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!
Dear Friar Jim: As I read your E-spiration about sin and temptation, I thought of a different way that Satan tempts us. After confessing a serious sin many years ago, I find that Satan tempts me with doubts of being forgiven by Jesus. I talked to my priest about this situation, and he said that the devil tempted Jesus. I pray about this and know that I’m forgiven, but I wonder why I’m being tempted this way. Thank you for your writing. May God bless you. Carol
A: 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 Friar Jim: Temptation is all around us. We see it on television, in movies, online. All I can do is offer it up and ask that God be a light to my path. Sarah
A: 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
Friar Jim: Thanks for your thoughtful words on sin. It’s all too easy to slip, but I know that God will forgive me. Your E-spiration reminds me of that. David
A: Dear David: Yes, God is pleased with forgiving our sins. Forgiveness and love are God’s joys. Friar Jim