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Monday, February 19, 2007

Transformation from God's Love

Already, my newfound education is bearing fruit in the form of inspiration.

Yesterday, as I sat in class, I began to realize the formation component of our education; we cannot truly learn about God without entering into the mystery of who He is and allowing Him to penetrate our souls. So, in order to discuss God and his will for us, we first have to understand his love for us. His all-encompassing love.

Here's a nugget from our class notes (a bound volume):

"In the end, then, all questions really boil down to: 'Won't somebody love me?' 'Isn't there a God with real, effective, powerful love?' 'Who can fulfill all the aspiration I find in my heart?' 'Am I loveable, despite so much evil within?' 'Who will rescue me and purify my conscience?'"

(Thank you, Professor Bushman)

Now, remember, this degree is for an MA in Pastoral Theology, thus what we are learning applies pastorally; what we learn we apply to ourselves, certainly, but we also must remember to take these lessons and apply them to others. Where can we help answer these questions? In what ways can we assist others in understanding the love of God? How do we recognize when these questions are being asked?

Sometimes we have to seek those answers within ourselves and our own experiences before we can understand how to take this lesson into the rest of the world.

So as this lesson was being taught, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the immensity of God's love for us. I was suddenly recognizing the fact that ALL of us are called forth from conception to do something special for God. He does not create in haste or upon a whim; God has a specific purpose for each and every human being. I am no exception.

Funny how that suddenly hit me; sure, I've recogized this before, but when speaking or writing of it, I tend to think of the unborn who have been slaughtered, people around me, etc. Yeah, I considered myself, too, but in reality, I haven't given it as much thought as I could have; more of a cursory, "What is God asking of me?" Amazing the passive ignorance of a woman in discernment.

Maybe the question I should have begun with was the very question we addressed in class, that fundamental question for everyone; "Am I loveable? Does God love ME? And what does that MEAN?"

I realized last night how personal God's love really is for all of us, and that it was not an accident or my own ambition that brought me to that classroom. If nothing else, I was suddenly floored by the fact that I was sitting in a Grad level theology class.

Only a few years ago, as recent as 2003, I was barely Catholic. I was struggling with the basic questions of existence and seeking God. I was not regularly attending Mass, and I did not understand the Real Presence.

When I DID go to Mass, I entered and sat near the rear of the church, feeling like I didn't belong, although I desperately wanted to. I was terrified that all the other Catholics there would look at me, recognize me as the fraud I thought I was, and banish me. I was terrified that if I sat too close to the front of the Sanctuary, that I would burn up on the spot.

I was Eve, hiding in the garden. But God knew where I was the entire time, and it was only because He called me that I was there at all.

But God is patient, and he will not infringe upon our free will; he offers himself willingly to our abuse, knowing that we don't understand, we are afflicted, and that it is his love that both created us and will save us.

So I shyly came to Mass, avoided contact with anyone I considered to be "holy", which was pretty much everyone, especially the priests. Seriously, I was terrified to be seen by the priests because I had a sense that they would see how much I suffered and I would have to reveal how tortured I was. Yet I knew that's where I needed to go, to receive the Sacrament of Penance. What I most needed I avoided because, at my very core, I think I believed that I was not worthy to be forgiven. I was terrified that if one of the priests found out how I felt (how they would know this, I have no idea!), they would lead me to where I was not ready to go.

And so my most common prayer was straight to the heart of God's love: Don't give up on me. I love you, I'm trying, but I can't do this yet. Don't give up on me, don't ever give up on me! I cried so many tears in supplication to our Lord, begging that He never give up on me!

My prayer was really the question addressed in class yesterday; "Am I worthy of love in all my sinfulness? Am I loveable?"

And I was so afraid that the answer was "No" that I fled from the foot of the cross that had ransomed me.

Finally, I did go to Confession again and slowly, tentatively, found my way towards the front of the Sanctuary at Mass. I began to become involved, marginally, in the life of the Church.

Yet something was missing; I wasn't really "there" yet. I had not been fully healed and repeatedly I went to Confession with old sins as well as new, seeking that love of God, seeking to know if I was worthy of His love. Because in all that, I now recognize my core question; Do you REALLY love me?

One Friday I came home from work, but was so restless I knew I needed to go to the only one who could answer me; Jesus. So I went to the church, and waited in the Sanctuary for Mass to end. At our parish, Daily Mass is in the chapel, which adjoins the cavernous Sanctuary. So while I waited, I had this huge room to myself and sat contemplating the enormous crucifix which graces the altar.

God filled that room. I looked at the candle burning over the tabernacle, recognizing the presence of Christ, yet I was completely ENVELOPED by the love of God. His presence could not be denied.

And suddenly, loudly, His voice spoke from within;

"I am NOT ashamed of you!"

I jumped, and looked around. No one was there, but God's presence was so strong, I understood instantly that the statement had originated from him.

He said it again, more quietly this time:

"I am NOT ASHAMED of you!"

This was followed by yet a more gentle question,

"Why are you ashamed of YOURSELF?"

I began to weep, unable to stop the tears. Until that moment, I did not realize that I honestly believed that God was ashamed of me. And this belief had made me so ashamed of myself that I had not been able to accept that I was forgiven or worthy of his love. Or anyone's love.

It was a moment of clarity, a moment in which I suddenly recognized that God's love overcomes EVERYTHING, especially our own shame. I had been to Confession; it was time to let it go. I was a new creation, but until God spoke to me and, in His love, helped me to recognize that I had not let go of the past, I could not move on.

It was a pivotal moment, one I will never forget.

Last night, as I sat in class, it was not so much this moment I remembered, but the understanding of where I was, both spiritually and intellectually only a few years ago.

And then it hit me that I was sitting in a Grad-level theology course, truly contemplating seeking a degree in Pastoral Theology.

And the big question in my mind was, "HOW ON EARTH DID I GET HERE!?"

The answer is simple; I was there out of God's love. God has loved me so much that He waited patiently for me to come home, he welcomed me when I returned, and since my return, he has not given up on me. Rather, he has invited me into a relationship so personal that it pushes me to know more about him and to teach others about Him.

God does this for each and every one of us. God loves us so much that he transforms us to the degree that years after that pivotal moment, we realize that we have been whapped so hard by a Holy 2 x 4 and we didn't even feel it!

God's love is transforming; He enters into our souls and changes us from the inside out. We find ourselves in places we never even considered, and there He reveals Himself even further.

This transformation is lifelong, and the surprises never end.

As we approach Lent, I invite you to ask yourself the questions posed to us, and invite yourself to accept God's love for you. Enter into it; understand it, and let His love transform you.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Beautiful post. Oh, and forget the email I just sent asking how your class went. I FORGOT that I posted on your entry below this morning.

I'm so tired...must sleep soon.

Banshee said...

I was just reading in _Pastoral Care_ about how people who know a lot about the Scriptures have to make sure they listen to themselves. And then I read your post. Somebody's trying to tell me something.... :)

Mara Joy said...

thank you for that wonderful inspiration! PTL!

Fr. Ben Hawley, SJ said...

what a great story! it always seems odd to me that i could be so impenetrable to God's love, always desiring but always doubting. and somehow God always comes through. last night at mass the communion song was "eye has not seen/ear has not heard/what God has readied for those who love him..." and a bolt of God's lightening went through me. i could hardly stand up straight.

you seem so open to God's love and so courageous to keep seeking him. a great gift for the rest of us to see and hear.

fr. ben hawley, sj

Adoro said...

Cathy....go get some sleep! LOL!

Maureen ~ Thanks for visiting. Hope you find whatever it is God is asking you to do.

Mara Joy ~ Glad you're inspired, but what in the world is PTL? (I have a feeling I'm about to be embarassed...)

Fr. Hawley ~ Thanks for happening by! Aren't the words from that song from Isaiah? I've been amazed sometimes at the "bolts" that have hit me...and they do, all the time. Amazing I haven't just fried. Obviously that happens to all of us! :-)

You say I am courageous...yet I have to can I (or any of us) NOT seek God when he has done so much for us? I'll admit I'm terrified, but I'm far more terrified to be without him.

In John 6 when Jesus gave his teaching on the Eucharist, all the people left. I'm with the Apostles...wasn't it Paul who said, "Where else would we go?".

I have nowhere else to go...I've already looked everywhere else. I have nowhere else to go but to Jesus, and he has never once let me down. Even when I sought to die, Jesus gave me His hand and prevented my death.

It is not courage when we have no where else to go; it is Grace.

Anonymous said...

Adoro - fantastic! And of course you made me cry...again!

(psst...PTL is praise the Lord)

Adoro said...

Angela ~ Of COURSE! PTL! I KNEW I'd be embarassed.

Here's a kleenex...and it's only fair, you made me laugh at Mass!

teresa_anawim said...

Adoro..what a beautiful testimony of God's love in your life.
I really appreciate it when other Christians share their experiences in this way.
Thank you so much.
Please continue to post those golden 'nuggets' you are being given in class.

Fr Ben!!! You ARE still on the internet! I thought that you perhaps got your new assignment and had no time left for blogging.
Good to see you back on.

Anonymous said...

Adoro, what a beautiful witness! And it is a reminder that none of us can convert someone else, it is God Who touches the heart.

Adoro said...

teresa, It was the personal experiences of others that helped me come home; they made me realize that I was not on an island. The witness of others was, to me, an expression of God's love because I could READ that love in every word. And the fact that they took the time to write about it so that others would broke down my walls.

melody - so true! All we can do is plant seeds, share our faith, share our stories, and let God do the real work. God doesn't need us, he just lets us help sometimes.