Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Catholic Hermit Learning Love

We think, perhaps, we grasp love, but this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit is ever reminded that love is fluid and learning love flows without end.  We never cease learning love if we continue to seek love..and to learn to love.

I am in a high-level pain siege.  In the past three years, the low back pain recycles itself every so often--three weeks, six weeks, a couple of months.  The body can only sustain so much constant pain until it gives out. This happens without notice mostly, although sometimes I get warning dreams.  I had one such dream this time, a week ago.

So the pain siege hit in the early hours of Saturday last.  For a full day I thought perhaps I had some terrible flu virus.  But over the decades I've learned that usually the symptoms, even if they vary, usually end up it being out of control pain from the spine, specifically the low back which was the main point of injury in the accident.

Three years ago the pain began radiating into the intestines.  A year ago it radiated into the liver area, although more scans will ascertain if there is something more wrong with the liver.  I tend to think there could be, but yet again, all suffering seems to be rooted in the painful spine.  This includes the neck that was also injured, and thus the constant headache; and when the pain flares, it is a horrific spinal headache.

So this time the pain caused high fever, chills, aches, burning eyes, difficulty standing or taking steps as the intestines and stomach were so inflamed it was agonizing with each step.  Soft tissue pain can be tricky....

I'm on the fourth day of being on the mattress.  Today I hope to have the strength to make some potato soup with chicken bone broth base.  We will see.  The liver area is so painful even now, that it will surprise me if the Lord grants the stamina to cut the onions, celery, and tiny red potatoes.  We shall see.  I pray so.  I had hoped today I'd be back up and able to do some work--finish the custom-fit pieces of wood for completing the ceilings.

While laid out, this time I distracted by doing something I've not done previously.  I watched movies on YouTube.  It did not matter if I drowsed for I could later go back to what I recalled before dozing.  And I cannot say that any much of the details of the scenes and plots or even the names of the movies remain--and they do not need to remain.

My purpose and intention is to explore aspects of love.  This must be accessible such as when reduced by pain which places one on the cross and negates complexity.  I found some movies that most would consider B-movies or lesser-known, for sure.  I located sweet movies, loving movies, movies with themes of redeeming at-risk relationships, forgiveness, seeking God, seeking love, righting injustices, persevering through hardships: by those learning to love.

I filled my eyes and ears and thus also my inner eyes and ears and soul with these loving, sweet, visual and audio repetitions of inspiring love.

For I've been praying yet again about my God-given purpose on this earth, as well as if I am on track.  Plus, with the hope of finishing the hermitage before my financial shelf-life ends here, that I will have an indication of where and what God wants of me next.

I am convinced it has to do with love.  Love God in Himself; love others as He loves us.

I have wondered if my gifts of writing and desire to further any God-given abilities to illustrate or photograph ought be the focus of what comes after this, should I live through this phase of earthly existence.  The past three days of love-themed movies absorption has me all the more realizing that when it is all said and done, that to love, to love to learn to love, is the bottom-line and upper reaches of existence.

Today's Scriptures remind me yet again of what can be a pitfall to learning to love, especially what is primary for our souls: love of God in Himself.

In Matthew 7, 1-10, Jesus observed the hypocrisy of high priests and those devout worshippers of God.  He observed some of their words and actions; they had become devoted to traditions and laws created by their minds which caused interference with the sweetness of devotion to God in Himself.

Jesus spoke to them on this side-track from the spiritual progression to union with God by quoting verses of Isaiah who prophesied the Word of God:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me, 
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

Jesus then drives His point so that the people will not be left in any confusion, without any doubt, of what God desires of us.

"You disregard God's commandment [to love God with all our strength, mind, heart and spirit and others as ourselves] but cling to human tradition."

"How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!...

"...You nullify the Word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things."

None of us in in the exact same place in our spiritual progression.  Somehow it is as if God is showing me all the more to simplify, to make a right turn and head off into that which is more of the heart and to release my mind from heavier studies of which I used to drive myself to read as well as to encourage others who, as I realize now, were living more love in daily life than trying to force into the mind from between the pages of books too difficult for them to easily grasp.

Now, this does not mean that I will give up reading from the marvelous collection of rare and treasured writings of the greatest of mystics, spiritual masters, and scripture scholars.  But I doubt I will read many.  For one thing, they are boxed in the pole barn these past four years, and pain and hardship in living conditions have honed my purpose, have reduced my existence to a more gentle and easy yoke:  to love, to love to learn to love.

This means to learn to love God in Himself by learning how God loves.

Recently I received a treasured letter from my spiritual father.  He was reflecting upon his life and vocation as a priest.  He is struck by awe in  noting that St. Paul wrote about discovering how much God loved him.  My spiritual father, my spiritual soul friend, expounded yet briefly, in how much he realizes God has blessed him and loves him.

Ironically, at about the same day on earth, I was coming to this realization in my own mind, heart, and soul.  It was the little introduction to St. Bernard's book of Sermons on the Song of Songs which turned me once more to the reality of Jesus asking me to simply remain in His love.  Even now, with the physical pain prohibiting me from an ounce of comfort bodily or even mentally (for pain leaches not only into our bodies through nerve endings but makes its mark on our minds), my heart and soul can, at least, quite readily, remain in His Love.

With some prayer and letting go of what my mind might want to make my body "do" or "think" today relative to the temporal world, my heart and soul can take His yoke upon me as it is easy and light.  Love is easy and light once we let go of the restrictions, the plans, the opinions and laws our minds have created--and that includes letting go of what laws other minds may have created and formed into traditions that instead of freeing us to love God in Himself, have turned our efforts toward a forced and formulaic existence.

When we remain in His Love and love God in Himself, we are in a stream of love that outflows to loving others as God loves them, as Jesus loves, as the Holy Spirit loves.  We may or may not physically "feel" the warmth or tingle that sometimes grace our physical hearts or see within the sparkles of light that grace our minds with such love.  But we will relax and begin to cease striving to count on ourselves, to rely on our own "brilliance", to be victim to a kind of pride that fools us into thinking and doing as if what we think and do is crucial.

We learn to love to learn to love, and the object and sole purpose of this learning to love is to learn to remain in Christ's love and to learn to love God in Himself.  God's will is His Love; and we learn to love others from being in God's Love.  We utilize the gifts of body, mind, heart, and spirit when we come to realize the stupendous gift of all--that God loves us.  He loves us.  He loves me, and He loves you no matter how dull or intelligent, how plain or beautiful, how dim or clever, how clumsy or handy, how disorganized or efficient.

All God asks is that we love Him with all the strength and weakness, with our best purpose and imperfect human desire of our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits.  And in that, we will then love others as ourselves for it will be His Love that is loving and not our self-reliance upon our abilities or our giftedness.  

The greatest gift is love--God's love.  When we--when I--can let go of pride and human control, loving to love God and learning to love God will become the gift God bequeaths in loving union with Him.

There is a reason why Jesus emphasizes His Heart, emphasizes His Love, God's Love, and remaining in His Love.  We must not overthink it or expect or desire to feel it.  Just be open to His Love, receive His Love, thank Him for His Love, personally, trustingly, blessedly.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Remain in His Love!  

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