The measure of spiritual progress is the extent to which we receive and give love. Asceticism, fasting, contemplative prayer, and the whole life of virtue is merely the means that dispose a heart to receive the unconditional love of Christ. Then, as we create the conditions to be receptive to Christ’s love, our commission becomes to share what we have been given. Prayer and meditation are not judged by the presence of extraordinary graces or profound mystical experiences, but the extent to which our prayer leads us to participate in the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, this vocation of love should lead us to constant conversion because it makes us aware of the reality that all humans fall short of the glory of God. Without God’s grace, our love will always be conditional and limited. No human can share in Christ’s love by virtue of their own merit, and this should awaken in us a profound understanding that we are only able to participate in Christ’s mission to the extent in which we renounce self. For us to love as we are called to do, we must allow our love to be purified and elevated through and in Jesus Christ.
This is at the heart of ministry, evangelization, and indeed all aspects of human flourishing. People respond to the Gospel to the extent that it reaches in and speaks to this fundamental intuition buried in the depths of the heart. Beauty, goodness, and truth move from abstract ideas and interesting propositions to dynamic and transformative realities when love animates them. This is the power of the whole gamut of Catholic life, that in Christ’s body, the Church, humanity sees how all aspects of the created order are drawn up into and fulfilled through Christ’s love.
Cathedrals become monuments to his love as carved stone, marble, gold, and the power of paintings point to a dramatic convergence of time and eternity. Christian outreach and service to the poor point to the ability of love to set aside comfort and selfishness as Christ’s presence is discovered anew in each encounter. Devotion is not lifeless and stale, but contains a whole drama of human experience in which nothing is off limits, nothing held back. Furthermore, all of this is not set aside for worship, but rather finds its mysterious fulfillment in the Eucharist, that moment when Christ’s love comes to dwell under the appearance of bread and wine; that moment which transcends all aspects of the created order.
So let yourself be loved. Open your hearts to Christ, and let him take full possession. Be bold to believe that Jesus wants his love to take hold of your life and animate it with the energy of his glorious resurrection. Jesus wants you to shine like the sun, and so to envelop all aspects of your life in the radiance of his glory.