I’ve been catching up on past issues of our Columbia magazine. After I finished reading the Sept 2010 issue I happened to turn it over and look at the back. Usually there is a picture of someone with a religious vocation with a quote and a brief statement from them. The quote from that issue struck a chord with me. It was from Sister Colleen Smith and the quote was “God has called me to give a human face to the heart of God”. It is a simple statement, elegant and if you think about it quite profound. In my mind, to give a face to the heart of God is to be a living example of God’s love, mercy, and compassion. This is not a field of flowers and bunnies, “can’t we all just get along” kind of example. It is to me a deeper effort to reflect to others as much as humanly possible the love the Holy Trinity expresses to us. That is a tall order. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for getting along with others. In fact it is one of the tenents of God’s heart to love all people, including our enemies, those we disagree with and those we envy. To get along with others however does not mean that one needs to compromise the values set forth in God’s plan.
Sr. Smith’s expression in her picture is that of a happy, committed indivual. Trying to live as a face to God’s heart is certainly not always an easy nor a popular endeavor. How then can someone who has committed her life’s work to such a task be so happy? After all, there are all those rules and commandments we have to follow to be a “good person”. Alas, one of the great miscommunications of “modern” times. It is so easy to think of the commandments as a negative, if I break one of these I am a “bad person”. This can easily come across to another as “if you break one of the commandments I think you are a bad person”. This is construed as contradictory to a loving God. No wonder so many see the Catholic religion as oppressive. However, when we understand and live the commandments not as a list of do’s and dont’s, but rather as a plan to be followed toward happiness and peace, we begin to realize the depth of God’s love. When I look back at my life to the notable pain points, I can map the cause back to fracturing one or more of the commandments and Jesus’s statement to love one another as you love yourself. Living the commandments is a most freeing experience, far from oppressive.
God loves us so much he gives us every chance and guidance to find happiness. He gave us His Word, His Church, His aposotles, disciples, priests and religious. He died a horrific death for us. He gave us the commandments which in essence say “hey, ya want to be at peace here is a plan to follow”.
Yes, living as a face to that kind of love is a tall order. Next time I am in the adoration chapel I think I am going start by saying the Our Father, one line at a time and contemplating after each what it means to me and how can I reflect in action that meaning to others. For me, that will be a good start.