Amanda: Worthy of Agape

Amanda has been a contributor for The Papist since – well – since we started!  Today after two excellent years, she is being called to pursue other things, including full-time parish work and a managing editorship at Ignitum Today.  However, I wanted to give her a parting shout-out.  It is something of a tribute and a farewell, as well as a way to let you, our readers (who often share her articles on Facebook), know where to look for her latest stuff.

Amanda has been running a blog called Worthy of Agape since before joining The Papist and will (I hope!) continue to do so in the future.  The blog is excellent, and readers of her posts on The Papist will recognize her distinctive style, one which I would characterize as sheer honesty, with a bit of feminine flair.

One hopes, of course, that most blogger are honest in their own way.  They are honest about Miley Cyrus, for example, or about theology, or what’s wrong with the culture.  But what I mean to say with respect to Amanda’s writing – her mission, as it were – is that she is honest concerning her own heart.  She is honest with her readers about that which no one has a “right” to know, that which she might otherwise of have kept hidden – veiled is a better term – her deepest hopes, fears, and even weaknesses.

The world is constantly telling women that we aren’t good enough. We go unseen, unsought, unpursued, and this all leads us to believe that we are unworthy. Unworthy of what, you ask? Unworthy of happiness, joy, love, peace, and any good thing that life could offer us. These lies, straight from the mouth of Satan, are tearing women down and tearing down our world.

Intense, right?  It is!  And not just for girls, either; everyone who wants to be anyone is worried about not being good enough.  We can’t all have the childlike serenity of St. Therese of Liseux (or can we?!)

Amanda’s message to her readers is that it is in God that we find our true worth, our true dignity.  It is the Lord who will silence the voices of despair and of meaninglessness in our lives that tell us we are unlovable or should “just give up”.  In a world where culture is driven by sales, and sales are driven by feelings of insufficiency or inferiority, Amanda is a true “voice crying out in the wilderness” (John 1:23) to bring the awareness of Jesus’ love (agape) into peoples’ hearts.

And what exactly is agape?  Agape (ah-GAHP-ay) is a Greek word which stands for the unconditional, self-sacrificing, unstoppable, asks-for-nothing-in-return love which God offers to his us, his children.

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-9)

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

(Isaiah 49:15)

So I always thought it was cool that the title of Amanda’s blog, like that of her newly released book, Worthy, was a reminder that God has deemed us worthy of love – of his love, of infinite love.  It is a reminder that God made us to be loved by him, eternally, and that we find our worth in him.

So everyone deserves to be loved, and God loves everyone.  That’s great!  We can all be happy now, right?  Hang on, there’s more.

Last night as I was reading Amanda’s blog in preparation to write this post, I rather suddenly began to understand its meaning of its name – Worthy – in a whole new way.  I noticed that everything we’ve covered so far is in reality just step one.

Step one is realizing the dignity that God has called each of us to and what that means for how I view myself; it means trying to understand how much I am worth in God’s eyes, and ultimately doing my very best to love him in return through a life of prayer.

Step two is a little more ambitious.  It’s a little like this:

“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“If you love me, feed my sheep.” (John 17:21)

“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

Do you see it?  Agape is not just for God anymore.  The only thing crazier about Christianity than God becoming man is that God allows man, through his grace, to participate in the divine life which is love itself (1 John 4:8).  This is why Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical letter, which deals extensively with the concept of agape, is titled Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”).  In in it, he envisions human agape love as a “passing on the gift received” from God to others, and this is of course what it means to imitate Christ in our lives.

So far, so good.  But here is where the insight afforded by Amanda’s blog comes in:  the appropriateness of my loving another person unconditionally does not depend solely on my being a child of God, but upon upon the real worthiness of the other person to receive love.  Every human person is made in God’s image, having a very real and unique goodness inside of them that deserves to be loved, but even more important is the fact that in Baptism, we become children of God and are made worthy of his love by means of his sanctifying grace in our souls!  This means that every baptized person has been truly made “worthy of agape” from God but also, by extension, from other people!  It’s sort of obvious when you think about it:  Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)  This means that whoever is worthy of God’s love is also worthy (perhaps even more worthy) of our love.  Is it easy to love as God loves?  Certainly not – but it is his commandment, and he makes it possible by grace when we ask for it!  We should always ask the Holy Spirit in prayer to make us the channels of his grace and his peace.  “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Your Love Never Fails, Never Gives Up

Love is not something which happens for the sake of the lover but for that of the beloved.  Showing Christ’s love to someone is not about “developing my spiritual life”, or about “my becoming holier”, or about “God working through me” or about “my being so very kind and generous”.  It is not doing what’s best for the other person so that “I can be closer to God”; at least, it isn’t mainly about that.  Love is not about “me” at all, but about “you”, the beloved.  Love always says, “I want you to be happy; I want you to be close to God; I want you to go to heaven; I want you to know that you are worthy of this much love.”

Agape means never giving up on loving someone (even if you have to give up being with them).  It means never growing weary of doing what is right (1 Thessalonians 3:13).  It means doing all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13), and asking for that strength anew every day.  It means knowing that the people you care about ultimately belong to God and not to you.  It means praying for them.

It means more than I can say in a blog post.

But Amanda, thank you for helping me get this far!  Thank you for taking the meaning of your name (Amanda = worthy of love) to heart, and for sharing it with the world.  Thank you, too, for all your great work at The Papist, and know that you are welcome back any time.  I look forward to reading your book, because you have so many good things to say!  Keep shining your light.

Yours in Christ,

Josh

 

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