Lenten reflection: What we love, we grow to resemble

Photo by Mike Carpenter, Comm ’19.

By Megan Sheehan, communications coordinator, Campus Ministry

In the moments we are tempted to sin, but choose not to, we are expressing what we love. 

In this past Sunday’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus being tempted in the desert. “Get away from me, Satan,” he says, following an offer of respite from the devil. You see, Christ knows what he loves, and that unshakable conviction – the power of love in God the Father and in all things good – comes in handy when temptation rears its ugly head with an appealing offer.  

When we think of Jesus showing us how to love, this particular Gospel may not be the first one that comes to mind. But might we for a moment consider his act of love here.

Jesus chooses good over evil, love over sin. He is showing us that prioritizing good can certainly be difficult, but if we are strong in our conviction of what we love, we will be better equipped when temptation comes along. We will be be able to say, “Get away from me, Satan.”

On the other hand, if we fail to recognize what we love in this life, temptation has a better chance of winning us over with an attractive proposition.  

Satan doesn’t want us to think so much about temptation. He’d rather we act on our impulses and take the appealing offer. He’d rather we sin.

It serves us well, then, to not only consider what we love, but be alert for recognizing the who, what, where and when of our temptations to sin. When we do that, we can clearly see two decisions before us. And it is in that moment that we decide to express what we love and who we are looking to be – who we are looking to resemble.  

“What we love, we grow to resemble.”
– St. Bernard of Clairvaux

We might ask ourselves, “What do I look like these days?” or “What do I resemble?” Isn’t it true that with each decision not to sin, not to hurt ourselves or those around us, we are resembling something? Haircuts, clothes, make-up, Instagram presets and filters, and even hygiene aside, what do we want to look like? What have we grown to resemble, and does that reflect what we love?

If our hope is to love Christ, and to love like Christ, do we in fact resemble the love he showed us? 

Last week on Ash Wednesday, as I looked around at the packed Chapel of the Holy Family – filled with eager students, faculty and staff – I thought of those words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The community I witnessed receiving ashes throughout the day resembled something seemingly very good. With each cross on the forehead, I saw a person prioritizing shared faith, coming together in community at the start of Lent, and support for each other in a time of reflection and self-betterment.  

What I saw was a love that desires to overcome the temptation to sin, and a desire to assist those around us in doing the same. 

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
– Paulo Coehlo in The Alchemist

The truth in Coehlo’s statement reflects the words of St. Bernard. Both suggest a look in the mirror during this Lenten season.

In these days, consider:

What are you growing to resemble?

Did you know that the love you choose in each moment not only draws you closer to God, but does the same for those around you as well?