January 22, 2014
Don’t Think Little of Yourself!
by Friar Jeremy Harrington, O.F.M.
I hate to see people suffer because they worry about the wrong things and misread what God thinks of them. They feel guilty for past sins—sins for which they have been forgiven. They worry that a fleeting emotion, an uninvited feeling, or a persistent temptation is a sin. They demand of themselves inhuman perfection. All these worries keep them from feeling the warmth of God’s love.
I’ve found the approach of Jesuit Peter van Breemen helpful for me and for others. He writes: “Don’t think little of yourself because God does not think little of you. Ask God for the gift of seeing yourself as God sees you—beloved beyond all measure.” Seeing yourself as God sees you is a worthy goal.
Does that mean we ignore our faults? Not at all. We may even be able to see our faults more clearly. We will have the energy and grace to discern—with the help of the Holy Spirit—whatever hinders our relationship with God or others. It could be our pride or unwillingness to forgive. To use a medical analogy, dealing with symptoms is not enough. We need to identify the cause. God helps us do that and gives us grace to overcome our sins. When we fall, God is there to pick us up, get us on our feet, and help us learn from our mistakes. God walks with us on our journey, always loving us.
With God’s help, we face up to our sins and weaknesses, beg pardon for them, and never forget that we are “beloved beyond all measure.”
Human before God
As St. Francis of Assisi said, “I am what I am in God’s sight. Nothing more, nothing less.” What he's saying is this: I am a sinner, but a forgiven sinner. I am a work-in-progress. God, in both patience and love, is still helping me to be more like his Son.
Franciscan theologian Michael Guinan asks the crucial question: “What does it mean to be human before God?” He finds two answers in Scripture. One, “To be human is to be a weak, fallen creature prone to sin and death. We cry out to God and God enters our world to save us. . . . As true as this answer is,” Father Guinan notes, “in itself it is inadequate.”
He calls the second answer the blessing tradition: “To be human is also to be created by God, to be God’s image entrusted with responsibility to share in God’s dominion over creation. We have not only been saved by God, we have also been blessed by God.”
Van Breemen follows the blessing tradition in reminding us “to see ourselves as God sees us—beloved beyond all measure.” St. Paul says “the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” He adds, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” We are coworkers, co-heirs, daughters and sons of God.
Do you find it easy to “see yourself as God sees you—beloved beyond all measure”? As always, I welcome your reflections or comments. Peace!
Readers respond to Friar Jim Van Vurst's January E-spiration, Catechism Quiz: Psalm 36: Sin Speaks to the Sinner
Dear Carol: Remember that good people are tempted. It happens all the time. Turn the temptation into a positive by praying, “Yes, Lord, I trust that you have forgiven me.” Don’t trust your fearful feelings. Rather, trust your heart. Friar Jim
Dear Sarah: That’s exactly right. We all struggle. Believers always have and always will, including Jesus’ own apostles. Your prayer is perfect! Good for you. Friar Jim
Dear David: Yes, God is pleased with forgiving our sins. Forgiveness and love are God’s joys. Friar Jim
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