Following up yesterday's reflection that we are made in the image of God, spoken forth by God, that we might be holy and blameless, let's turn to the reality of what tarnishes that image and how we can overcome what, seemingly, we cannot conquer on our own.
St. Bernard, an insightful Cistercian abbot, taught that the whole of the spiritual life consists of two parts: "when we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with salutary sadness. And when we think of the Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the first we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love."
While we believe God made us to be holy and blameless, we know from our personal experience sanctity and freedom from guilt are not easily achieved. There is within us, as some spiritual writers note, a "false self," a deep-seated power within that separates us from a loving Creator-God and brings us to be a "self-referenced being," focusing so much upon ourselves and in so doing, distancing ourselves from the love of God. It is this false self that brings into our lives the radical nature of lostness!
When the false self takes over, when our ego becomes the CEO of our lives, we alienate ourselves from divine love. When this occurs, we find ourselves incapable of getting back to our true center, back to our relationship with God. That false self blocks our turning back to God's loving embrace.
So, we might then ask this question: "Is there no way of returning to God after our alienation, our separation from him?"
In asking this question, we have come to realize that we cannot overcome the cause of our separation from God totally and completely on our own. It is in this realization that we have begun to understand the truly AWESOME intensity of God's love for us. His love, his mercy, his grace brings us back to his love and care. And these are marked by the sign of the cross that his Son endured for us. While we were living in our little world of alienation from God, Jesus was dying on the cross for us. To the Romans Paul wrote: While we still were sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
And why was this? Because Jesus so loved his Father and us that he desired to offer us over and over again the opportunity to accept "God's self ... to be our true life" (Mulholland, The Deeper Journey, p 74.