When I think about it, while dwelling on Philippians 2:5, one of the few things Christ told us to do was the admonition to love one another as He as loved us. How simple! How utterly profound. If I want to love God with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, I should know and love as Christ has loved us. Here comes my problem. How does Jesus love us? After all these years, am I going to be the victim of my ego and make Christ in my image and likeness, or is there a deeper meaning to what Christ says? I like to think there is a deeper meaning. Here are some thoughts I had during my Lectio Divina on what it means for Christ to love us.
EMPTYING SELF: The simpler the prayer, the more authentic it is. The most profound act of love is found in Philippians 2:5. It is the voluntarily emptying of self for the other. God emptied himself for all us, me as an individual, and all of us, believers or not, that we all have a chance to love to the fullness of our nature. As a Lay Cistercian, these eight words in Philippians are my purpose in life, my center. Christ emptied himself first and then bids his followers to follow his example. This means I must deny myself and take up my cross daily to follow Christ in whatever challenges the day brings for me.
I WANT TO BE WITH YOU: Philippians 2:5 again. Wanted to be with us, even though Christ would not know each of us by name, God does, and Christ is God. Jesus loving us means we should do no less than to love everyone. For me, that takes on wanting everyone to go to Heaven. Not everyone may make it there, but that is God’s decision, not mine. Opening up the heart to the heart of Christ means I long to be with Christ, just as He longs to be with me. I look forward to my Lectio Divina and Eucharist because it is there that I can communicate with Christ and He with me.
I WANT TO SHARE WHO I AM WITH YOU: In marriage, the covenant of relationship between man and woman, means I share with who I am with you, physically, mentally and, most of all, spiritually. Spiritual sharing is the most difficult but depends on how well you do with physical sharing and mental sharing. Part of the genius of Jesus is that he left us a way to share Himself with us, despite the passing of each age. The simplicity of the message of love is like the body, and the way in which we adapt is like clothes we put on. Each age has different customs but there is always just one simple message, love one another. I don’t know if I will ever truly know who Jesus is just as it is impossible to love with all my heart, but I can try to begin each day with the goal of loving others and seeing the world as Christ would see it, giving glory to the Father in the Eucharist, asking for mercy and forgiveness in Reconciliation, Seeking to make all things new over and over in the context of a living Body of Christ, the Church.
I WANT TO SHARE THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE AS WELL AS THE LIGHT SIDE: Christ bids us to not only love those who love us back (light side of love) but love those who persecute you even if they kill you.
FORGIVE OTHERS AS YOU WANT THE FATHER TO FORGIVE YOU. Don’t condemn others but rather have mercy on them as you want the Father to have mercy on you. Here is the part that many people conveniently leave out, that you should go and sin no more. Your behavior is not to be condemned, if you see that you are in need of change and redemption. The difficult part is to commit not to do that behavior again, which most people either don’t do or won’t do. Another way to say this is, don’t condemn the sinner but condemn the sin. We sinners must recognize that what we do is not consistent with Jesus loving us and therefore change our behavior. The dark side of love is accepting what Christ’s love is and then acting upon it. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as our self. If we hold that adultery is okay and that love means you can have indiscriminate sex with your mother, your sister, your friends, your enemies, in fact anyone, then you really don’t believe in what God is telling us what love means. The love of Jesus is a stumbling block for those who consider themselves god.
PRAYER IS LOVE: The purpose for why Jesus, Son of God, came to earth was to save us from being locked out of Heaven…Forever. His mission in life was to give glory to the Father, I might add, as only God can do, yet represent all of us, as only Christ could do. Read John 17, the priestly prayer of Christ. “…eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Reflect on this beautiful passage in John in your Spiritual Reading. I suggest you read it several times in silence and solitude, the silence that comes from being open to God’s silent wisdom, and the solitude that comes from you loving others as Christ, as only you can. Prayer is lifting up the heart and mind to God. It is knowing, loving and serving others because of the love that fills our whole being when we realize in Philippians 2:5-12, the depth, the height and width of Christ’s love for us. We can do no more, nor can we do any less.
GIVE YOUR LIFE FOR ANOTHER: If we want to love others as Christ loved us, we must be willing to give our life for another. To make sense of this statement, I don’t think about a soldier laying down his life for another, although that is certainly heroic and the ultimate sign of love. in the secular world The love of which I speak is not dying for another person but living your life for others as Christ emptied himself and glorified His Father in sacrifice of his death and resurrection, for the sins of all humanity. Lest you go off the charts in being confused, think about this. We do not celebrate or honor a dead God, ones like the secularists serve, but Jesus who lives today. Christ gives his life to the Father every time we come together to proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory (Eucharist) and in the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, or in the silence and solitude of our heart in Lectio Divina. We make Christ present when we love others as He has loved us.
LOVE: WHAT THE FLOWER CAN TEACH US If you want to find our what love is look to nature. Think of yourself as a beautiful flower whose whole purpose is to be a flower. Things come naturally, you don’t have to even worry. You bloom, take in nutrients, have bees come around to pollinate your species, smell delicious to bees and insects, then die. This is the natural order.
Humans also have a natural order. Our nature is to be human, like our prototypes, Adam and Eve. We find ourselves in a world where we can’t live forever, where there is pain, suffering and misfortune based many times on our choices. But, there is also happiness, love, peace, joy, goodness and thoughtfulness. We are the conduits of both good and/or evil for the world around us. The world is good, we are good, but we have suffered the effect of the relational sin of Adam and Eve and must pay the price until we die. The Genesis principle is, for me, a very challenging tale of where humans find themselves and where we are headed.
The Church uses the natural order as the basis for morality and values. It also takes into account the effects of Original Sin. We are born of two parents, grow up with nutrients of knowledge and values, reproduce, but we are different from the animals. We have the capacity to know that we know, to find meaning for a reason, to be able to expand our senses and minds to include love from God that sustains us for the trip to Forever. Humans are not destined for earth. Earth is the incubator for growing and learning how to love, for it is love that is the language of God and the nectar of Heaven. The reason for the Church, the living Body of Christ is to feed us, cloth us, shelter us from that which does not lead to love, and allow us to love others as Christ has loved us. We don’t automatically go to Heaven, as if we had no free will, but we have the words of Christ in Matthew 11: 28-30, Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yolk and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yolk is easy and my burden is light.
Jesus is our mediator with the Father, but he is also our Brother and has given us the gift of adoption to be sons and daughters of the Father. This he has not done for flower, even as beautiful and fragrant as they are. Why is that?
LAY CISTERCIAN MEANING AND LEARNING POINTS
As one who only aspires to be a Lay Cistercian, I try to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. I say try, because I struggle to fight the influences of the secular world to make me into God, to say that, afterall, everyone has an opinion as to what is right and who God is and you should not force others to believe what you do. There are elements of truth in that statement, but a fundamental flaw. Do you know what it is?
What are the requirements to be a Lay Cistercian, or a follower of the Master so that you can learn how to love as Christ loved us? As our late Spiritual Advisor, Father Anthony Deliese, OCSO, told one of our members, “You must be a sinner.” And I would add, “and want to grow from self to God with God’s love for us.” That in all things, may God be glorified. –St. Benedict
For me, I have chosen to use silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community to help me conclude my personal journey to find out how to love as Jesus loved us.
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian Doxology