10 January 2008 Thursday after the Epiphany
1 John 4, 19 – 5:4
There are two things that interest me in the first reading from the first letter of John. First, he said, “We love God because He first loved us.” Our ability to love God and our fellow persons is a gift. It does not come from us. Science tells us that there are capabilities that we have that are innate; they are like seeds planted on soil but waiting for the sun and the rain to stimulate their growth. Howard Gardner pointed out in 1983 that we all possess multiple intelligences such as verbal, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, etc. Even our abilities to relate to others and our own inner selves are all seeds needing our attention and practice. Our ability to love therefore has been planted by God from the very beginning; it was not given out of our merit or as reward for our achievements or our being ‘good’ boys and girls. The very fact that God planted it on us --- thus a gift --- is a manifestation of His love.
Second, he said, “His commandments are not burdensome.” Our experience of goodness points to the veracity of this fact. When we are able to do what is good, we are uplifted and fulfilled. No matter how challenging the work, as long as it is able to help others (like a charitable event) or it develops our giftedness (like preparing for a music recital), we are at peace. Following God’s commandments enriches our nature; it compliments who we are.
On the other hand, we find doing some things burdensome. When we do something we don’t want, we do it dragging our feet. Our hearts are heavy because we are doing something against our will. The task --- though it would require less effort --- becomes heavy because we are going against our will and nature. The work is against our concept of ourselves.
Let us put these two concepts together. If seeds of ability have been given by God to us, then the commandment of God is to discover, nurture, develop and share them to our brothers and sisters. Our innate talents and abilities that constitutes our personality and character will be the tools to use to express our love and concern to the world. The conglomeration and mix of these abilities in varying degrees make our service to others unique and personal. When we are able to use all of God’s gifts as our response of obedience to his commandment, we feel light and at peace. On the other hand, when we are asked to do something beyond our capabilities and against our self-concept, we feel the weight on our shoulders.
In the end, God’s command makes us more human.