Learning to love like Christ

March 12, 2013

There is much excitement in the Church right now as we continue to journey through a Lenten season amid world history unfolding. The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, through his prayerful discernment, brought about many unprecedented questions that needed to be answered. His decision certainly afforded all of us additional opportunities for prayer; for the Holy Father, for his Successor and for the entire Church.
Father Reinaldo Braga Jr., a Brazilian priest studying theology in Rome, said he was saddened when he first heard the news. “The atmosphere was funereal but nobody had died,” he said. “But then I realized it was a wise act for the entire Church. He taught the Church and the world that the papacy is not about power but about service.” It was a sentiment the retiring pontiff himself emphasized last month when he told his flock that the “path of power is not the road of God.” 

As we experience the conclave and enter into Holy week this month, I am reminded of a single truth. That is, that we are all called to bring others to know and love Jesus Christ. We, as individuals, and the Church as a whole, are called to serve the same mission and with the same humility. We are called initially to transport our own faith life to new horizons that includes more prayer, knowledge of Scripture and admiration for Christ’s life and his Father’s love for us. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit we are able to spend our entire lives moving into deeper relationship with the Trinity. 

From a list of Ten Things to Remember for Lent, one thought offered by Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., is the following: “Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.” 

Through a discipline of “learning to love like Christ” we bring not only ourselves to a deeper union with God, but through our prayers and actions have the potential to move others closer to him. We encounter others who are in need of Christ’s presence through a myriad of ways and places. They may be in our families; siblings, spouses, parents, distant relatives; or among our professional peers or ministerial colleagues; neighbors or longtime friends. Often times one’s mind and heart is more open to receive what is needed most when hurts or fears are at their peak. This window of vulnerability is where God’s grace becomes manifest through the outstretched hand or compassionate heart of another. Being a vehicle to bring others from the incarnation to the cross and, of utmost importance to the resurrection, is the ultimate privilege and responsibility. It entails accepting the imperfections of our humanity, first within ourselves. To need others is a sign of our communal life in Christ. Receiving care and feeling supported by others is a grace. Spiritual growth moves us closer to holiness and not unlike other “travel” as we know it, requires action and intentionality. As modeled by the Holy Father, the more humbly we serve, the more profoundly we are able to effectively minister to others. Whether our “ministry” is serving locally in our families or we hold the highest office in the Church, we continually learn that it takes great courage to admit our limitations and great faith to make decisions out of love instead of authority. 

In these final days of our Lenten journey in this Year of Faith, let us reflect on the words of His Holiness. “Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection — in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history — I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!”

We have been provided still another opportunity and that is to follow ever so humbly the Mother of the Messiah. According to Luke, she “kept all things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). As our meditations may deepen our belief in God and the power of love, which comes from the Spirit, guide us to freely offer ourselves to the Lord and to others. May all who come to know Christ through us feel in their depths the love of Christ poured out for them upon the Cross and like Mary, may we all remain eager for God’s will to be accomplished in our lives. 

Charleen Katra is an associate director with Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.