Monday, September 15, 2014

The Greatest Of These Is Love

Typical Ave Maria sunset... Not too shabby, eh?
This summer I spent 5 1/2 weeks in Ave Maria, FL with 400 fellow missionaries at New Staff Training for our temporary vocation as FOCUS missionaries. For those of you who have never visited this booming metropolis, Ave Maria, which is about 40 minutes east of Naples in SW Florida, reminds many of its visitors and residents of the sets of Pleasantville or The Truman Show.

Despite the idyllic setting, most of the missionaries I know (including Yours Truly), experienced at least one spiritual crisis during our time there, because we realized how cluttered and chaotic and imperfect the "streets" of our interior lives were. About three weeks into training, I spent 5 days panicking because reflection and prayer had led me to realize my shortcomings, not only in loving others, but in accepting love from God and His children here on earth.

As human beings, we are made in the image and likeness of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Catholic teaching describes the Holy Spirit as the fruitful communion between God the Father and God the Son: the transcendence of love between the Father and the Son is so great that it is its own person: the Holy Spirit. 

I began to understand Love as God made it, as the full gift of self and full receipt of another. For my adult life I had focused on how to best give love, but I had actively rebuffed others' attempts to give their love to me. My insistence to give but not receive was reflected in my relationship with God, and my eyes were finally opened to the things in my life that I had withheld from Him. By refusing to receive His Love in parts of my life and heart that I thought were ugly, unfit, and in need of improvement before I could show them to the Lord, I was actively withholding my Love from Him and from others. 

1 Corinthians 13:3 says, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but do not have love, I gain nothing." There I was, about to give up control over at least 2 years of my life  in service of God, realizing that if I didn't make a change in my life, it would all be for naught. 

Only in opening my heart to God and others, in loving and allowing others to love me, will the mission I have been called to by God be fulfilled. There is no other way. The broken heart that is open to the Love of Christ is the heart that will be healed; it will radiate with particular light that invites others to discover the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  

Since that week of crisis in training, the Lord has opened my eyes to His greatest gift, which is an essential part of our human experience; Love changes lives. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta humbly reminds us, "Not all of us can do great things; only small things with Great Love."

"And these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love," (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Harvard '14-'15: Loving through Laughter since June 2014