Tag Archives: Desire

What is Love?

 

Recently, my Facebook page has been ripe with conversation over the whole issue of the Obama Administration forcing Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients with the new HHS mandate.  It has been an interesting (and, to be frank, tiring) conversation.  Many friends who are not religious have been especially vocal on the discussion.  Some have realized the real issue – religious freedom – while others have totally missed the point, thinking this is all about contraception.

In regards to contraception, a lot of people who I have discussions with promote the idea that Jesus is all about love and peace and so therefore he should be about letting us do thing according to the norms of today.  They are right to an extent: Jesus is about love and peace.  However, the Christian understanding of love and peace are vastly different than what the world thinks.

In regards to peace, the day to day parlance tends to mean “without conflict, comfort, stability”.  For Christians, this is anything but the case.  Peace comes from living a devoted relationship to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Peace comes from embracing the Cross, from living a life of love for God and others.  Peace, then, could be in the midst of conflict and strife: externally, things may be anything but peaceful!  Yet in the heart of the Christian, they have the certitude of faith that Jesus is with them in this moment and that they are following the will of God that they have come to know for themselves through prayer and discernment.

This leads me to what love means for the Christian.  This is perhaps the most misunderstood concept about Jesus and Christianity in the world.  Love, for many today, means nothing more than to accept people’s actions and norms as they are.  In short: be as you are, that’s all that matters.  To an extent, there is a kernel of truth to this: we love people as they are, but it does not mean we are always affirming of their actions.  We love the murderer (to be hyperbolic) but do not approve of his actions!

For Christianity, love is self-sacrificing, objective, and demanding of more.

Self-Sacrificing

This is the core of Christian love.  It is encountered by all when the see Jesus on the Cross.  Love in human flesh is put on the Cross out of love for us.  He goes up there willingly with the desire to embrace all the sin of humanity so that humanity can live their true calling once again.  It is a complete death-to-self-for-the-sake-of-the-other.  It is putting my self to the side for the one whom I love.  It is in this complete death to self for the other that makes me human.  The Second Vatican Council teaches that “man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of self”.  To give myself is the means to finding myself because, by giving my whole self to an other, I thereby find myself accepted, loved, and affirmed in the one to whom I give my whole self to.  To give consideration to self is contrary to Gospel love.  Selfishness has no place in it.  Every serious Christian knows this and does what they can to root it out of their lives with the help of God’s grace.  This type of love is the basis for the demand of greatness and the objective character of love.

Objective

This aspect of Christian love comes from the great insights of St Ignatius of Loyola and my reading of my favourite theologian: Hans Urs von Balthasar.  Love is objective.  What do we mean by this?  The term objective in Christian parlance means that it is greater than me, it holds a force that transcends me as an individual and calls me to make it personal in my life, to become flesh to it.  Love as objective, then, has a very personal dimension: it is something I make my own and is not me.  For love to be objective in me, I need to embody it completely and put my self to the side completely.  In way, love as objective is another way of speaking about love as self-sacrificing except that I find it gives it a much more personal dimension.  Love is something that calls me to embrace it completely and to live it with a totality of my life because, by doing so, I become the person God calls me to be.  We are only truly happy, truly joyful when we allow God in our lives so completely, so totally,that people see Christ in us and we see Christ in others.  To live the objectivity of love, then, requires complete and totally humility.  Humility is that complete openness to the truth of reality: to let God speak as He is, to let our world “be itself” to us.  Humility is listening with an openness and attentiveness that – frankly – is difficult in a world full of noise.  I have a whole post on humility that I want to write so I think I’m going to leave it there for now.

Demanding of More

For me, this is perhaps one of the more misunderstood elements of Christian love.  As I said above, people are right that we are to love people as they are.  But, since love is objective, it calls us to something more than we are.  It is greater than us because the Person Who embodies it – Jesus Christ – is both perfect man and Son of God.  The love we wish for in our lives, the love we yearn for by being distracted, the love we seek in casual sex, the love we seek in countless relationships with “the love of our life (I’m sure this time!!)”, the love we seek in material wealth, it is all an expression of a deeper desire of our human heart for something more.  It is why we accumulate, it is why we try more things: we are seeking for the one thing that fulfills the call of our hearts.

Our issue, though, is that we seek that one thing in that which does not call us to be more.  One of the most disheartening things I have heard from people in this conversation about contraception is the pessimistic, lethargic, and complete undervaluing of the human person.  People do not expect great things out of themselves or others.  They say they are “realists” because they are in tune with what is normative in our culture.  Is millions of abortions normative?  Is suicide normative?  Is loneliness normative?  Is poverty – both of the heart and financially – normative?  The way a society exists is – if you will – the work of art of a culture.  What is in the soul of our society expresses itself in the ‘art’ of our actions and what is normative.  I do not see a society all that happy.  I see a society that is content, and that scares me.  Jesus said “it is better to be hot or cold” but do not be lukewarm.

The Christian teaching of love demands us to be greater than we are.  What we are now is not who we are called to be.  We are called to be so much more!!!!  We are called to live a life of heroism in the ordinariness of our lives!  Deep down, there is a desire to be unique, special, and loved.  But many of us have found that desire frustrated, trampled on, and destroyed all too many times by those we thought loved us.  This is sad and true.  But it does not justify repressing our desire for that “something more”.

I know from experience.  My life prior to my conversion – and to an extent it will never leave me! – was a life of complete selfishness.  I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and how I wanted to do it.  And I was miserable.  I had no direction in my life.  My heart yearned for more, but regardless of where I went, my heart was never satisfied.  The encounter with Jesus Christ changed my life.  In one night of prayer, I encountered Him Who I had been searching for all along.  I can guarantee it: if there is a life lived for the Love which fulfills all desire – the love that is incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ – then all you search for, all you yearn for, is completed in Him.

I thought I was happy before encountering Him.  Now that I know Him, I realize the misery that was a part of my life.  But we cannot see the darkness of our misery until we see the brilliant light of His Love.

in Christ

-Harrison

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The Desire for Holiness

Two quotes have struck me this evening that I wish to share with all.

The first comes from the 2nd antiphon from Evening Prayer in Sunday, Week IV.  It says “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness; they will be satisfied.”  The second came from a website I was reading about Bl Jordan of Saxony, OP and Bl Diana of Andalo, who were spiritual friends in a very intimate way and wrote beautiful letters to each other.  In this site, the author describes a scene between St Thomas Aquinas and his sister.  His sister asks “how does one become a saint.”  St Thomas responded simply: “Desire it.”

How true this is!  Often we allow fear to get in the way of not only what God wants, but what we truly desire!  We often allow fear, which is rather marginal, yet loud, to overtake our spiritual life, and we become handicapped by it.  One of our formators quoted a Sulpician spiritual writer who’s name I am currently forgetting.  Paraphrased, this spiritual writer stated that when we are in prayer, when we are in discernment, we are not to listen to the distress, the anxiety, the confusions (in essence: the noise!).  Rather, our duty as men and women devoted to God is to look for Him in the silence because God is not one to yell and scream at us.  He speaks softly because He has no desire to overcome us by His will, but rather to bring us close to Him in the silence of love.

Sometimes, we allow fears, troubles, difficulties to overcome us in our spiritual lives.  We listen to the noise of our lives instead of being silent to listen to that still, small voice of God.  But to listen to the noise is to, as Msgr Albecete says, have a reduction of our desires.  It is noise because we know it is not what we desire.  But it is so loud sometimes, we allow the noise to overcome us.  We are defeated: we give into things that are not in accord with our desire for holiness.

Yet, God is ever present to us, and lifts us up close to His arms!  The Son of the Father is close to our hearts, indeed, He has opened His side on the Cross for us to enter into His heart, so that we may encounter His love for us.  So when are desires have been reduced, we need only to climb close to His heart, where His love beats passionately for us.  And by being there, by listening to the rhythm of His love, in the silence of that contemplation, our desires are restored, and we are brought, once again, close to Him so as to bring His love to others.  “Peace!  Be Still” (Mk 4:39)

It is Him Whom we should desire with our whole hearts.  Nothing else should get in its way.  The desire is there: He has given us that desire because we are made for Him.  And, He will give us what we need because if He wants us to be with Him, He knows we can’t do it on our own.  So we must start acting on that desire, we must seek Him in all things.  That is the call of all: desire to be a saint and act on that desire constantly.  God will fulfill it.  He is faithful, we can trust His word on that.  But we must first act on that desire.

So, let us climb into His heart, let us sit at the foot of Divine Love and drink from the Spring of Life.  Let us drink of the Word which flows from the lips of the Father.  Let us hang onto that Word, let us taste fully of the Word so that we too may have our desires fulfilled in Him Who gives Himself to us without ceasing.

in Christ

-Harrison

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Reduction of Desire

I read the following blog post from where I stole the title: http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Reduction-of-Desire-Heather-King-05-18-2011?offset=0&max=1

I found the concept to be interesting and true.  Why is it that we reduce our desires?  Why is it that we settle for less instead of aiming for so very much more?  Desire, it seems to me, is a cornerstone of human life.  It is one of those essential things that make us human.  To be human is to desire.

Yet, for some reason, we sublimate the good desires and give way to the bad ones.  We do not discern nor give credence to differentiating desires.  We tend to listen to the desires that lead us away from holiness and to have deaf ears when it comes to the desires that make us truly human.  So, why do we do this?

The first and most obvious answer is the reality of sin.  Sin clings to us and is rather loud, violent, and it is difficult to ignore it.  When it screams loud, despite our best efforts, we tend to give in to it, even knowing that we ought not to do such a thing.  Yet, when it comes to spiritual things, those things which give us true joy, peace, happiness, we tend to not want to act on them.  It seems bassakwards, we know it happens, and yet we do not seem to know what to do about it.

I believe one of the primary issues when it comes to the reduction of desire is the mentality we carry before desire.  We cannot blame the faith for this, for it doesn’t come from the Church, though it may come from many of her members – Jansenism, for example, rings loud and true for me here.  But there is something much deeper that we as North Americans experience: the tyranny of the Protestant Work Ethic courtesy of Max Weber.

The Protestant Work Ethic promotes the idea that work is not leisure and that work is simply the result of sin in the world: we have to put up with it.  Therefore – so the theory goes – suck it up buttercup: life sucks, except when you have those brief respits known as vacations and retirment.

If we really examine it, that is the life of our North American culture (and some European).  We are working for the weekend, working towards holidays, working to 5pm, etc.  We are not working for the moment, we are not working because we find joy, fulfillment, and peace.  We are working because we think it is simply a means for us to have fun, but it is not fun in itself.

What does this have to do with desire?  Everything.  If work is seen as a burden, then we do not see it as a place that in itself fulfills desire.  Instead, it is an activity that is the means to our fulfilling our desires.  We are willing to put up with it because it means we will be able to have something tangible to enjoy at some further point.

But the Catholic view of life is far richer.  It, first and foremost, completely denies the concept of the Protestant Work Ethic.  It states that life, in its totality of vocation, employment, free time, family time, etc., is all leisure.  Leisure is the ability to contemplate, the ability to receive the world as it is and to take joy in it for it being what it is.  Life, in short, is meant to be enjoyed, in all its aspects.  Work is not a burden, it is a gift to be enjoyed, and so on and so forth.

When we make that subtle but important change, we begin to realize something.  Desire in life has a purpose: it is meant to guide us in life so that we may find the joy that comes from a fulfilling life centered in God.  We begin to seek out the deepest desires of our, the truest desires.  When life becomes leisure, becomes contemplative, we begin to look past the immediate desires we so often give into without a moment’s thought.  With contemplation, with leisure as the basis of our life, we begin to gain an eternal perspective.  We begin to see immediate things in the light of eternity.  No longer do we eat that steak because it fills our stomachs and pleases our tastebuds.  Instead, we eat that steak and we enjoy it, ultimately, as a gift from God and that, somehow, this is a means for my growing in holiness.  Not only that, but the many good desires that we are faced with each day can begin to be put to the side for the ultimate end of our desires: for God.  Our actions become rooted in our eternity and we are willing to sacrifice and forego the temporary pleasures of this world – good and valid as they are – because we know that they are not the utlimate end.

One of the problems with the world today is that we have turned this order upside down.  We see eternity as a means to an end (think of the New Age movement!) and we see the things of the world as that which has ultimate value.  While this may be our mindset, deep down we realize we are created for the inverted world, for a world in which our infinite desire can only be fulfilled by an infinite end.

So, let’s begin to change the world today by bringing a leisurely outlook on life: a contemplative outlook in which what the world is brings us joy in itself.

in Christ

-Harrison

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