Life of dedication: Life of love

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Love: the whole salvation history can be summarized by this one word. Jesus is the most vivid expression of God’s love. Only through Jesus we come to know the unfathomable love of God for his creatures. The Good News of the New Testament from the beginning till the end depicts Jesus’ life as a life filled with love for humanity. People who joined him were people who fascinated by his love. Not only the instructions but even the personality of Jesus was so sweet, loving and lovable.

The depth of love, Jesus himself felt in the innermost of his heart, is revealed through these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30). In fact this was the experience of any one who followed Jesus from his life time till today. The sufferings they have undergone out of love for Jesus were sweet and many have prayed to Jesus for many more sufferings.

Love and sufferings: It is a contradiction for the intellectuals from Jesus’ time down to today. For those who have gone through this, it was in tune with the words of Jesus as he was giving the love command: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13). The love was in such a high degree that the sufferings they had to undergo were a sweet experience of that love. Many were not satisfied with the life lived here with worldly affairs. They wanted to dedicate their whole life as a response to the love they experienced from Jesus in the Bible and in the Church and its sacraments. Then they found their life more meaningful and that they were moving towards human perfection. In this way they could overcome the selfishness, ego, pride, desire for money, power and lust. Freed themselves from such worldly desires they experienced abundant love in their whole being, as St Paul puts it: “not I but Christ lives in me.” People, who dedicated their lives for Jesus, had great respect for the world as it is God’s own creation. They did not want to possess it for their own comfort and luxury but understood it as a place to practice love/charity that they experienced in their heart. They were ready to undergo any inconvenience or hardships to look at anything of this world as Jesus looked at it.

The example of the nineteenth century saint, St Theresa of Lisiuex, may be inspiring. Theresa had a great fascination for nature, flowers, lawns, rain, snow and stars of the sky. The beauty of the nature led her thoughts to the absolute and eternal beauty of the author of all these. She had been filled with love for that God. She had wondered, admired that God. She began to love him for his magnanimity, kindness and mercy without expecting anything for her personally: we call it detached love. She remained so or even grown in her appreciation of nature till the end of her life. At her bed, as she was seriously sick and sinking stage, her confreres spread flowers thinking that it might make her happy, but she told herself: “I love flowers, but these could have been allowed to stay on the plants. I like to see them like that than they were removed from the plants.” She used to gaze at the garden and the sky from her sick bed. She has written in her last days: “Oh my God, you know that I have no other desire than to love you; I don’t have any other demand for well-being. From my childhood onwards your love conquered me; it has grown up with me; now it has become an ocean; I am unable to measure its depth[1]. Love entices love; therefore, oh my Jesus, my love leaps towards you.” (free translation from ‘Navmalika’ p. 339, 10th edition 2013). This deep and unmeasurable love prompted her to respect the feelings of the others even in very silly matters. She could suffer any hardships to make others happy.

If we understand rightly the lives of people like Theresa of Lisiuex, we realize that it is not that they were compelled to follow the three vows but the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience flows smoothly from their way of life and activities, as an internal force. Love and love alone was their motive. They never turned their face away from any sufferings that came on their way of love. Their attitude towards life was positive. They loved everyone, blessed those who cursed them, prayed for those who hated them.

Laxity in the life of professed vows and regulations of the monastery do not help the monk/nun to live up to the call of this high degree of love, believed Theresa of Avila. Therefore, she wanted to reform the Carmelite order and there came out Reformed Carmelites/Discalced Carmelite. For reformation of the Order she sought the original sources of the Order and found that it serves what she needs for the renewal of the Order. Later Yves Congar called such reformations in the Church as “ressourcement”. The term came to mean returning to the past sources in a systematic fashion to discover what might there be of use in the past.[2]Theresa of Avila had a long struggle with the Church and civil authorities to get her first reformed monastery started without a deposited fund. She wanted her conferrers depend on the mercy of the people, which means depending absolutely on God. This makes the conferrers absolute free to love God and neighbor. For Theresa of Avila, doing charity is worthier than spending time in prayer with artificially created emotions.

It is being evident from the interventions of these saints that true love of God and true charity to the humanity is the real purpose of any dedicated life. Whether it is a solemn vow or an ordinary one, the practice of chastity, poverty and obedience are necessary for a true dedicated life. John of the cross states categorically: “our minds should be satisfied only on such subjects that benefits for the glory and reverence of God; the greatest reverence to God is to serve God in accordance with the perfect Biblical values; any other service which is not in accordance with Bible will not benefit or do any good to humans.” (free translation from “Karmala Malayettam; Irunda Raatri, Tran. Fr Herman OCD, Carmel Pub. Trivandrum: 2012, p.288). People who consecrate their lives for Evangelization or contemplation and who like to have its full effect may have to weed out their beings from worldly motives and consecrate themselves for the glory of God, through the values of the Gospel. This purification of our internal and external faculties, according to John of the Cross, is to fulfill the Word of God given to Moses and later quoted by Jesus(Mk12:30), “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Deu 6:5 RSV; Ref. Karmala Malayettam, P. 285). The demand from God is a complete dedication. God doesn’t tolerate any partial or divided love and dedication. Jesus’ call first and foremost to seek the Kingdom of God (Mt6:33) and he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me (Mt 10:37) are clearly expose the fact that he doesn’t tolerate divided love.

The importance and relevance of the consecrated or dedicated life, as a life of perfect love, is clear from the above expositions. It is also a fact that without training oneself one cannot achieve this purpose. St Paul speaks of the training of the athletes who want to win a race. He controls his own body, he says, to win Christ. (Ref. 1Cor 9:25, 27). Once we have a good control of our bodily and mentally faculties, we are able to orient them to the highest form of love and love alone. Then we will be able to enjoy the pure form of life dedicated or consecrated to God and sure, we find the joy of living, not only here on earth for some time but an eternal life is guaranteed.

 

[1] Theresa wished that on her vestition day (10th Jan,1889) the nature too wear white by a snowfall. But on the previous day was cloudy and about to rain. In the morning too the weather was dull and a snowfall was nearly impossible. It made Theresa very unhappy. But she had a very hearty function of vestition. After the ceremonies, when she was moving to the convent, she was surprised to see a wonder; the nature is fully white, filled with snow! She was asking, could any bridegroom in the world, however great in power or money he might be, be able to make snowfall as a gift to his bride, if she wished so?!

[2] John W. O’Mally SJ, „The hermeneutic of Reform: A historical Analysis”, in Theological Studies, 73(2012), p. 517-546.

Fr Scaria Thamarakattu
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