Friday, August 10, 2012

I've Been a Christian For Years, But I'm Still So Selfish!!!

These days (when I'm not just goofing off and enjoying the summer with Eileen and the kids), I am working on the task of shaping certain themes from the reflections that have appeared on this site into into a more substantial and editorially polished presentation (i.e. a "book"). I am getting a good sense of the topics that I have developed consistently here over the past year and a half, and I have outlined various possible projects.

One theme that appears frequently in my meditations, and that manifests itself again and again in so many anecdotes from ordinary life, is the fundamental Christian vocation to charity.

I've written quite a bit about my experience of the struggle to love in a true, Christian way. It is the experience of being "converted" (slowly) from the tendency of selfishness to the cultivated dispositions of sincere self-giving. I feel very strongly my own need to be converted more fully, to be healed from a way of "loving" that is stunted by the ambivalence of my wounded humanity, by the reduction of persons to things, by the craving to amplify and assert my distorted perceptions of myself and others.

As I reflect on my own life, I discover many areas that are still formed by this kind of disoriented self-love, this selfish, grasping appetite that strives to subject reality and persons to my urges and impulses. But Christian life is a path of conversion from an egocentric posture to an ever deepening habit of authentic charity--an attitude of mind and heart that truly loves other persons for who they are, and for how Jesus makes Himself present to me through their own personal uniqueness.

I am working on developing this theme into a book.

Titles always develop and change, but my working title for this book is something like Learning to Love, or perhaps something eye-grabbing (?) like Why Am I Still So Selfish? The book is drawing together my reflections on life as a process of learning to give myself truly in love. The foundation of this life is the conviction and the ever deepening awareness that I am loved by Jesus. This awareness begins to free me from self-absorption and immaturity, and empowers me to give myself more and more profoundly to Jesus.

My Christian vocation takes concrete shape in Christ's call of love, addressed to me in daily life, in my family, in work and social environments, and on the internet too. And Jesus shapes my life in such a way as to draw me along the path of loving Him and loving others. My sufferings, too, are part of this particular plan of healing and transforming love that Jesus has for me as a unique person, whom He embraces in His infinite wisdom.

This book, however, is not meant to be an academic exercise. I am illustrating this theme with reflections on my own experience (many of which have been drafted on this blog), and also anecdotes from ordinary life, especially family life. In these circumstances the need to grow in love is especially evident.

In answering the call of the vocation to charity, we must have great trust in Jesus, for without Him we can do nothing. But He is with us, working in our lives and teaching us through His Spirit how to grow in genuine self-giving love. We must not become discouraged by our persistent imperfections and selfishness, but continue to work toward cooperating with God's grace and growing in love.

Blessed John Paul II speaks of the Christian life as an ongoing conversion, a work-in-progress through which God's love is integrated into every aspect of our lives, bringing personal and social healing and transformation:
"What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary, in order that individual believers, families and peoples, even civilization itself, by beginning from what they have already received of the mystery of Christ, may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives" (Familiaris Consortio, 9).
I hope to finish drafting a book proposal soon, and I'll keep everyone posted on how this project develops.