It is said that imitation is the highest form of praise. That saying proves to be quite true as we progress through this retreat in our everyday lives. Having experienced the love of Jesus for us, and focusing on the details of his birth and life so far, we are asking, “Lord, help me to be with you, to imitate you, in surrender and love.”
We grow in this imitation. Our desire to be with Jesus transforms our lives. There is no desire to rebel from God completely. The love we feel in our hearts casts out a great degree of our selfish desires. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, it is very unlikely that we will give in to serious sin.
Love eventually transforms the heart even more. In time, we take on the desires of the other. Not only does selfish rebellion recede from my life but also a variety of things I had naturally preferred become less important. Before growing in such a love for Jesus and a desire to be with him in his mission, I would have said that, given the choice, I’d prefer to be rich rather than poor, to be honored rather than dishonored, to have a long life rather than a short one. In these options, and in hundreds more in my life, what is best for me would have been the focus and criteria for my choice. Now that is changing. As the attraction of love grows, I want whatever would help me be with and like Jesus. And, of course, this kind of love lightens our spirits and makes what might have been difficult or a challenge so much easier. We become more loving and compassionate, more generous and self-sacrificing, more courageous and just, throughout our daily lives.
Love that grows always desires deeper and deeper union. It’s said that older couples, who have loved each other deeply all their lives, can anticipate each other’s needs — if one is sick, the other will even desire the illness rather than see the other suffer from it. Freed from our previous rebellious desires, even our previous preferred ways of choosing, the desire for complete union can grow. In love, we come to want the experience of the other. If the other I love is in poverty or suffers or is rejected, I no longer want to stand apart so as to shield myself from the experience. It becomes natural for me to see the poverty or suffering or rejection as part of our relationship. I simply want to be with the one I love. The more I see Jesus giving himself to whatever is for the greater glory of God and service of others, the more my desire is to fall into the hands of a loving God, just as he did. As I see the poverty of his surrender, I want it too. As I see him stripped of recognition and purified in his desires, I want that too. And as I see him surrender his very life to the will of God, I desire to be one with him there as well. In the context of our contemplating Jesus’ calling his disciples this week, we can feel our desire to go with him in his mission. We can ask, even beg, for a deeper degree of love to grow in us. Attraction leads to the desire to be with, which ultimately leads to the deep desire to be one with him.
We can recall these reflections as we wake each morning this week, at various background times throughout each day, and we can return thanks in the most tender of words at the end of each day. Our hearts are being prepared for the contemplations in the weeks to come.