Now tell me: in your heart of hearts is this what is really going on in your spiritual life:
Do you fundamentally think that if you were only a bit better, more faithful, more dedicated, less of a sinner, if you simply did more good, then you’d be in a better standing with God? Do you think that God is not quite pleased with you yet, that there are some things you know you have to change, yet somehow those changes don’t seem to happen? Do you think that if you prayed more, behaved better, and went to Mass more faithfully, then life would be better? Do you think, in your heart of hearts, that a sign of your being right with God would look like being successful as a parent, more accomplished in your career, less stressed financially, and happier in your marriage and family life?
And do you think that if you simply were a better person, then the graces of God would flow into your life in great abundance? Do you also think that the more faithful and dutiful you are, the more God will be pleased with you?
If the answer to some or all of these questions has been yes, then you’re wrong!
The truth is that you cannot do anything to make God love you more than He already does! And an even more radical truth is that any wrongdoing you do, whether it be sin or apathy, cannot stop God from loving you in any way whatever! Sin alienates us from God, but sin does not alienate God from us.
You see, there are those who are loved by God; and there are those who know they are loved by God. When we know we are loved by God, that’s when our life changes. When we see ourselves for who we really are, including our warts, sins and failings, and know that even still we are loved by God, then we fall on our knees, and say such things as, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
When I know the truth of what I really am, when I give up my false self, when I stop the pretending to be other than what I really am, when I stand before God focusing on His patience with me and how undeserving I am of His love, then I understand Simon Peter, falling at the knees of Jesus and saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
The genius of
So, the real religious question is not: what is it that I do? Or what have I accomplished? The real religious question is not, how do I practice my faith? Rather, the real religious question is: who am I? Am I someone whose passion is success, whose life wants no suffering, who wants everything to go my way, and whose proof of right living is financial success?
Or, am I fully aware of my faults and weaknesses, and yet also fully aware that I am loved by God? Am I so in touch with the love of God that, despite my unworthiness, I know I am a child of God and can hear the angels singing, Holy, Holy, Holy. Am I so trusting in this love of God that I can say, “Here I am, send me! Use me. No matter how unworthy I am, please Lord, use me.”
When we have been gripped by the love of God, when we have allowed God to show us how loved we are, we will feel exactly like Isaiah and Peter and find ourselves weeping at Mass with overwhelming gratitude that, despite the fact that I am what I am, I am loved and redeemed.