Can I See ALL As The Beloved of God?

I wrote last week about the talk I gave at St. Thomas Apostle on the relationship between wisdom and mercy, part of the parish’s four-part series on the Year of Mercy.  In my earlier post, I talked of wisdom as seeing as God sees, one element of which is seeing everyone as the beloved of God.

My friend Bill Nolan, pastoral associate at St. Thomas Apostle, reflected on that part of my talk in his weekly parish column.  He wrote

This is hardly a foreign concept in our faith tradition. In the beginning, God made humankind in the divine image, the writer of Genesis tells us. We are the very image of God, in our humanity. Thus, to see the other as also being the image of God ought to be the most authentically human experience in the world.

So…it ought to be an equally authentically human experience to say and believe the following:

Bernie Sanders, you are the beloved of God… Hillary Clinton, you are the beloved of God… Donald Trump, you are the beloved of God…

Neighbor who fails to clean up what his dog left in my yard, you are the beloved of God… Driver who believes the stop sign at the corner is merely a suggestion, you are the beloved of God… Shopper who takes the last item off the shelf that was my sole purpose for going to the grocery store, you are the beloved of God…

Archbishop Weakland, you are the beloved of God… Cardinal Law, you are the beloved of God… Archbishop Nienstedt, you are the beloved of God…

I have to be honest. I’m not sure I can say and believe all those statements. Does this mean I am lacking in the wisdom that leads to mercy? Well…in a word…yes.

But it doesn’t mean I quit trying. It doesn’t mean I give up on trying to separate what a person does from who a person is. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not condone sin; it acknowledges the sinner as beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not mean that I should ignore the evil that is done in the world; it calls me to see every human person as capable of redemption, precisely because they are the beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not ask me to turn a blind eye; it calls me to turn the other cheek.

Can I say and believe all those statements as well? I don’t know. But I can keep trying.

As Bill says, and as we discussed in the dialogue that followed my talk, this is not easy.  It is a process.  And our failure to always see as God sees “doesn’t mean I quit trying.”

3 thoughts on “Can I See ALL As The Beloved of God?

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts; I believe deeply in the truth of these words and also struggle with implementation whenever I turn on a news channel or read a current events paper. I have begun reading headlines and using them as litanies of praise, intercession, and petition. Hopefully, that will allow me to step back from my personal biases in the days and months ahead!

  2. What an insightful column!
    I, too, wonder at the mystery of all God’s beloved who can turn away so easily using words and actions contrary to Gods love! I have only to look at my own turnings from this gift of love on occasion.
    Like you, Diane, I pray with the headlines I see each morning and breathe in the troubles and anger presented to me; I hold them in prayer and try to transform them to an exhale of peace to those affected by the actions of others.

  3. “Not (in a ) a spirit of Cowardice.”

    “Paul reminds Timothy to ‘stir into flame the gift of God that you have.’ For, as Paul says, ‘God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.’ ”

    “I absolutely love the image of stirring into flame the gifts we have been given. I imagine leaning over a campfire blowing into a small fire, coaxing it along until it until bursts into flames. Or kneeling in front of the fireplace, blowing on the embers underneath a new log, hoping they are enough to get that log going. As anyone who has ever built a fire knows, the process requires patience and persistence.”

    While proverbially “leaning over a campfire blowing into a small fire, coaxing it along until it (until) bursts into flames,” does not the moment often apply both to frustration, possibly anger as well as patience, and possibly forgiveness, challenging the (our) “spirit . . . of power and love and self-control.”?

    In my profession, as well as most forms of artistic expression, design, and fashion (excluding heels), I strive to never criticize as I seldom know the desire, intent or budget initially established – while consistently and passionately expressing what I would possibly revise or the new vision towards which I could have channeled my creativity.

    Mr. Nolan’s observations can be likened to Jesus’ intervention and seeing all as beloved of God, as recalled in this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke 7:11–17 of the widow mourning the loss of her only son – culturally a devastating development where she was suddenly very vulnerable and dependent upon the mercy and generosity of her (the greater) community. “He was moved with pity (for her) and said (to her),” . . . Jesus did not wait to be asked for help, He was moved, intervened and restored her son to life. . .

    Inspired through this an age of New Evangelism, how are we called to respond (intervene) when “the embers underneath a new log” . . . “burst(s) into flames?”

    “God gives us amazing gifts, but doesn’t give them to us full-blown. God expects us to develop the gifts we have been given and make them grow so that we can fulfill our mission to proclaim the Word.” How to discern the fine line between wisdom and mercy, between mercy and generosity and . . . “. . . trying to separate what a person does from who (we perceive) a person is?”

    “The wisdom that leads to mercy does not condone sin; it acknowledges the sinner as beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not mean that I should ignore the evil that is done in the world; it calls me to see every human person as capable of redemption, precisely because they are the beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not ask me to turn a blind eye; it calls me to turn the other cheek.”

    Father Edward Beck’s homily this morning (Church of Saint Francis de Sales, New York, NY) related the tragic death experienced by a Catholic deacon who had backed over he and his wife’s third and youngest child on their morning drive to church weeks before Father Beck arrived to lead a retreat. Father shared an inspiring message of possible examples of how a faith community can come together supportively, in love and in prayer during tragedy – challenging all to employ their (the) God Given Gifts “we have been given and make them grow so that we can fulfill our mission to proclaim the Word.”

    Similarly and contrastingly, (EWTN) Father Anthony (raised in Cologne, Minnesota) during his homily this morning reflected upon both the first reading Elijah, 1 Kings 17:17–24 and Luke. Father wonderfully related, in more detail, the cultural struggles the widow (all widows) faced during her time and the laws and traditions Jesus transcended when he reached out to touch the funeral bier of her son.

    Father Anthony wove St. Ambrose’s interpretation of this Scriptural passage into one where the widow represents Holy Mother Church weeping for the dead who in their (our) sin(s) have separated themselves from the church and are being carried beyond Her limits (of Her redemptive and healing grace). Father called to mind that all are sinners in need of the redemptive grace from Jesus’ Resurrection, and in need of God’s mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation with Holy Mother Church.

    Which embers and fire are we called to flame?

    From Saint Francis de Sales this morning, our Lord’s Family was gathered together in common space – Father, congregation, choir, musical group, all celebrating in language theirs with hearts and eyes conjoined, and in modesty and with decorum joined hands during the Lord’s Prayer and extended (shared) the sign of peace before the breaking of the Bread and Communion.

    From (EWTN) Our Lady of Angels Chapel in Irondale, AL, (often) a single voice (choir) is separated from the congregation by a form of chancel screen, a musical group is seldom if ever performing, major portions of the Liturgy are celebrated in Latin, hands are not joined during the Lord’s Prayer, touched during the Rite of Peace, and seldom extended to receive the Host at Communion.

    To many, the first parish is perceived as more welcoming and more often sharing an affirming, encouraging and challenging message (lesson) – with the second, seemingly more and more striving to recapture what Pope Emeritus Benedict professed (this past October) resulted from Vatican II – The Church is more often seen as not needed and thus must ‘reclaim’ its position of authority, necessity and devoted fealty to.

    To many in the Roman hierarchy, acknowledging that salvation outside the Church (differing among various Catholic and Orthodox beliefs) has contributed to the degradation (loss of respect) and loss of prestigious standing of Church and Church authority – it often appears additional emphasis is continually being placed upon defining sin and sinner, proclaiming secular society as an ever increasing temptation and evil, and that redemption must more often be ‘delivered’ to the faithful replacing, a more pastoral calling of forgiveness and redemption sought.

    For the past almost three weeks, I have struggled with much of Cardinal Sarah’s keynote address; especially comments on Ideological Colonialism during the National Prayer Breakfast (May 17th) “ ‘Nowhere is [religious persecution] clearer than in the threat that societies are visiting on the family through a demonic ‘gender ideology,’ a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism,’ Cardinal Sarah said at the annual gathering, which this year also included addresses from Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and from Sister Constance Veit of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

    The Guinean cardinal serves as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.”
    –Catherine Harmon, Catholic World Report (CWR) 05-18-16

    Ideological Colonialism “to many (it) seems the decaying ‘West’ still engages in oppressive colonization through financial and political pressure to comply with abortion on demand, contraception, sterilization, the normalization of same-sex attraction and same-sex “marriage.” –MSGR. Charles Pope, National Catholic Register (NCR) 09-28-15

    Have the ‘evils’ mentioned above by Cardinal Sarah ever led one, who truly walks with the Lord each new day, into a state of sin?

    Through doctrine and directive, are we soon to experience Cardinal Sarah’s vision of “How to put God back at the center of liturgy”? Increasingly celebrating the Sacred Liturgy in Latin, celebrated ad orientem (Latin for, to the east) and a further (Spiritual) divide between Chancel and Nave, the return of chancel screens, the further divide between clergy and choir and the congregation, a further divide between shepherd and flock during Mass?

    When the Mass of Christian Burial for Beau Biden was broadcast nationally, (a year ago tomorrow, June 6, 2015) and when Holy Mother Church opened Her heart (and more importantly Her door) to the world – the peaceful, comforting solemnity of the Mass was lauded (often most surprisingly) by so many non-Catholics as having touched their hearts in ways unexpected, unknown and profoundly spiritually – introducing many, for the first time, to Grace and Blessings seldom, if ever, experienced during other memorial services – introducing many to an experience where God and congregation are drawn together as ‘One’ in a liturgy of sacrifice and comfort.

    When our presence is welcoming and affirming, inspiring and lovingly challenging, and encourages others to spend (or wish to spend) more time in our presence, it is not so much ‘us’, as it is the ‘Spirit’ within (our God Given Gift) that stirs (enflames) hearts, joining theirs to ours – joining both to Our Lord’s as brothers and sisters in Christ, joining one to the other as the Family of God.

    Gathering together (those of many and those of no faith home) often unfolds in the sharing of time and meal – nourishing body and soul often in simple setting and solemnity of Spirit similar to the time and the communal meal shared in the Upper Room the evening before Jesus’ Passion – Where in the presence of Jesus as presider, all are called to “Do this in remembrance of Me. . .” to “Love each other as I have loved you.” Transcending both literal and figurative, as in liturgy where Jesus transcended both Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation, while pastorally tending to His entire flock.

    It is possible to gather as one heart, one Spirit, and as One Body . . .

    The secular media has often (Beau Biden, Pope Francis’ Papal visit, etc. . .) introduced secular (evil) society to liturgy that often encourages Catholic faith and tradition to be explored in parish, city and town around the globe – where can be found a welcoming laity, welcoming deacon(s) and affirming priest(s).

    Though when the ‘bloom is off the blossom’ – a shroud of traditional orthodoxy often smothers (douses the flames) the ‘Spirit’ encouraging One Family and His Kingdom Come – as Holy Mother Church strives to regain relevance by delivering redemption to the faithful instead of pastorally drawing individuals to discernment, reconciliation, forgiveness, and transformation. . .

    How will the call for a New Evangelism ever flourish if Holy Mother Church continually, and often instantaneously, turns away from ecumenical gatherings and proclamations of unification, and in turn retreats to an advocacy of message in an ever increasingly apologetic tone espousing the ‘One’ righteous, and certain path to redemption and salvation?

    With Her word and actions (near schizophrenic) espoused and directed, to many the Holy Doors may have been opened this past December 8th (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), and opened temporarily at best.

    For far too many experience The Doors, the Church’s Heart, as increasingly, slowly closing. With our God Given Gifts, what part (role) have we been called to play?

    Are all truly seen and embraced as ‘beloved of God’?

    “God gives us amazing gifts, but doesn’t give them to us full-blown. God expects us to develop the gifts we have been given and make them grow so that we can fulfill our mission to proclaim the Word.”

    Which gifts are we called to “stir into flames” and which ‘Word’ are we called to proclaim?

    Are the doors opened soon to be nailed shut?

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