As we four reach our fourth week here in Nebraska, I have had a great chance to reflect on my experiences here in front of Christ.
I have always loved our Catholic definition of love, the gift of self. It is so different than the secular definition as we shall see. Here at Creighton, Christ has touched my heart and given me a deeper meaning of this love.
Prayer reaches this love. And the instructors here really know how to pray effectively, using the Ignatian spiritual methods. They have been teaching priests these methods for over twenty years and it shows. They have excellent pedagogical methods. The conferences have been filled with illustrations, examples, reflections, analogies, question and answer sessions, and time for personal application of these methods. Plus, we have been given regular private spiritual direction from the best directors in the country to guide our use of the methods.
The IPF faculty emphasize many things in their program, but the biggest thing that touches my heart is when they teach us about the priestly relationship, identity, and mission.
For me as I reflect I see myself and my relationships with others and relate it to the fallen human condition before the Lord. With prayerful acceptance of my past, I asked the Lord, “Who am I?” After all, when we love another, we see something of ourselves in that person. Perhaps we might not be as direct with that person as we are with our Creator, nonetheless, we have seen something of ourselves in that person that pushes us to love.
It’s easy nowadays to love from a distance, with Social Media, and technology that gives us immediate short bursts of gratification that make us feel like we can by feeling empty. We put on masks in front of others because of our fears. The suffering of Jesus Christ is no longer spoken outside Church, so any time anyone feels hurt, people believe no good can come from it. So we bury our hurt, or believe we are fine and put ourselves in front of technological devices that upon finishing our use of them leave us feeling emptier than before. It’s like developing and identity that isn’t our true self. If we have no relationships, we have no identity, and we mask it with a “fake” identity behind these devices.
In my prayer, Jesus helped me accept a cross I had been carrying around for a long time. I have good people who I speak to about it, but it was continually hard to truly speak from the heart. But God is rich in Mercy and Love, and with His Grace all things are possible. It’s easy for us to goto Church to pray and bring our best selves to God. But we forget sometimes, He is God of course, but this is a relationship. God will never go against free will, so if we hide our true selves in prayer we do not find our identity in Christ. We need to open our wounds to God so we can see Christ in them, and it makes us fall in love with God, just like we would when we love another. This is how we were created, to be loved by others and Our Creator.
Through Christ, I have found my identity not just in the things I like about me but also my wounds. This might not make sense in the secular world, but for us Catholics we know it makes sense. We know, we love when we remain open to others and see ourselves in them. The best parts of ourselves come from Christ. To see Christ love me for me, truly and fully (not just the me on the surface), is something so grace filled I shall never forget. I am in love with Christ. After this powerful summer, I am convinced I love Him more than anyone in the world.
It is in our relationship with Christ we find our identity, as I have found and continue to find mine. This relationship and identity is the foundation which we go about our mission as Catholics to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.”
We can define love with words, describe it with actions, and feel it as we look at each other. But the deepest form of love, is Christ. The gift of self. To accept the fear and hurt that comes with suffering for the love of Christ and another, that is the love we share and I share with you today. God Bless!!!