St. Benedict begins Chapter Four of his Rule with the famous passage “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength… and your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31, NABRE 2010).
What strikes me every time I meditate on this passage is “love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you love yourself? Do you believe you are precious in the sight of God even with your flaws? That you are loveable and capable of love?
St. Paul states, “Do you not know you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you…for the Temple of God, which you are, is holy”( I Cor. 3:16-17).
I don’t know where I found this story or the name of the author; my apology to the author.
A little girl was standing with her grandfather by an old-fashioned well. They had just lowered a bucket to draw water to drink. The little girl asked the Grandfather, “Where does God live?” The old man picked up the little girl and held her over the open well. “Look down into the water, and tell me what you see.” “I see myself,” said the little girl. The old man said, “That’s where God lives. He lives in you.”
Why is it so hard for some of us to believe that the God who created us and the universe lives within you and me? The spark of the Divine is in each of us and we are called to be sparks of the divine to others. We have been lifted up to share in the divine life by the breath of God.
Rabbi Israel ben Eliezar of Mezbizh, also called Ba`al Shem Tov, states, that “within each task and moment there is a spark of the divine. Our responsibility is to discover and fulfill potential holiness embedded in our ordinary existence.”
From the scriptures, and especially in and because of Jesus, we know of God’s intense love for us. For Christians, Jesus is the embodiment and greatest manifestation of God’s self-communication to us. Jesus is the gracious God made visible. No strings attached. We do not merit God’s love; it is a free gift. This gift is not dependent on our human goodness or deterred by human weakness and sin. It is unconditional loving and caring.
The Christian life is not what I can do for God, but what God does in and through me with all my gifts, strengths, weaknesses, and hang-ups.
I share with you one of the many versions of the following story:
The sculptor Donatello was a contemporary of the great sculptor Michelangelo. One day Donatello rejected a block of marble because it was too flawed for him to use. Workman took the same block of marble to Michelangelo. When Michelangelo inspected it, he saw the same flaws, but he also saw the block as a challenge to his skill. He accepted the marble and proceeded to carve from it the sculpture of David, one of the world’s most prized treasures of art.
The disciples of Jesus were like the block of marble. They, too, were flawed. A lesser leader than Jesus would have rejected them. Jesus did not do that. He accepted them with all their flaws, and proceeded to carve from them the foundation upon which he would build the church.
The paradox of our lives is that our imperfections, defects, and strengths are the very crevices through which the grace of God finds an entrance.
Do you believe in your heart that God accepts you, flaws and all?
By Sister Marie Leonard, OSB