Michelangelo was often asked how he created such beautiful carvings out of marble. One such occasion was when someone questioned him while gazing at Michelangelo’s carving of an angel. He said: “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”

Are we like Michelangelo’s carving? Within the marble block have we found ourselves, the real us. All the marble surrounding us was what? What we thought we were? What we were told by parents, teachers, clergy, television, the internet, etc.? Even our egos contributed an interpretation of who we were?

From birth to about age 5-8, we lived in innocence and trust remembering the love of God. Soon afterward we began building a belief system of what we thought we needed to do to be loved by others. We listened to those who told us we had to earn God’s love. We believed that we were flawed and how could God love someone like that? Little did we know that believing such messages masked our spirit. Piece by piece we gradually covered over a beautiful soul that was One with God. Jesus told us of this Oneness at the Last Supper with his disciples. In John 10:30 he said: “The Father and I are one.” And later in John 14:19: “In a little while the world will not see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in the Father and you are in me and I am in you.”

The belief system we adopted denied these words. We could hardly believe we were one with God and well loved.

Within us, two voices emerged. One was the quiet voice that assured us of God’s love , while the other was a loud assertive voice of others telling us we were separate, unlovable and unworthy of a loving God. The loud voice told us that God was constantly judging us. It shoved the quiet voice out and astonishingly, we believed it.

Thunk, Thunk more marble was added to the layers obscuring our true selves.

How do we discern what is true? Who can we trust? Jesus said, “By their fruits shall you know them,” [Matt. 7:16]. What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”[Galatians 5:22-23]. Negative behaviors of selfishness, anger, jealousy, division or hatred are the opposite and St. Paul gave us good road markers to identify not only how we should behave but who was trustworthy and who should we listen to and believe.

Listening to the quiet little voice telling us we are loved and part of the Whole is hard, especially with our history. But to hear that quiet voice, we have to be quiet. We have to take the time to sit, become listeners and accept that God loves our whole person- body and soul and we don’t have to earn that love. It is freely given. We need to just “be” without expectations. With every surrender of the false belief systems the marble chips away and our true selves become apparent.

We also need to cultivate friends among those who demonstrate the fruits of the Holy Spirit and gently loosen the hold of those who don’t.

By opening our hearts to let the Love come in we are then able to give love by practice gratitude and random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Out of that heartfulness we love and care for the poor, the hungry, those suffering from violence of any kind. Our love can change the world.

God always knew who we were inside. We just had to take the time, listen to the message and believe it.

Sister Mary Eileen Boyle