“O Lord, you have probed me, you know me...you understand my thoughts from afar…Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made…” (Ps 139:14)
This goes to say, I cannot forget who I am: I am, and will always be, a priceless gift from God. Life should always be considered sacred. To think otherwise would be the gravest of heresies because it would be the greatest of fallacies! My worth, in the eyes of God, does not increase based upon my good works, especially those valued by men, for not even the achievements of the saints make them any more worthy of eternal life. Can the infinite be measured? Or value placed on the priceless? The magnitude and the grandeur of every human life cannot be contained or measured by metrics such as individual accomplishments or achievements. Heaven cannot be gained, it can only be defined. And heaven is best defined by the Creator, for its very nature is the Creator’s nature. Heaven is God’s presence, where Love rests and love is free to be unleashed.
Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. John knew God and His love rested upon him. From his mother’s womb, his heart leaped at the presence of the Lord. He grew strong in spirit while maturing in the wasteland of the desert. In that time, he acquired a keen awareness of who he was and his God-given mission - to prepare the way of the Lord. That’s it! That’s all he did. But that's not all He was.
“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel through whom I show my glory.” (Is 49:1-6)
You may remark, “What kind of life is that?” Now let me ask, “How is your life?”
John loved his life because he loved himself, and he loved himself because he loved the Lord. There is no other way he could have endured what he endured. Hidden from view for years, mocked and misunderstood by many, he suffered a cruel death at the hands of a maniac! His life was that of a faithful servant – all the way, till the end. Love God so that you can love your neighbor as yourself. It is all related. We are all connected. There is no getting around it. To find ourselves we need to find our Creator. John had no mid-life crisis. He had The Life because he was open to The Way. There may have been a moment of doubt, a moment of weakness, where there was some second-guessing going on. But he was ready! John knew the secret to happiness: Love God, love who you are, and love your neighbor, for He is wonderful and you are wonderfully made.
In yesterday’s New York Times, there is a beautiful article of a Catholic woman who is an expert in mental illness. A few weeks ago, Dr. Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington, revealed why she is an expert: She suffers from it herself and never opened up about it.
Her breakthrough came while she was praying in a chapel at Loyola University.
“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold – and suddenly I felt something coming toward me. It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”
The high only ended when a romantic relationship went soar. But something was different this time. She could now weather her emotional storms without cutting herself or harming herself. What changed? Romanticism may disappointment. Divine love, never! For love does not insist on its own way (cf. 1Cor 13:5) or seek its own interest.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came to bear witness to the light, to prepare an upright people for the Lord. (Entrance antiphon)
To be wonderfully made is God's guarantee to living a wonderful life!