Resources for Living the Gospel Today

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Lent Retreat: Finding God – Part 4

Finding God Through Relationships

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Find some photos of your family members and friends. Who might be there? What is your relationship with each person pictured on your shelf? Think about what each one means to you.  Take a few moments to pray for each person.

In many places in the gospel you can see Jesus in his own human relationships. He often reminds his followers about what good relationships involve.

For instance, Matthew refers to God’s commandments as the source of all human relationships:  “Now a young man approached him and said, ‘Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?’ He answered him, ‘Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He asked him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus replied, ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (19:16-19).

In Luke’s gospel Jesus, in response to a lawyer’s question about inheriting eternal life, turned the question back to the lawyer who knew the answer: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus commended him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live” (10:27-28).

Spirituality of everyday living is a matter of wholeness lived within God’s love. And this wholeness is holiness. A goal of the spiritual life is to become more other-centered, to love others as yourself. But it is important to keep in mind that you have to love yourself first in order to love your neighbors as yourself.

Good relationships are signs of God’s love. The love of and for others is how you can experience God’s love. As you have seen in the two gospel stories above, this love is expressed through God’s commandments.

It is easy to forget about loving yourself but you need a good self-image to be able to love others. Think about three qualities that help you to love others. Jot them down and think about these good qualities occasionally, especially when you are disappointed in yourself.

The Ten Commandments point to values which can guide your relationships with God and others. The first three recognize your relationship to God and the last seven tell you that God cares about the way you treat others. As you grow spiritually, you can see that the commandments are more than laws to be obeyed; they are ways to love God and one another.

Think of “you shall not kill” as telling you to treat others with respect for their human dignity.  “You shall not commit adultery” means that marriage is the foundation of family relationships.  “You shall not steal” and “you shall not bear false witness” are reminders to respect the goods and the reputations of other people; such integrity includes not giving into society’s consumerism, greed, dishonesty, or impugning the good name of opponents.

“Honor your father and your mother” is at the heart of all family relationships. In your family you learned to love your neighbor as yourself as you learned to share. God is present in family life, even though no family is perfect. Spirituality formed out of the ups and downs of daily living is a spirituality of dealing with laundry, dirty dishes, budget problems, and often of struggling with relationships.

Think about your family of origin. What persons or situations helped you to learn love? Have there been difficult relationships within your family brought about by unhealthy patterns of living?  As part of this retreat, take a few moments to be grateful for the love in your family and to pray for healing wherever it is needed. You may want to jot down in your journal some of your realizations. Keep in mind that God loves you as you are whatever your family experiences may have been.

Where do you find God in your current family situation? How do you affirm each family member?   Do you love deeply without possessiveness? A healthy relationship means to welcome another with open arms, embrace or hold the other for a moment, and then release this person to be free. It is all a matter of love; that is, helping each person to become all he or she is capable of being.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (13: 4-8) is such a celebration of love that it is often the reading of choice at wedding ceremonies. Perhaps you can think of it as the reading of choice for daily living. Pray with this passage as you think about your relationships with your family members, your friends, your colleagues and neighbors. Take one verse at a time and let it resonate in your heart:

“Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger, neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.

Now look at the passage in a different way. Substitute “I” for “love” and see what the verses tell you about yourself. For example: “I am patient, I am kind.” Or “I am not rude, I am not self-seeking, I am not prone to anger, neither do I brood over injuries.” You might use this reflection for an examination of conscience.

“God is love.” To what extent can you say, “I am love,” knowing, of course, that no human person achieves the fullness of love? But, as you know, holiness is a striving to grow in love daily. Remember that nothing is impossible because God loves you and you can only love because God loves you.

Repeat this mantra often: MAY I LOVE MY NEIGHBOR AS MYSELF.

Now turn to the next part of the retreat: Part 5 – Finding God in Work.