("The Joy in Loving," 65)
22. How do spouses show that they love each other?
The Bible’s view of marriage is one of complete faithfulness for life. We enter into a monogamous marriage or we practice celibacy. When asked "Jesus answered, 'Haven't you read the scripture that says that in the beginning the Creator made male and female? And God said 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one. No human being must separate, then, what God has joined together."(Mathew 19:4-6 TEV) Jesus was very clear that there must be no divorce except for the spouse's unfaithfulness. Jesus says "I tell you, then, that any man who divorce his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, commits adultery if he marries some other woman."(Mathew 19:9 TEV) Jesus also says "if a man divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again, and the man who marries her commits adultery also."(Mathew 5:32 TEV) The spouses must be totally loyal to each other, so that they can trust each other completely. In this way, no one, not even the in-laws, can drive a wedge or cause trouble between them. As Jesus has made known that "For this cause (marriage) shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife" (Mark 10:7 TEV). Since the spouses have made their commitment in front of God and to the community in the Church, it is vital that they renew their love for each other constantly. The spouses become one through the sacrament of marriage, accepting, loving and respecting each other and being kind and tender hearted towards each other. They must learn to treat each other as equal partners. They must be loyal to each other no matter what the cost. They must always believe in their spouse, always expect the best of their spouse and always stand their ground in defending their spouse. They should constantly ask God to be their guide and bonding partner. The spouses should not try to control and dominate but give each other priority over themselves. They should learn to give in to each other and not harden their hearts whenever they quarrel. They need to pray to rise above their resentment and anger and be the first to say sorry, even if they feel they are right, because they want the relationship to succeed and grow. They will only be able to say sorry if they ask God for help and trust completely that God will help them. As Jesus says "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Matthew 21:22 TEV). The spouses will find that they will often fail to be the first to say “sorry” due to their pride, but they need to repent and pray again and again for God's help. As Jesus has promised “When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.” (Mark 11:24 TEV). Spouses have to learn to pray to be more Christ like in their love in order that they can achieve true and unconditional love for each other.
Mother Teresa said: “Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else.” (One heart full of love, 113)
“We know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive. Forgive and ask to be forgiven, excuse rather than accuse. Reconciliation begins first, not with others but ourselves. It starts with having a clean heart within. A clean heart is able to see God in others. We must radiate God’s love.” ("The Joy in Loving," 4 March)
23. In our daily living, how do we put into practice our love for our spouse?
How do we show our love such that our
spouse sense our love, hear our love and see our love? A body without a soul is
dead. Similarly, love without action is useless. Without action it is just lip
service. It is insincere. It is empty words without that comforting sense of
care and concern. It doesn’t give that warm feeling of joy and contentment. But
action means working at our love. And working takes effort and put us
out of our comfort zones. It means going the extra mile for our loved one.
It is a joy to work on when it is a labour of love.
What will love cause us to do? The Bible has pointed out to us to the many aspects that we are required to work on to attain that oneness and companionship that we enter into when we marry. Ideally, for love to be genuine, some of the things we have to do are:
· Work---Jesus loves us and He works, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me...”(John 9:4 NKJV). God loves us and St Paul said, “God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished...”(Phil. 1:6 NKJV) When we court our mate, we work to look our best, we work at being on time, we work to be at our best behaviour, we work to please our mate, we take effort and time to select and give gifts that please, etc. Both the couple must constantly work at their marriage, meaning work at love and make it into a labour of love.
· Initiate giving---What would be the result of us initiating our love towards our spouse? The Bible tells us, ”we love Him because He first love us.”(1 John 4:19 NKJV) We must take the initiative and not forget the Golden Rule, “Do for others what you want them to do for you.”(Mt 7:12 NKJV) What the passages teach us is that if we want love, we have to initiate giving love to our spouse first.
· Give sacrificially---At the root of all marital conflict is the struggle of who do I love more--myself or my spouse? And Jesus acknowledged that we all love ourselves very well. He commanded us to “Love your neighbour as you love yourselves.”(Mt 22:39 NKJV) Our spouse is our closest neighbour. St Paul tells us, ”Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself.(None of us ever hate our bodies. Instead, we feed them, and take care of them..”(Ephesians 5:28-29 NKJV) Are we willing to sacrifice self-love by loving our spouse much more than ourselves?
· Put our spouses first---When we take action or make a decision, we are to consider our spouses first. St Paul explains this priority when he said that we are to “first learn to show piety at home”(1 Timothy 5:4 NKJV). Piety here means respect or godliness. So our first priority must be to show respect and godliness to the people in our homes. We must also “look out for one another’s interest, not just for your own.”(Phil. 2:4 NKJV)
· Communicate---We communicate our love by our words, our deeds and our attitude. Jesus communicate His love for His disciples, ”I love you just as the Father loves Me”(John 15:9). “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them.”(John 15:12-13 TEV) Jesus also communicates how He wanted to be loved in return, ”If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.”(John 14:15 TEV) Similarly all marriages need constant communication to grow. Every friendship that last communicates how it desires to be loved. How our friends respond to our requests will determine how the friendship will progress---better, strained or possibly end.
· Stop keeping scores---The Bible teaches that, “love does not keep a record of wrongs”(1 Corinthians 13:5 TEV). We must learn to fully and completely forgive our spouses for the wrongs they have done us. Forgiveness is fundamental to a growing relationship. Jesus reminded us “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.”(Matthew 6:15 TEV) And when God forgives He promises “I will forgive their sins and will no longer remember their wrongs.”(Hebrew 8:12 TEV)
· Restrain certain actions---Has our spouse asked us not to use foul language? To restrain our sarcastic criticism? To stop our angry outbursts? Every time we fail to restrain ourselves, our spouse begin to question our love. Jesus told His disciples, ”If you love Me, keep My commandments.”(John 14:15 TEV) How many times have our spouses give their “commandments” over certain things? God restrains Himself because of His great love, “For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off.”(Isaiah 48:9 TEV)
· Trust---Trust is the most fundamental ingredient to any lasting relationship. Before we can trust each other we must be trustworthy ourselves. Faithfulness is vital for any married relationship. St Paul declared that love “believes all things,” revealing the necessity of trust in any loving relationship.(1 Corinthians 13:7 NKJV)
· Always seek reconciliation and compromise---Jesus seeks reconciliation with the whole world because He loves us and, ”He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins.”(2 Peter 3:9 TEV) God devised a compromise to judgment by giving His Son in our place, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.”(John 3:16 TEV) Love will always seek to find a solution to every conflict in marriage and be prepared to make compromises.
· Commit ourselves totally---This is the enduring and long-suffering quality of love that works and fights to strengthen a relationship. St Paul described this quality when he said, “Love suffers long. . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails”(1 Corinthians 13:4,7,8 NKJV) Do we possess this kind of commitment? This kind of patience and commitment is essential if we are to find solution to inevitable conflicts of personality differences in a marriage. Both parties must have the willingness to stay the course and not give up too easily.
Mother Teresa said: "I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other, there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world." ("The Joy in Loving," 201)
“Bring love into your homes. If you truly love God, start loving your son or your daughter and your spouse. And the elderly, where are they? In nursing homes! Why are they not with you? And where is the retarded child? In an institution! Why is he not with you? That child, young mothers and fathers, is a gift from God.” (“One Heart Full of Love,” 45)
24. Is there fear in love?
In love there can be no fear. For it is written "there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment"(1 John 4:18 TEV). We must try not to let fear bring us down or make us give up hope, since nothing in this world or the next world can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ. As St Paul says “For I am certain nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below--there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 TEV) Parents who use harsh punishment to discipline their children show imperfect love for them and spouses who use fear and nagging to try to dominate and control do not fully understand love.
Henri Nouwen said: “Jesus came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness and insecurity.
The greatest block in the spiritual life is fear. Prayer, meditation, and education cannot come forth out of fear. God is perfect love, and as John the Evangelist writes, “Perfect love drives out fear.”(1 John 4:18) Jesus’ central message is that God loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return. (“Bread for the Journey,” Feb 29)
25. How do Christians reflect that Christ's love is still alive today?
Unless we remain united with Christ we
cannot reflect Christ’s love, as Jesus says, “Remain united to Me, and I will
remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if
it remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain
in Me.”(John 15:4 TEV) Christians can reflect that Christ's love is still alive
today by being Christ like and praying to be able to give unconditional love to
their spouses and be a light to the world. As Jesus commanded "You are like
light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a
lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lamp-stand, where it
gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine
before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your
Father in heaven"(Mathew 5:14-16 TEV) (Mark 4:21) (Luke 11:21). It is not what
Christians say but what they are that enable them to become witnesses for Christ
to others. But, ultimately conversion rests with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy
Spirit that enables a person to accept Jesus as Lord, as St Paul declares: “No
one can confess ‘Jesus is Lord,’ without being guided by the Holy Spirit.”(1
Corinthians 12:3 TEV)
Mother Teresa said: “We should gather to give thanks to God for what He has done in us, with us, and through us. We thank Him for having used you and us to be His love and mercy. God is still love, and He still loves the world. We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And God so loves the world today that He gives you and me to love the world, so that we may be His love and His mercy. What a beautiful thought and conviction for us, that we can be that love and mercy right in our homes, above all. Then we can be that love and mercy for our next-door neighbours and for our neighbours down the street.
But do we know our neighbours? Do we know the poor in our neighbourhood? It’s easier for us to talk and talk about the poor in far away places. We are often surrounded by the sick and the abandoned. We are often among people who are despised, outcast, and depressed. We have many elderly whom we don’t even know. At times, we don’t even have the time to smile at these people.” (“One Heart Full of Love,” 90)
Christians, with love in our hearts, what are the old self we must consciously
get rid of and the new self we have to put on?
What are the old self we have to get rid of? St Paul tells us “But now you must get rid of all these things: anger, passion, and hateful feelings. No insults or obscene talk must come from your lips. Do not lie to one another, for you have put off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self.”(Colossians 3:8-10 TEV) St Paul is very clear that we are to “Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort”(Ephesians 4:31 TEV) and “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4.26 NKJV) He further elaborates thus: “You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry).” (Colossians 3:5 TEV) And to “Avoid immorality. Any other sin a man commits does not affect his body, but the man who is guilty of sexual immorality sins against his own body.”(1 Corinthians 6:18 TEV) With the old self “People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; they will be treacherous, reckless and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but rejects its real power. Keep away from such people.”(2 Timothy 3:2-5 TEV) In addition, St Paul says “What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions, in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21 TEV) It is important to get rid of old self with its habits, as “they do the things that they should not do. They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; they have no conscience, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or pity for others. They know that God’s law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but even approve of others who do them.”(Romans 1:28-32 TEV)
St Paul admonishes us to adopt right moral behaviour: “Let us conduct ourselves properly, as people who live in the light of day--no orgies or drunkenness, no immorality or indecency, no fighting or jealousy.”(Romans 13:13 TEV) We should “put aside all secret and shameful deeds; we do not act with deceit, nor do we falsify the word of God.”(2 Corinthians 4:2 TEV) There should be “No more lying”(Ephesians 4:25 TEV) and “Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you”(Ephesians 5:18 TEV). He advises us to be considerate and other-oriented: “Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just your own.” (Philippians 2:3-4 TEV)
We should have self-control over, not only our actions but also our tongues. No more harmful words should cross our lips “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”(Ephesians 4:29 TEV) Don’t utter vulgar or obscene words too. “Nor is it fitting for you to use language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar.”(Ephesians 5:4 TEV) And no more immoral talks, jokes or gossips “Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you...You may be sure that no one who is immoral, indecent, or greedy (for greed is a form of idolatry) will ever receive a share in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.”(Ephesians 5:3,5 TEV) St Paul warns us not to quarrel so we are to “Remind your people of this, and give them a solemn warning in God’s presence not to fight with words. It does no good, but only ruins the people who listen...Keep away from profane and foolish discussions, which only drive people further away from God. Such teaching is like an open sore that eats away the flesh.”(2 Timothy 2:14,16-17 TEV) He reiterates that we should “keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. And then they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will.”(2 Timothy 2:22-26 TEV)
What are the new self we should put on? St Paul encourages us to be more God centred and to imbibe correct moral and spiritual values: “You must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any one of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14 TEV) We should aim for good moral conduct and spiritual wisdom: “Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses.”(1 Timothy 6:11-12 TEV)
St Paul also reminds us not to provoke each other and to turn away from self-centered pride and jealousy: “We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another.”(Galatians 5:26 TEV) Instead of catering to our selfish ego, we should “Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another” (Ephesians 4:2 TEV) and “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.” (Ephesians 4:32 TEV)
We are to show respect to the elderly and treat others with moral propriety: “Do not rebuke an older man, but appeal to him as if he were your father. Treat the younger men as your brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, with all purity. Show respect for widows who really are all alone.”(1 Timothy 5:1-3 TEV)
St Paul cautions us about the love of money that can corrupt the soul: “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have.”(Hebrew 13:5 TEV) “For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10 TEV) No one can serve both God and money, as Jesus says “You cannot be a slave of two masters; you will hate one and love the other; you will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 TEV) Jesus advises us not to store our treasures on earth: “Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your hearts will always be where your riches are.” (Matthew 6:19-21 TEV)
St Paul urges us to “hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep His promise. Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another, to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.”(Hebrew 10:23-25 TEV) We are to be positive towards and supportive of other believers: “We urge you, our friends, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but at all times make it your aim to do good to one another and to all people. Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.”(1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 TEV)
We are to set an example for others: “Be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.”(1 Timothy 4:12 TEV) In speech “When we are insulted, we answer back with kind words.”(1 Corinthians 4:13 TEV) In what we do, we are to “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14 TEV) and to “Show a gentle attitude toward everyone.”(Philippians 4:5 TEV) But with our enemies, we are always to be brave, as St Paul advises “Don’t be afraid of your enemies; always be courageous” (Philippians 1:28 TEV).
St Paul encourages Christians to serve God by applying their individual talents. He tells us to share generously and to show kindness cheerfully to each other “So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach, if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully. Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. Ask God to bless those who persecute you--yes, ask Him to bless, not to curse. Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise. If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everyone. Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it. For the Scripture says, ’I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.’ Instead, as the Scripture says, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this, you will make them burn with shame.’ Do not let evil defeat you, instead, conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:6-23 TEV)
What are our new attitudes towards work? We must do our work with all our hearts, as St Paul says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.”(Colossians 3:23 TEV) Remember, “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 TEV) We are to “Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless.”(1 Corinthians 15:58 TEV) Always “Work hard and do not be lazy”(Romans 12:11 TEV) and “Do all your work in love.”(1 Corinthians 16:14 TEV)
Finally, we have to decide and choose whether to live according to the “old self” in sin or to live with the “new self” in love, with God’s help. However, St Paul recommends that we discard our “old self” which is selfish. This old self is ground for Satan to deceive and trap us into doing evil, destroying others and ourselves. Instead we are to put on the “new self” and learn to turn to God’s word and prayers to help us to be more God-centered and to imbibe correct moral values and upright conduct or behaviour. By sifting our thoughts, words and deeds through God, we learn spiritual wisdom. We are able then to walk with God, talk with God, listen to God’s instructions and lead a much happier live. Godly love and His “peace which surpasses all understanding” will be ours to possess and hold. As we replace our old self-centred selves with the new Christ-like self, Christ becomes our Good Shepherd and the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts to guide us to achieve closeness to God and build in us a more Christ-like character of strong faith, compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit.
27. Can it be just possible that if we have love in our hearts, we have the means to live life “more abundantly”?
If Jesus is in our hearts, does it mean that, “the
kingdom of heaven is within us”? (Luke 17:21 TEV) Since “God is love” and “My
father and I are one,” Jesus is love also. When Jesus abides in our hearts, does
it mean that we have love in our hearts? How do we get love into our hearts? Is
it as simple as asking Jesus to enter into our hearts? Jesus promises, “I come
that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV) Do we
believe that Jesus will keep His promises to us about asking for what we want?
“When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you
will be given whatever you ask for.” (Mark 11:24 TEV) “The Father will give you
whatever you ask of Him in My name.”(John 16:23 TEV) Do we believe that God
“will keep His promise and do what is right”? (1 John 1:9 TEV) Can we believe
that? Do we have the faith? Are we “sure”? Are we “certain”? Have we any
“doubt”? Can we be 100% definite? Can we overcome our doubts? Yes we can, if we
believe like Abraham, who “was absolutely sure that God would be able to do what
He had promised.”(Romans 4:21)
If we let Jesus into our heart, aren’t we letting Love to transform our hearts? With love in our hearts, can we live life in these new ways?
We are kind and we do not harden our hearts
We have self-control and are gentle
We are more tolerant and patient
We are more generous and less envious
We are less selfish, more giving than getting
We are humble and not arrogant or insolent
We do not boast and strut about
We are always civil and are never rude
We do no mischief or harm
We do more good and are not malicious or evil
We are truthful and do not deceive others
As Jesus says, “For
you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5 TEV) and as St Paul concludes, “I can
do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”(Philippians 4:13 NKJV) So, the
transformed person has his character refined and his heart and perspective
completely changed by the Word of God. He will live a happier life and be closer
to God. This is living life "more abundantly."
28. What made Jesus joyful?
The secret is that Jesus knows that “I am not really alone, because the Father is with Me.”(John 16:32 TEV) Do we have the same faith as Jesus? He assures us “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”(Mt 28:20 TEV) and "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrew 13:5 NKJV) Are we certain of that? What did Jesus want us to do? Jesus says "Come, follow Me..." and "Learn from Me..." Learn what?
· Learn to turn the other cheek more---"If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too."(Mt 5:39 TEV) "And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles."(Mt 5:41 TEV) “If someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well.”(Luke 6:29 TEV)
What does this mean for our daily
living? In our relationship with our relatives, children, parents and spouses,
there will come times of crises and disagreements. If we want the relationship
to develop and grow, we have to learn:
not to fight
not to justify
not to insist that I am right and you are wrong, instead
do the right thing but if in doubt do the loving things. Says “I love you and you mean a lot to me” with your tone and gestures, as that is the language of the heart.
What this means,
is that, we are to be:
more forgiving ----less revengeful or punishing
more compassionate----less malice
more kind ----less hardening of our hearts
more gentle ----less temper, less anger
more tolerant ----less impatience
more humble ----less proud, less arrogant
more giving ----less grabbing or demanding
more generous ----less envy, less grudges
more civil ----less rude or less answering back
Many people think that it is a sign of weakness to go the extra mile and to forgive and be more giving. But it is actually a sign of strength to do that. It takes courage and strength of character to be able to forgive and keep on giving. But, don't people take advantage of us if we do that and go the extra mile? Sure, some will but in the long run, the result will be that we have more peace, joy, happiness and rest for our spirit, our mind and our hearts. This is the Good News of Jesus. This is what God wants all of us to learn and to do. Whether we can do this or not, is a constant struggle. We can only succeed if we ask for God's help as “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
29. With love in our hearts, what must we guard against when we interpret the Word of God?
St Paul told Timothy that if he studied the Word diligently, he would never be ashamed in his ministry. “Do your best to win full approval in God’s sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work, one who correctly teaches the message of God’s truth.”(2 Timothy 2:15 TEV). And St Peter said, "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15-16 TEV). At the same time, we have to be extremely careful in our interpretation that we do not cause anyone who believes in Jesus to stumble or to lose his faith in Christ. Jesus says “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose faith in Me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around the neck and be thrown into the sea.”(Mark 9:42 TEV) Jesus warns us against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their teachings should not be accepted blindly. Jesus says "Take care; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:6 TEV) We must not be like the Pharisees who concentrate on rules. We must, in all our dealings, be scrupulously fair, honest and compassionate. “How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You give to God one tenth even of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty. These you should practice, without neglecting the others.”(Matthew 23:23 TEV) We should allow Jesus to teach us about God through our reading and studying the Bible and by allowing God to talk to us through quiet prayers. We must never put aside God’s commands and obey human teachings above God’s Words. Jesus reminds us “How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you! You are hypocrites, just as he wrote: ’These people, says God, honour Me with their words, but their heart is really far away from Me. It is no use for them to worship Me, because they teach human rules as though they were My laws!’ You put aside God’s commands and obey human teachings.”(Mark 7:6-8 TEV) We must test people’s teaching to see for ourselves how sincere they are, as people who do not walk their talk are not to be trusted. As Jesus says “Be on your guard against false prophets, they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs.” (Matthew 7:15-16 TEV) And Paul advises that we are to put all things to the test “Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; do not despise inspired messages. Put all things to the test: keep what is good and avoid every kind of evil.”(1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 TEV) If they do not practice Christ’s teaching they are suspects and the truth is not in them. As St John says "if we say that we remain in union with God, we should live just as Jesus Christ did.” (1 John 2:6 TEV) For "God is light, and there is no darkness at all in Him. If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him, yet at the same time live in the darkness, we are lying both in our words and in our actions” (1 John 1:5-6 TEV). St Paul asked, "We have died to sin---how then can we go on living in it?”(Romans 6:2 TEV)
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