Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:25-5:2
While growing up in the Catholic Church, when we complained about the various “hardships” we faced (like too much homework or disagreeable cafeteria food.), the teachers often told us to “Offer it up: just think of how Jesus suffered on the cross.” As an impressionable child, this had a sobering effect on me. I would close my eyes and try to visualize Jesus on the cross; then I made a sincere effort to stop grumbling about minor things. But I could not imagine myself ever being able to live up to the example of a suffering Savior.
As an adult reading this passage from Paul, I see my former teachers’ approach as a bit negative. Now, it is more motivating for me to be inspired by Paul’s encouragement to imitate the love of God by trying to “live in love.”
I think the best way to start to show love for others is to take time during ordinary encounters to connect, to actually see the other person. Connection has little to do with the amount of time we spend with someone; connection is based on our being present to them.
Trying to live in love – to be fully present to people – all the time takes real Staying Power. It is so easy for me to avoid connecting with others during routine activities, like walking in the neighborhood, answering the phone, saying good-bye to someone who is leaving the room. Katherine Schafler, a New-York based therapist, writes: “Slowing down and taking just one extra second to actually look at another person is how we connect. It’s this incredibly simple part of the human experience that’s getting lost in the modern rush. Taking the one extra second is the kind of quality that shapes your mood for the better after a bad news day … it’s the secret to the people we find so charming– helping people feel seen and valued will totally shift your life.”
Connecting with others living in love, is not a decision we make and then never think about again. We make the decision over and over throughout the day. When we wander away from the present moment, we can simply use Staying Power to take one second to refocus and return.
Living in love will not be constant for any of us, but it is one way we imitate the love of God as God’s beloved children.
Lay Associate for Parish Life