Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week of Love: Day 7

It is never too late to join the Way of Love.

As human beings, we have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others to assess how we are doing. We may judge ourselves harshly, concluding that we will never be as good-looking, smart, successful (the list is endless) as others. Or we may overvalue ourselves, indulging the ego with evidence that we outshine others in one or all of these areas.

Either way, this practice is not a particularly fruitful one, as it may lead us to a variety of unruly emotions or "passions" (as the Orthodox call them). We often become depressed, discouraged, angry or arrogant in the process.

This practice also simply does not work in the Way of Love.

I was reflecting on this today as we celebrate the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Her holiness and simplicity have touched millions around the world - yet her life span was limited to 24 years. We have other holy people in our eternal community who followed the Way at even younger ages, such as St. Maria Goretti who died at the age of 12, forgiving the man who first tried to sexually assault her and then proceeded to murder her.

If I were to try to compare myself to either of them, I would think that I stood no chance with God, having lived so much longer and attained so much less holiness. Yet neither of them would have considered themselves particularly holy because their eyes were not on themselves but on God whose love lived within them.

There are others who gave themselves to the Way at later points in their lives, after living lives quite unworthy of God. St. Augustine was especially known for this because, though raised a Christian, he left the church and lived a life of sexual exploits and partying, fathering a child out of wedlock. (He is known for his prayer: "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.") Despite his wild living, once he surrendered to the Way, he became a priest, bishop and renowned theologian, inspiring millions.

There are some who have even given themselves over to the Way of Love at the very end of their lives, such as the penitent thief who was crucified next to Jesus and asked Him to remember him in His kingdom. He was told he would be welcomed there that very day.

These two "sinners" did not despair of entering the Way because of the evil they had done. Their eyes were not on themselves but on the God whose love freed them and drew them to join Him.

In the Way of Love, there is no one greater than the next, no one lesser. It is never too late, for the Love is eternally waiting and ready to embrace. 

No - it is more than that. The Love is not simply waiting, but is out searching desperately to find the lost and draw back the straying, no matter how long they have been lost, no matter how far they have strayed.

The Love longs to share the Way with all. His mercy is without end.

As we draw to a close this Week of Love, I would like to share an image that I received some weeks ago and the words from St. Augustine that joined with it in expressing his experience of love and Beauty (which is one of God's names). 

(Having concluded the Week of Love, I will again take a brief break and then start a week of blogging with the next holy pause, Joy. Contributions and comments are welcome and may be e-mailed to me at findhope.roadrunner.com.)