Monday, April 24, 2017

Persons in Our Lives Who Call Us to Love

It is so easy for us to forget that the human beings we encounter every day are real persons. We easily fall into the habit of seeing them as widgets whose purpose for existing is reduced to fulfilling our needs.

Maybe sometimes we're not so selfish. We try to give and take, to be fair, to be nice and polite. Still, we know that we are not adequate to the reality that they bear; we are numb to the miracle of the unique persons all around us.

Part of it is simply the weight of being human. We're tired. We're in a hurry. We're troubled by our own frustrations, anxieties, fears of being hurt, fears of failure. Sometimes we're hungry. Or we have indigestion or we're constipated.

Many of us are in fact physically and mentally incapable of handling stress. The wiring in our brains is all messed up. We have issues, we have defense mechanisms, we have walls that we have built to protect ourselves, we have genetic predispositions to react in certain ways, we have hormones and endocrine systems that are out of balance. Biotoxins flow through our blood, the environment poisons us, youthful impulsiveness drives us or the relentlessness of getting older wears us down. This is the human environment from which our conscious intentions, thoughts, and desires emerge.

But the fact is that we have free will. We are each responsible for ourselves and our own actions. Our human material limitations may decrease our culpability for particular acts (or failures to act) in various instances, but they don't take away our freedom entirely. Whatever problems we may have, our freedom is still summoned to grow in love. Every encounter with a person is an opportunity to love, however small. The call to love is greater than all our weaknesses.

We must learn to adhere to this greater reality that is love. Yet we remain weak and wounded. Where will we find the strength for this adherence?

The call to love is a grace, and it is drawing us toward healing. Healing comes from grace. The capacity to recognize the human person comes from Jesus, whose presence we must learn to recognize. How? We must pray. We must ask for Him to heal us and transform us. We must receive Him in the sacraments. We must follow those who have already grown in the art of living. We must listen, and be humble.

We all have "neighbors," people who have been placed beside us in the circumstances of life and who are therefore in some way entrusted to us. They are spouses, family members, coworkers, friends, people we serve, people who care for us, people in our communities, people who are in front of us with particular needs.

How do we treat these people every day?

The need to recognize the person in front of us, and the possibility for love, penetrates the whole day. But this call of love is blocked by our evasion, impatience, words ill-spoken, the subtle workings of our drive for power and manipulation, or just plain distraction.

There is material for an examination of conscience right there: one that brings humility, and sorrow, and a memory that commits us again to the vocation of love and the work that it requires.

Of course we fail again and again. But Jesus is present in our lives by the grace of His Spirit who works in our hearts and through the life of the Church. We have a Father who loves us, who sent His Son to save us. Jesus has conquered our weakness. We must never be discouraged. We must keep going to Him, seeking Him, asking for Him, letting Him build us up through the instruments of His grace, and learning more and more to recognize Him in other persons, in every circumstance, asking for our love.