We all know that God loves us because Jesus Christ revealed that truth by giving up His life for us. Jesus’ mission was to reveal the Father’s infinite love for us (John 3:16). We all know that our life has a meaning and a purpose because “God has created us through love and through love continues to hold us in existence.” (C.C.C. #27) We all know from reading the Gospel that “God is Love” and He wants us to come to Him and remain in His love. We’ve heard these truths over and over again, and yet, many of us don’t know what these really mean. We have to ask ourselves: what would it be like if we really did believe God? What would it be like if I really did believe and trust in God’s love? The answer is: I’d be happy. I would have an interior peace and joy, which the Lord promised He would give to us.
There were two huge blessings that I received this year, and both of them filled my heart with joy and peace. The first blessing was entering novitiate (the second stage of becoming a full brother). I made my commitment of poverty, chastity, and obedience before the Bishop. I was clothed in a habit and was given a new name. I felt a deeper appreciation toward God, and I thanked Him because I knew if it weren’t for His grace and mercy I wouldn’t have made it this far. For me, it was a good sign that this is where God wants me. “The One who calls you is faithful and He will also accomplish it.” (2 Thess. 5:25)
The other blessing was that I gained a deeper awareness and understanding of God’s personal love for me. Along with it, I also gained a deeper sense of freedom, joy and peace. I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The new awareness gave me the courage to open up and be myself before God. I no longer needed to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I could be just as I was. That’s because God’s love is unconditional. He accepts us as we are and meets us where we are, and nothing we do takes away His love for us; it’s we who turn away from His love.
The deeper awareness and understanding didn’t come immediately. It was a long, gradual process, and it involved learning to accept myself. It also required other things, which at first seemed “ too easy.” I needed to let go of the distorted image of God that I had; to view God not as a policeman, but rather as a loving Father, who wants us to come to Him. I needed to let go of my guilt and fear and let myself receive His forgiveness and mercy. I needed to let God love me, as I was, with my faults, weaknesses, and failures. I needed to believe and trust in God’s tender and unconditional love. All of this, of course, required humility. I needed to admit that I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy. I needed to get rid of my know-it-all attitude and let myself receive help and advice from others. After doing this, I felt great relief because I knew I was heading in the right direction. “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
“They soon forgot all He had done; they had no patience for His plan.” (Psalm 106) My belief in God and in His love is strengthened when I look back at my own life and remember how He saved me and the good things He’s done for me. From the beginning of my journey, God’s loving presence is clearly evident. I lived in an orphanage in Russia and was adopted. I was given a family and good parents who gave me the gift of faith. Before I go to prayer each morning, I look at my Russian passport and I thank God. Without it I would have been left in Russia, under Vladimir Putin.
Saint Augustine, who had converted to the faith in the fourth century, said that our hearts would not find rest until they rest in God. What did He mean? We will not have true peace and joy until we have a firm belief of God’s love for us. This is what will set us free. We will “rest in God” when we let ourselves be filled with His love. God wants us to receive His love and mercy, but we must first open our hearts and let ourselves receive. The Lord respects our freedom and He doesn’t impose His will on us. We have to do our part, which is to place ourselves under His fatherly care and to trust in His unconditional love, in His goodness. We need to get rid of our pride that makes us think that, of ourselves, we are enough, and that we do not need God’s infinite love and mercy. We need to get rid of our fear that makes us hide from God, like Adam and Eve did. We need to learn from their mistake and not be afraid to trust God. We need to get rid of our guilt that makes us think that we don’t deserve mercy, to be forgiven. We need to get rid of bitterness and unforgiveness, which blocks out the love of God. When we do this, God will fill us with His joy, and our joy will be complete (John 15:11). Then our heart will sing: “Your love for me, O Lord, wells up deep within my heart, like a spring of living water to refresh my soul and fill me with your peace and joy.” (Fr. Joseph Veneroso, M. M.)
—By Br. John Paul, Servant of Jesus