Loving my neighbour means letting go of total control in my life
Just over a week ago, we celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In that Sunday’s gospel we heard that ‘no sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him.’ (Mark 1:10). This, the same Spirit of God that hovered over the waters at the beginning of Genesis. The Gospels always take us back to the Old Testament. Why? To show continuity, weave a thread, provide a fuller explanation and meaning.
A little further into Genesis (1:26-27) I am reminded that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. There are no exceptions to this statement. When I want to talk about justice, I must begin with this statement, that we are all created in the image of God; that we reflect something of the nature of God. When I ask myself: “Can I see Jesus in the least of my sisters and brothers?”, I am asking do I see the image of God, the reflection of the divine in my neighbour? This is difficult, especially when it comes to people who have different political views, social status, or maybe even personal habits that I find challenging. It takes willingness and openness. As I have begun to see God in all people and things, my field of vision slowly starts to widen to embrace the image of God in all creation.
What is even more demanding is coming to an understanding of what it means to have been created, myself, in the likeness of God. In fully accepting my creation in original sin, and the all-embracing humanity of that reality, I easily dismiss the possibility that part of me is divine, can act, be good, do good, in the likeness of God. Richard Rohr would say, I am only good because God is good. How can I make a beginning into this conscious reality? The foundation, for me, is seeing God all around me and then learning to stay awake. Jesus talks about “staying watchful” (Matthew 25:13 (“So stay awake and be prepared”), Luke 12:37 (“There will be great joy for those who are ready and waiting”), Mark 13:33 (“And since you don’t know when it will happen, stay alert”).
The real beginning on this path for me was in the acceptance of my powerlessness and then the willingness to surrender myself to God. When I speak of powerlessness, I do not mean a lack of ability to make plans, take decisions, or that I do not have choices in my life – but a powerlessness in the outcomes of those choices, and trying to discern God’s will rather than Michael’s will. A cursory refection on my life will easily tell me which has been the easier path. It has always been the path of letting go, letting go into God. St. Paul of the Cross was, I imagine, describing this movement of letting go when he said “The passion of Jesus is a sea of sorrows, but it is also an ocean of love. Ask the Lord to teach you to fish in this ocean. Dive into its depths. No matter how deep you go, you will never reach the bottom.”
In my experience, this is a process of encounter with God in daily prayer and meditation and an encounter with people in the ordinariness, messiness, reality of life. Sounds simple but, having the courage to let go of my ideas, prejudices and perceived control is where my humanity likes to engage in a tug-of-war. As I (hopefully) experience and grow into the divine likeness I become more compassionate and my focus becomes more outward and this likeness becomes more congruent and is expressed in qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness.
And as always in our never-ending journey, which might be described as spherical in nature, the invitation to wake up is echoed in the Old Testament, “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. I will sing, I will sing your praise. Awake my soul, awake lyre and harp, I will wake up the sun!” (Psalm 57:8).
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