Talk given for Holy Family UTC Youth Prayer Rally “BELOVED” – August 1, 2009
WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN!! In their letters, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Jude, AND St. John all addressed the community as “beloved” whenever they encouraged the people of God to be faithful to Him and live up to a different standard. We belong to God…He created us out of love, for love…wanting us to remember Him, to talk to Him, to listen to Him, and to express our love for Him…most of all to return to Him for all eternity.
As a parent: my children were also created out of love for me to love.
I know that they love me, too, but my love for them is different than the love they have for me…I want to TEACH them what is right so they are able to live a fulfilled life and reach the potential God created them with…I want to PROVIDE for them…to clothe and feed them and make sure all their needs are met…I want to PROTECT them from the evil in the world, but I also want to prepare them to deal with it when they meet it.
However, I am also aware that they strive to imitate the love I give to them. When I smile and talk to them, they smile and talk to me. I shower them with kisses, and my toddler Meleana will also randomly come up to me does the same without me asking. When I feed her, she likes to take the spoon and feeds me, too. If I want them to understand what true love is, I have to be a good example myself.
Gary and I are not perfect parents, but the experience of parenting has given us a glimpse of what it’s like from the Father’s perspective. We have God Himself to show us how we need to love. All we need to do is realize all the different ways He makes His love present to us, and in 1John 3:2-3 we are told that we are each called to be like Him.
To Be LOVED…
We all seek to be loved but the world teaches us that LOVE is expressed through affection or only limited to physical expression. We don’t really understand exactly what it is and what it means.
(PRESENT WHITE ROSE) If someone gives this rose to you, what are they trying to say? I like you. I appreciate our friendship.
(PRESENT RED ROSE) If someone gives this rose to you, what are they trying to say? I LOVE YOU. Romance. Passion.
In our society, we even have symbols of different kinds of love. But even these symbols and the meanings we attach to them still don’t reflect true love.
As a child, I wanted my mom to hug and kiss me all the time because that’s what I saw from TV or watching my friends’ parents pick them up from school. I totally missed all the ways she showed she loved me and my brother and sisters. She and my dad taught us about God. They brought us to church every Sunday. Both of them worked full-time jobs and provided for our family as best as they could. My mom prayed for me and steered me in the right direction when I was lost and confused. She nurtured my relationship with God as a young adult, supported me in my teaching career. More recently, she generously welcomed my husband into our family and helps me take care of my own children when she can.
See, my mom did not grow up in a home where there was a lot of physical affection. But she knew what love was. Love is SACRIFICE.
(PRESENT RED ROSE AGAIN) This is sacrifice.
The problem was that I didn’t get it. I wanted love the way that I understood it, so I looked for it in other ways and in other places. I wanted to be popular and loved by my friends. I wanted approval from society…for people to think I was pretty and “with it”. I wanted to be cherished and loved by the guys I liked.
I CHANGED WHO I WAS IN ORDER TO GET THE LOVE I WAS LOOKING FOR…giving up my values…compromising my own dignity as a young woman…creating this image of myself that really wasn’t me. I was living in two different worlds and it hurt a whole lot inside.
I had the friends, the boyfriend, the car, the clothes, the LOOK that I had it all together but inside I was falling apart. And God was watching all of this happen, knowing that I would eventually come back to Him when I had nothing else to fill the hole in my heart.
As part of my journey back to Christ, I learned about a man named St. Maximilian Kolbe. He was a priest who during his life work to promote devotion to Mary. But he is actually most famous for giving up his life to save another man in the Polish concentration camp at Auschwitz. When he was a child, he was quite a handful and his mother asked “What will become of you?” As a result of God’s grace and his mother’s prayers, he approached the statue of the Blessed Mother and she appeared to him in a vision. She presented two crowns to him – one red representing martyrdom and the other white representing purity. She asked him which one he would choose, and he said, “I choose both!” He grew up to become a faithful priest and at the end of his life, died for his faith at the hand of the Germans.
I took the story of St. Max and translated it for my own life. I also had a great love for St. Therese of Lisieux and her shower of roses, so I took as my symbol the red rose and the white rose together. I knew that the chances of me being killed for my faith were slim – especially in this country – so I prayed about what martyrdom meant for me. God showed me that I needed to die to myself and all my selfish desires. Instead of looking at the crucifix and saying, “Thank you, Jesus, for what you did for me. I really appreciate it,” I knew I needed to be courageous enough to get up on the cross with Jesus…not afraid to be crucified when people talked behind my back or made fun of me…when I was misunderstood or rejected.
Purity and sacrifice.
To Be LOVE…duh!
This brings me to Toni’s interpretation of “BeLoveD” that she talked about at the youth meeting a few weeks ago.
The definition of love kind of eluded me until a particular summer some years ago when I was on vacation with my family. I happened to be watching EWTN and a priest named Fr. Leo was giving a teaching on love. He asked the viewers to reflect on 1Corinthians 13:4-7…
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Then he had us take out the word “love” and replace it with Jesus. It was obvious that Jesus was all of the things that love was. But what caught me was his challenge for us to replace “love” with our own name. It was difficult for me to do this because I knew I wasn’t anywhere close to living up to the standard, but I wrote it down in my journal anyway.
“Marianne is patient, Marianne is kind. She does not envy, she does not boast. She is not proud, she is not rude, she is not self-seeking. She is not easily angered, she keeps no record of wrongs. She does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I needed to be pure in my intentions, in my thoughts, and in my actions. I needed to be everything that love was…everything that Jesus was…because GOD IS LOVE.
- I had to be patient when it came to physically expressing my love to a guy that I might marry.
- I should be humble in the way that I carried myself.
- I had to look out for the good of other people first before myself.
- I needed to forgive the people who hurt me, especially the guys I dated who did not understand at the time what true love really meant.
- I felt that I should try my best to help my family and friends along, too.
- I WANTED to stay committed to my call to holiness and purity because that’s what I was created for.
This new understanding of love guided me in all of my relationships…with my mother, my brother and sisters, my friends, my coworkers, my students, my husband, my children…and my relationship with God.
Now you’re probably looking at me thinking, “I get it, SO NOW WHAT?” How can you live this message out when you go back out there into the world…into your relationships and the situations that you have to deal with every day?
- Be faithful…keep trying and don’t give up. The difference between an ordinary person and a saint is: The ordinary person falls and stays on the ground, too lazy to get up and do something about his or her sin. They think it’s too hard and not worth the effort to try to change their lives for the better. The saint falls and reaches up for the hand of God EVERY SINGLE TIME.
- Take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation because each time you go to confession, you are reaching for God, asking Him to save you from your sin…recommitting yourself to Him to “go and sin no more”.
- Understand where your temptations come from – personal weakness, the devil, the environment – and know what to do when you are tempted to sin and go against the will of God. Your physical surroundings (especially media) and the people you are with may have a lot to do with you falling into sin.
- Use the TOOLS given to you in the Church: Mass (as often as possible but at least every Sunday), adoration, the Rosary, prayers to the saints for help, reading Scripture…and Reconciliation at least once a month to keep your soul clean!
- #1 = the GRACE OF GOD…beg for the grace to stay pure…to want to be holy…because willpower is NOT gonna cut it. You can’t do it on your own! All of the saints knew this, so they kept coming back to God for the strength to persevere.
Brothers and sisters, SET YOUR SIGHTS ON HEAVEN!! You were made for so much more than this world…and don’t be afraid to take as many people with you as you can!
Photo: “Beloved” rosary by Marianne Soratorio Dyogi (courtesy of Emeline Moya, 2009)