August 14, 2021

"God loves you"
Part 2
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In the First Part on the ‘Love of God’ (here) I responded to RC’s “umbrage” with my contention that God loves her just the way she truly is.

In this second part I give a greater Scriptural basis for my contention of how and why He loves her.

RC, now listen to this…

To the Colossians (3:10-12) St. Paul writes, “(you) have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator…”

What does St. Paul mean here to “clothe ourselves?” A few points…

First, St. Paul is speaking to our self-knowledge “in Christ”; the truth of how we see and understand ourselves in relation to God. Too often we judge our standing before God, our relationship with Him by our feelings and not His Word. His Word is the horse that pulls the cart. And the cart, our feelings or our limited human understanding follows. We believe in order to understand and not the other way. The cart, my feelings,  cannot pull the horse! And what we believe shapes our actions. Our failure to “walk by faith” explains why one day we can be spiritually “up” and another day “down.”

It is the truth of who I am in a state of Grace before God that guides my feelings about myself and others. To rely on my feelings, which are up and down, is to be guided by my flesh, the old man. Of course, we will fall into sin, but at this point in your spiritual life I am sure that these are only ‘venial’ sins. We ‘put off’ our venial sins by acts of contrition and faith in His love. If our sins are frequent or grave, then we will never  ‘hold onto’ grace.

Now observe how St. Paul follows this verse about clothing ourselves,  “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (3:12). The awareness of Christ’s indwelling, the Holy Spirit, assures us that we are  “chosen and beloved.” Being aware of Christ as part of my self-image of God empowers me with Grace to be “compassionate, kind, humble…” towards myself and others. This is the new man of St. Paul being renewed in the image of Christ.

We clothe ourselves in the “new man.” We don’t merely imagine this as if we were choosing ourselves, rather it is through God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes this truth present to our hearts and minds. It is faith from above that becomes the heart of a new self image. To clothe myself is to believe. Clothing is what I put on, which is to respond to or appropriate the grace that the Spirit is giving.

To believe is the work of the Sanctifying Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These Gifts are infused in us from Baptism and Confirmation. These Gifts empower us to Believe, to Hope and to Love supernaturally.

And we do believe! Listen to what St. John writes: “So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them (1 Jn 4:16). This is one of my favorite verses that I often repeat to myself.

I abide in God’s love not because I feel that love but because I believe that God cannot lie. The authority that I base my Faith upon is not my own understanding, which is subject to doubt, but rather the authority of God’s Word. My Faith yeilds Hope; “and Hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). God cannot resist your hope in His love for you. To hope is not to doubt. You hope is based upon your Faith. Just keep hoping in His love and being in a state of Grace you will soon come to receive that love in the depths of your good heart.

We are to be renewed daily in the spirit of our minds

Second point…  St. Paul writes that our new self, “is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator…” (Col 3:10).

The word “knowledge” that St. Paul uses here is divine  “knowledge” (in Greek: ἐπίγνωσις – epignōsis). It is knowledge attained as the fruit of spiritual communion with God in prayer. It is the experience of His Divine Love, the awareness of being beloved of Him. This knowledge, this experience, is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit as we cooperate with Grace in prayer. 

To understand ‘Epignosis’ as St. Paul is using it here, think of a virtue. We can know all about a virtue from studying it, but that knowledge does not make us virtuous. Rather ‘epignosis’ is the knowledge of being virtuous. It is a certain ‘likeness’ we share with that virtue in being virtuous.

St. Paul is applying this word to our knowledge of Christ. That as we grow in epignosis of Christ through prayer, our ‘new self’ is becoming conformed to his Image. Or as St. Peter tells us it is a “partaking in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4).

The Grace of our communion in prayer with Christ is this certain knowledge of His Presence in our hearts. We are aware of being loved by Him. We accept with joy that we are “holy and beloved…” not for who we are but because of Him.

I can confidently say that there is something divine about you! You are unrepeatable, one-of-a-kind… in God’s eyes… if you choose to believe it. Amen

I like the verse from the Song of Solomon applying it to the notion of God’s personal love for us: “One alone is my dove, my perfect one” (Song 6:9). It is God loving you as if your were His special chosen one, His perfect one. He loves each of us uniquely and specially, because that is how He chooses to see us. He has the power to do this because He is God and He does it…

St. Augustine so wisely said, “Love and do what you will.” 

Third point. Know that I am not advocating ignoring your sins. Rather I am pointing you in the direction of where you will go and no longer will to sin. He who loves does not sin! This is true freedom. If you believe in God’s personal love for you because of who you truly are, you can believe that it is Christ living in you. Accept this as a matter of Faith. Give Christ the credit for your being truly lovable in the eyes of the Father, despite your personal tendency to sin.

St. Paul could say, “Its not I that live but Christ who lives in me.” Lets start giving Christ the credit for the good that we are and the good that we do. All the Glory will be His in the end. It is long since time to see the Good of this image in ourselves instead of the bad, sinful one… the one we tend to wrongly believe is true! The truth is that ‘Christ in you’ is who you truly are: an alter christus (little ‘c’). If we believe this truth we can look at the lives of the Saints and say “I can be like that” instead of “I could never be like that.”

We should look at the extraordinary Graces the Saints received and think we too are worthy of such Graces. We should believe in the Father’s loving generosity. He is the Giver of every Good Gift and will give us the Graces we ask for.

God wills to give us that gift of Faith so that we will begin to believe in His love for you and me. In that love we see ourselves as He does. This is not as the world sees. If we continue to look for love from the world we will never change.

You have already received that gift of His love if you choose to believe. We are not to doubt as if we were “waves  on the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (Jm 1:6-7). No, you are born again (Jn 3:3). We Catholic Christians were born again in baptism, past tense.  But enigmatically being born again, in the Holy Spirit, means a regeneration within every moment of our lives, which is our spiritual communion with the Lord.

This configuration to Christ did not happen once in the past when we were baptized and then confirmed. No, it is active and dynamic because it is a movement of the Holy Spirit. It is a relationship. We are born again, renewed, every time we make a good confession, a spiritual or Holy Communion and every time we make an act of faith in His love for us.

“without faith we cannot please God.”

In conclusion, you can only recognize or, better, receive the gift of who your are in Christ by faith. St. Paul says that “without faith we cannot please God.”
So what kind of faith is God asking or expecting of you? What he is expecting of you is Faith in the truth that He loves you “just the way you are”. That is what will please Him. And it will make you want to change and be good for Him. He remains patient with our old (man) always ready to grant the Grace us to be renewed in our new (man). This is St. Paul’s great message and secret, which behooves us to understand and never forget. I didn’t have this knowledge in seminary or for much of my priesthood.

Know thyself by Faith and you will recognize Christ in you!

Knowing themselves in Christ is the challenge that the Saints excell in. It is the “little way” of St. Therese of Lisieux. It is what we are becoming if we believe and it is what we live. It all falls back on the fact that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. The only way we can live our lives as this new creation is to see it, to grasp it having this “knowledge” (ἐπίγνωσις – epignōsis) of our “new self” being renewed according to the image of its creator, Christ. 

Abiding in that “knowledge” is abiding in Christ. It is abiding in God’s love for us as His “chosen and beloved.” Abide in that “knowledge” and you will love and not sin.

This truth is so important!

If you believe that then you can see the essential goodness of yourself and love yourself as God loves you; then will you find the Grace to love others as Christ loves them.

ID Picture

Fr. Michael Hinken SOLT is a priest of

the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. 

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