Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: our lives, God’s masterpiece

The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org
The Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

Where do we get our image of God the Father from?  Our natural father.  Our natural father could have been very militant, a disciplinarian, heavy-handed, short-tempered, or had strong faults.  He could have been verbally abusive without really meaning to do us harm because that was the way he grew up.

But there’s a total correlation between our ability to understand and believe in God as our Father, with our relationship with our own fathers. If our natural father didn’t have a sense of compassion and give affirmation, if he wasn’t attentive to our needs, or wasn’t present to important events – all of this can have a huge capacity and impact on our beliefs about God as our Father.

A significant part of what it means to seek holiness, is to hunger for God so that we can allow His holiness to make us whole. God must undo any damage that was done in our pasts  by giving us a new experience of love, so that we learn what it means to be loved by God the Father.

We have to seek that holiness as the saints, understanding  them as human beings, and not simply as superstars. They were people with real life challenges, just like you and me. Human nature is the same everywhere; it changes very little. Society, culture, technology, the works of our hands – all of that will change. However, we are made of the same substance and human nature of the saints. They are not angels in another form who had special privileges that we don’t have access to. We have access to the same grace of God. We are made up of the same thoughts, the same feelings, and the same types of relationships and potentials as the saints.

Some older hagiographies put the saints on pedestals and make it look like they were able to sail through life with special graces, without really knowing about human suffering and the complexities of what it means to live by faith and not by sight. Yet when we look closely at the lives of the saints through good biographies, we see real life problems and conversions. We must tap into that reality in order for us to know the saints us brothers and sisters in Christ, as companions.

The saints stir us to wonder and bring us back to the one thing that is necessary, and that is, the absolute primacy of God’s love. We are made for this divine love, and this divine love is larger than life. This love enlarges our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. God’s love leads us into an endless enlargement of our capacity for His greatness. His love enlarges our lives. St. Paul says that this enlargement, this going from one degree of glory to another, this growth process of becoming more and more united to God, makes us more united to His greatness. We are all made for that greatness and enlargement. We are all meant to live life large, in the love of God.

Saint John Paul the II says, ‘Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term, but as we see in Genesis, all men and women are tasked with crafting their own lives. They are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.’   God wants to sanctify you through the Holy Spirit. He wants to make of your life a masterpiece.

Becoming a masterpiece doesn’t mean perfectionism. In other words, to seek the way of perfection does not mean that we must become perfectionists. Perfectionism is a psychological condition that has to do with insecurity because we’re not comfortable with ourselves and are unable to accept ourselves until everything is perfectly ordered. ‘Until everything is right where it has to be, I can’t be at rest. Only when everything is perfect, then I’ll be content and I’ll be able to breathe and accept myself.’ That is dysfunctional and self-defeating.

The way of perfection, as we see in the lives of the apostles and the saints, will inevitably involve falling, and getting back up again. Falling, and getting back up again. This way of perfection involves seeing how God brings good out of everything, and light out of darkness. The end result of the constant struggle and healing, will be a masterpiece. All that is required is the faith and perseverance to let God be God. He is the one who brings about the masterpiece. We just have to be faithful.

Finally, to summarize, spirituality is simply an art of the heart, the art of becoming fully human. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” St. Teresa of Jesus is one of many, but a very important icon of the beauty that we are called to be transformed by. She is a shining example, inviting us to divine intimacy with God through the sacred humanity of Jesus.

The great St. Paul in his magnificent letter to the Ephesians says, “How rich God is in mercy. With what an excess of love He loved us.” We are His design, His work of art. God has created us in Christ Jesus, pledged to such good actions as He has prepared beforehand. May these good actions and becoming His work of art be the employment of our lives. May we become all that we were each made to be — to truly be love’s canvas. END

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

(SOURCE: Denver Retreat, October 2015)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

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