As part of our message series for the New Year about how to make simple spiritual changes that will improve everyday life, we decided to ask and write about techniques our own staff and close friends use to grow closer to God. Here’s one such article with some practical advice about loving more.
With Christmas behind us and our thoughts and minds focused on the new year, this series of spiritual life hacks has been focused on introducing tips and tricks to enrich our spiritual lives in easy, manageable ways. A lot of our ideas have focused on new tricks, to help develop new habits and strengthen old ones. But this week’s message has no new tricks, tips, or advice. It’s only a “life hack” because it’s something we often forget to do — love.
Chapter three of the first letter of St. John, from which some of the Christmas season readings came, focuses almost completely on the theme of love. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God,” (1 John 3:1) it begins, and ending with “love one another just as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23). Love is the theme that binds the epistle together.
“The focus on love can seem very repetitive,” Sr. Angela said. “Yet that is the essence of Jesus’s teaching. Love is the word that gives me energy, enthusiasm, and meaning in my everyday life.” Sister Angela quoted the Gospel of Matthew in her commentary on love, highlighting Jesus’s greatest commandment, to love your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and his second greatest, to love your neighbor as yourself.
“These two commandments must go together,” Sister Angela said. “We cannot love God without loving others, and we cannot love others without loving God himself. How can we cultivate the love that we receive from God in order to give our love away to all of those in our lives? We must treasure moments of silence, be still, listen, and pay attention to the interior teacher.”
Love is scientifically proven to reduce stress, make us happier, ease anxiety, help us to take better care of ourselves, and help us to live longer — all happy side effects we experience as we come closer to God. Fr. Greg Boyle, Jesuit priest and founder of successful gang recovery program, Homeboy Industries, wrote: “There is no force in this world better able to alter anything from its course than love.”
Allow love to guide your actions this week. Resist the urge to speak negatively about someone. Go an entire day without raising your voice in anger. Ask someone “How are you?” and listen to the answer. Give someone a second chance. Help someone carry a burden (physical or emotional). Offer a sincere compliment. Praise another’s success. Find the good in a difficult colleague or family member.
“This week, let us look for the smallest moments of our day to ‘put love where there is no love,” Sister Angela said. “When we choose to love and to die a bit to our own ego, we are not powerless over our relationships. It is then that life blossoms.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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