Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Personal Apostolate: Chapter Five

A series of blogs presenting you the contents of the book, an award-winning love story for every soul.

Not sure what God has in store for you?
His plans are wondrous, loving and beautiful.

Accept Him, seek Him, love Him,
and return His love to those around you.

Prepare to be amazed, for
God is at work in you!

Chapter 5 ~ Loving God Back

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” ~John 4:5-15

The topics discussed in the first four chapters of this book have provided us with important considerations as we seek to fulfill our Christian discipleship. We acknowledged the fact that God loves us always. We studied events from the lives of the Holy Family to guide us as we carry out our life’s work. We contemplated some of the many ways we are called to faith each day and saw ourselves as instruments of God enticing others to faith. We discussed how accepting God’s love leads us into closer relationship with Him and with others.

This chapter takes us another step closer to God as we consider returning to God the unconditional love that He gives to us. By responding to the challenging questions posed to you at the end of the first four chapters, you have already grown closer to the Love of your life. Already your efforts have led toward accepting God’s love as you allow yourself to be attracted to faith. Now we move on to our responsibility to love God back, for “…love is repaid by love alone…” (St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul) 6. Before we can love in return, we must first be willing to accept love, so let us dedicate a moment to examine our individual responses to being loved.

Consider the following questions. How do you respond to love in general? Are you comfortable with being loved and with loving in return? Do you feel worthy of being loved? How many reasons we come up with for not being worthy of love! Many times we reject love and are not even aware that we are doing it. An awareness of how we respond when we are loved and the reasons behind those responses are crucial. In order to be loved, our permission is essential. There is no doubt God wants us to accept His love in its many diverse expressions. Let us delve inwardly a bit further.

When someone pays you a compliment, do you fully accept the compliment with humble gratitude, do you hesitate to accept the gesture, or do you reject the compliment outright? How do you respond when someone offers to help you? Do you accept a helping hand, recognizing the love of God in the offer? Do you accept help only if you are in dire need? Or, do you reject assistance, perhaps not wanting to inconvenience others?

So often we get into the habit of rejecting subtle and not so subtle acts of love in our lives. We may do this with the best of intentions. However, we reject God’s love when we act this way. Rejecting the love of God through the actions of other people stifles God’s working through them. Recognizing whether we accept or reject love and being aware of when and why we reject love helps us to see our responses to love in a different light. God never rejects our love, so let us fully accept the love that God sends to us, directly and indirectly. Let us joyfully return this love to God, directly and by sharing it with other people. ”Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Consider the story of the Samaritan woman at the well presented at the start of this chapter. A travel weary Jesus approached the well and asked the woman for a drink. In her autobiography Story of a Soul, St. Therese offered this striking commentary on the conversation between Jesus and the woman. “See, then, all that Jesus lays claim to from us; He has no need of our works but only of our love, for the same God who declares He has no need to tell us when He is hungry did not fear to beg for a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was thirsty. But when He said: ‘Give me to drink,’ it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love “ 7.

Let us accept God’s love in its many delightful manifestations and love God in return. We can accomplish this directly and through the work we do in our imitation of Christ. During the final moments of His mortal life Jesus stated from the cross, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). God thirsts for our love! “If Jesus Christ thirsted for souls, must not a Christian also thirst?...Has He not called us to be His Apostles and His Ambassadors, in order that His Incarnation might be prolonged through the continued dispensation of the divine through the human?” (Fulton J. Sheen, The Rainbow of Sorrow) 8. We can quench God’s great thirst by loving Him back.

Loving God Back: A Personal Reflection

I tell you with a grateful smile on my face that God has had to work very hard with me. Thankfully He has persevered patiently, gently, and lovingly. God has been a constant presence through the joys and sorrows of my life. At times I have clearly perceived that He was close, while other times His Presence was not obvious. Nevertheless, He was always there.

Perhaps God was closest to me during times when He seemed absent. Most certainly He was there, teaching and guiding me. God was without a doubt very close to me during my greatest trial, the seven years before, during, and after the end of my marriage. During the first years of that trial, God summoned me to greater intimacy with Him by gently and lovingly inviting me to attend daily Mass. Certainly He knew that it was during that time of great suffering, personal loss, and dramatic change that I would be most ready and willing to accept such an attractive invitation!

God’s timing is always perfect. He knows what He is doing. A life saving ring is not remarkable when hanging unneeded by a pool, but becomes the most important object in the universe while in trouble in the water. I was most willing to accept God’s invitation into greater relationship when I was in most need of a Savior. Thus my trials were of tremendous value. In addition, suffering helped me to discern what is of true worth.

My intentions have always been to be a devoted Catholic and faithful servant of God. However, there was a time when my plans were not leading to a closer relationship with God like I had hoped, and I did not know what to do differently. As it happened, the tremendous spiritual growth that I had yearned for took place during my trials. God repeatedly encouraged me to patiently accept His Divine Will in all circumstances.

One day before picking my children up from school, I entered the daily Mass chapel and began to pray. Then, something very significant and very extraordinary happened. While kneeling before the beautiful life-sized sculpture of Jesus hanging on the cross, I handed my life over to God with no restrictions. I was ready to venture beyond having acknowledged and accepted Him by giving myself back to Him completely. Once I completely surrendered my life, God could work in me and through me on His most perfect terms.

How often we talk about being “born again” and accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, but we must take care not to stop there! Accepting Jesus as our Lord and God is vital, but we remain in control until we give ourselves back to Him and place ourselves at His service unconditionally. Only then is He able to carry on as He sees fit. Handing one’s life over to God completely is not always easy or comfortable. In fact, it can be downright frightening. However, it is crucial to our relationship with Him, to our sanctification, and to our life’s work.

I remember thinking that it took a whole lot of suffering to get me to the point of allowing God to be in charge. Our most loving God persevered and continued working with me. What great love! I was precisely where God wanted me, and happily, I was right where I wanted me. My suffering had become a tremendous ally in my quest for greater Divine Intimacy. I continue to visit the chapel and from time to time renew my promise. The day God received back from me that which He had given first was a very, very beautiful day.

Loving God Back: For the Reader

Do you see yourself as worthy of God’s love? How do you respond when loved by others? Is it easier for you to accept love from people when realizing that all love comes from God? As you recognize yourself as worthy of love and understand that God wants to love you, is it easier to accept the many ways God loves you each day? Is it easier then to love God, yourself, and others in return?

Dear Lord,
You love us
so gently and persistently
through all the moments
of our lives.
May we make
our relationship with you
by choosing to
love You back.


Chapter Six ~ Sharing Jesus' Passion