By Nimmi Candappa
A new year to many of us seems synonymous with new year resolutions – a rejuvenated effort to grow, improve, and achieve. In this, the secular world and the faith-filled world have common ground. There appears to be a natural inclination in us to continue to expand and develop.
This can apply doubly to spiritual life, particularly in our ability to follow God’s command to love each other as God loves us. Our heart, built in the image of God’s heart, has an endless capacity to love. Yet, few of us come anywhere near loving with the love of God. Beyond some unfettered triggers to love, such as a newborn baby, or a vulnerable call for help, our ability to act in love appears to be quite susceptible to what happens around us. Someone cuts into our lane on the road, love for the driver is not foremost on our mind; a family member misunderstands us, our focus often is on ensuring we are seen in the right light; a work colleague has promoted ahead of us, we forget we are called to rejoice in another’s blessing; someone does us real harm, we struggle to forgive unconditionally.
Yet this is an obvious command given us by God – love as God loves. So, along with our new year’s resolutions to get more exercise, eat better or save some money, how can we define a resolution to love more deeply, with self-sacrifice?
St Eugene gives us some ideas of how we can do this: “what more glorious occupation than to act in everything and for everything only for God…”. Perhaps keeping this one thought in our mind can help us refocus our action on loving the other. It is hard to spit out a harsh retort to an insult while thinking we are saying it for God! Or we could work on developing a more malleable heart, one that St Eugene says can be “more docile to the internal voice of God”. We might develop this malleable heart by repeating an appropriate phrase – such as, empty me of me, fill me with you – as we go on our daily walk. Or we could picture a softening and tenderising of our heart with every insult or injury, absorbed and unretaliated by us.
We might also look for specific opportunities to act out of love towards the stranger. At times it can be easy to restrict the world in which we can be held accountable by ‘minding our own business’ and ignoring issues in society, or troubles of another. Yet we remain God’s hands and feet, and the ‘internal voice of God’ might prod us to reach out, to come out of our comfort zones, to look out for the well-being of another. In the same way, we listen carefully to a personal trainer guiding us towards better health and fitness, perhaps we might
listen out to the Holy Spirit pointing out moments in which we can show the love of God to a stranger or adversary.
For each year, and indeed each day, we are given yet another chance to imitate Christ, claim the honour bestowed on us as a child of God, by loving as a child of God would love, and present to the world an image of Christ.