By Evelyn Rakowsky, Colorado Vincentian Volunteer
The following reflection is a notable entry to our annual Volunteer Story & Photo Contest. Each year, we ask our member programs to submit stories and photos of their daily life to celebrate the experiences of faith-based service.
Beloved. Every time I hear or read this word I feel the same comfort I did as a child when my mom would call me her little petunia. My body instinctively relaxes and no matter how distracted I was before the romantic effects of this name wash over me, I am suddenly all ears and eager to receive the message that follows.
During my year of service with Colorado Vincentian Volunteers (CVV), I attended adoration for the first time. There are many curious gifts that accompany being Catholic which were complete mysteries to me before CVV. Adoration was one of them.
One night, my community went to St. Ignatius of Loyola church, where they arrange a circle of chairs at the altar so that parishioners can be close to the Blessed Sacrament. Soon enough, I found myself approaching the altar. As I sat before the Eucharist, I felt that familiar sensation of childlike comfort. I rested there and played through the life and death of Christ in my mind. It shattered me.
How was I possibly worthy of a love so powerful that Christ would sacrifice himself for me? The truth is, I am not. I compare myself to others daily over the silliest things; I experience jealousy so strong it tempts me to seek out the flaws in others, and during my Christmas break, I caught myself (at the age of 23) still being reluctant when my mom asked for help in the kitchen. I am far from deserving of my name as one of God’s Beloved, yet this word will not stop surfacing in my life.
Beloved has shown up in the daily mass readings more times than I can count. Beloved floods the pages of my new favorite book by Henri Nouwen. Beloved is even the title of my favorite song on the new Mumford and Sons album. Beloved is haunting me. No matter how many times I try to lay out all of the reasons I am unworthy to God, He hits me again with that word, Beloved, and I fall, all over again, like a child into His arms.
I’ve come to the realization that Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that I could argue with Him about how unfair it is that He didn’t let me earn my name as His Beloved before he started calling me it. As I’ve repeated the word over and over to myself, I’ve heard God tell me that Beloved is both the mystery and the answer. As humans, we are God’s Beloved. But why were we given this title and what are we to do with it?
Truly accepting our status as Beloved gives us the freedom to (as is hidden within the word itself) “be love.” As God’s Beloved we are called to be love for others. And how do we do be love? I’m still clueless. However, the Lord pointed out to me that the first step: in order to not only be love but to understand that we are loved, we have to first Be. We must quiet all of those external sounds and internal voices telling us we are not enough and meet God in the silence.
I’ve been seeking out new ways to create space for silence in my life. I’ve started leaving my headphones out on the bus, running without music, driving with the radio off, and practicing centering prayer for 20 minutes every morning. While I cannot say that I hear from God every time I sit in silence, I know He sees me trying. And the more silence I create, the more Beloved invades new spaces. God is constantly sneaking around every corner to remind me that I am indeed His Beloved. The more room I give Him through silence, prayer and presence, the more this truth becomes irreversibly ingrained on my heart.
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