As Catholics, we are constantly called to discern our strengths and weaknesses — focusing on deepening our spiritual relationship with God by virtue of working on those weaknesses. We make commitments to ourselves to pray daily, to attend Eucharistic adoration, to go to Confession on a regular basis, to be kinder to others, to love our neighbors as ourselves, the list can go on. And all of those things are worthwhile, vital commitments to make in our spiritual lives. But sometimes it seems like we can never be “enough” of a Catholic; there is always someone there who can do it better and more selflessly than we can. “Unhealthy religion” is the focus for today’s message, so today’s spiritual prescription: be kind to yourself, and give yourself credit for the relationship you already have with God.
Last week, I heard something extremely thought-provoking: “If we allow ourselves to focus too intensely on our shortcomings, we can actually hinder our relationship with God, because it makes our connection to Him solely about things he has already forgiven us for.” That stopped me in my tracks alright, because I had just been making a mental list of all things that I could do better in my faith life — being more attentive in Mass, making time to pray daily, and taking stock of my spiritual wellness on a more regular schedule, among many others.
Pope Francis has spoken extensively on the subject of love — love of God, love of neighbor, but also love of oneself. “The first step that God takes toward us is that of a love that anticipates and is unconditional. God is the first to love. God does not love because there is something in us that engenders love. God loves us because he himself is love, and, by its very nature, love tends to spread and give itself,” the Pontiff said in his General Audience remarks last summer. God loves us exactly where we are, with no conditions or “strings” attached — identifying our areas for spiritual growth has absolutely nothing to do with our capacity to love or be loved by God.
Francis continues, “[It] is a good exercise to say to oneself: God loves me. This is the root of our certainty, the root of hope. The Lord has abundantly poured into our hearts the Spirit, which is the love of God . . . precisely so that he may nourish the faith within us and keep this hope alive. This is a certainty: God loves me. ‘But in this difficult moment?’ — God loves me. ‘I, who have done this bad and cruel thing?’ — God loves me. No one can take this certainty away. We must repeat it as a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me. I am sure that God loves me.”
It is critical to the development of our faith lives to discern areas for improvement. But areas for improvement cannot be all we see, because we will inadvertently forget to love ourselves as God does and thus hinder our relationship with Him.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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