July 30, 2013



Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9,28

Today we continue with the story of Moses. Over the past few days, we have entered the famed burning bush. We've recounted the miracle at the Red Sea. Yesterday, we heard once again the story of the ten commandments. Today, we read of Moses speaking with God "face to face, as one man speaks to another." (Exodus 33:11)

Shocking. Unheard of. Absolutely, radically mind-blowing. In Moses' day there were many gods. The Jews were the only people on the entire planet who had a God ... who encompassed everything ... and who ... get ready for this ... actually engaged in a relationship with humanity. Of all the nations on the earth, only the Jews actually believed that God spoke to them, that God desired them.

"We cannot identify who we are unless we answer the question of the meaning of life, where we come from, and where we are going. I have come to describe the human identity in the following way: We are loved-nothings. This simply means that if God did not love us, we would not exist. In other words, our existence is not necessary for the continuation of the universe. In fact, creation would get along quite nicely without us. The heavens, the environment, and all living things would suffer no loss if we were not here. We are, however, quite dependent upon creation. Driven by the power of our 'fat relentless egos,' we look upon ourselves as indispensable to the created world when we, in fact, are not." (1)

"If we are not necessary, then why do we exist? ... We exist because God loves us. If God didn’t love us, we would not be here. This is an astoundingly liberating revelation. We are not needed, but desired. Who would not prefer to be desired, to be wanted simply for being oneself? In fact, our falling in love with one another hints at the divine romance between God and ourselves. That is where our joy comes from: We find another who has already found us. We thrive on being loved for who we are. Like the kind of beloved we all crave, God loves 'just because.'" (2)

We are desired. Let that penetrate. Let that invade. Let that rattle your boxes and categories. Invading our deepest-seeded fears that we are alone is the truth that the Father created us simply because He desired us. Stop for a moment and consider how this should reorient your entire existence.

The Father created us because He desired us. He gazes upon us because He desires us. The Father loves us because He desires us. The Father tirelessly pursues us because He desires us. Yet, far too often we trudge through our prayer time silently assured by past unrelated grief that "nothing is going to really happen when I show up to pray." The perceived aloneness crescendos in the silence and many of us dread our prayer time because we fear facing their daunting perception that we are not desired.  Thus, many of us "fill up" our prayer time with devotionals or other pious spiritual disciplines fearing silence "because nothing is going to happen if I’m quiet." The core fear feeding the cloaked isolation is "I’m alone. I am not desired."

"Since we live in the tension of being loved-nothings, we sometimes emphasize one pole of this identity over the other. We can be guilty at times of thinking we are only 'loved' or only 'nothing.' ... To focus on being loved is good, but, without an awareness of the rest of our human identity, our life becomes too self-centered. Alternately, ruminating about the nothing side of our identity can lead us to slip into despair or self-hate. This equally distorts reality. Yes, we are not necessary, but we are loved! ... All sin arises from thinking either that we are everything or that we are nothing. When I act out of these incomplete and distorted visions of the human identity instead of out of the creative tension of being loved-nothing, I sin." (3)

We are all loved-nothings. Our existence is not needed, it is desired. However, how many of us base our identity off of what we do or how we are received by others? How many of us base our self-worth off of whether or not we are needed? Driven by an American lie of performance driven identity, too many of us believe our identity is determined by whether or not we are approved of or thought well of. Thus, many of us fear that we are not loved.

We are all loved-nothings. We are all nothing without God. We are all loved by the very God who created us. And, we were all created by God simply because He desired to do so.

(1) James Keating, Ph.D., Pure Heart, Clear Conscience, pg. 18
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid., pg. 19

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians conclude their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how the Liturgy is a part of the overall life of the diocesan priest. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises concluded the retreat Sunday. Today they continue their "Transition Days", learning how to be with God in the midst of whatever they do.


"Life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Genesis 1:28)!"
― World Youth Day, Sydney, Australia, July 17, 2008


Brice Higginbotham, a seminarian from our own Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, speaks about his experience last year at the Institute for Priestly Formation and its impact on his formation and discernment.

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© The Institute for Priestly Formation, 2012