God’s Love…explained

God’s love.  Divine love.  Trinitarian love.

What is it?

My concise definition:  A relentless torrent of reckless self-giving.

Relentless:  Continuous.  Constant.  Perpetual.

Torrent:  Think “fire hose,” as in ‘trying to drink from.’  A great quantity arriving at great speed.

Reckless??  Not meaning careless, lacking caution, or irresponsible.  But illustrating the fact that it is so exclusively other-centered — so intensely focused on seeking the good of the ‘other’ — that it leaves absolutely no room for concern for oneself, nor even the slightest consideration of self.  A complete and total disregard for what might happen to me.

Self-giving:  Freely making a total gift of oneself.  Self-donation or self-bestowal, as St John Paul II would occasionally call it.

It’s the love that the Father has for His beloved Son, Jesus.
A love so tremendously awesome that its reception cannot go without a corresponding response.
It’s the love with which Jesus responds to His Father, which He returns to Him, reciprocates.
A love so authentic and real that it generates a personal expression — the Holy Spirit.

Here’s how St John Paul II described it:

“…the Father begets the Son by loving him; the Son is begotten by the Father, letting himself be loved and receiving from him the capacity to love; the Holy Spirit is love given in total gratuitousness by the Father, received with full gratitude by the Son, and returned by him to the Father.”  (General Audience, 29-July-1998)

A relentless torrent of reckless self-giving.
Its greatest manifestation is MERCY.
It’s the love that caused the Father to will the sending of His Son for us.
It’s the love that enabled the Son to desire to be sent for us.
It’s the love that’s graphically represented by the inferno of flame emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It’s what generates, builds and sustains true communion.
It is always free, total, faithful and fruitful (thanks, St JP2 and Christopher West).

It’s the kind of love in which I must engage if I want to attain self-fulfillment:

“…man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”  (Gaudium et Spes, n. 24)

This divine love gives me the answers to life’s basic questions:
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
How do I get there?

Divine love is my origin.
Divine love is my mission.
Divine love is my destiny.

My origin:  Divine love is always open to new life.  That’s the reason I’m here.  That’s why God created human persons.

My mission:  The greatest commandments — to love God and others, with this same love
(Jesus:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12)

My destiny:  Perfect communion with God for all eternity….the Beatific Vision.

The most accurate human representation of divine love is the physical love between wife and husband.
Divine love underlies radical acts like martyrdom.

A relentless torrent of reckless self-giving.
I need to reflect deeply on this, to contemplate this.

With this definition in mind, I need to do some serious lectio divina on these words of Jesus:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.”  (John 15:9)

Most importantly, I need to understand and believe that this is the kind of love that God has for me, individually and personally.  I need to live my daily life certain of the ever-presence of God’s deep love for me.
In times of temptation.
In times when I (selfishly) find it difficult to love others.
Especially in times of trial and suffering.

I need to ruminate on how very much God loves me, that I may be inspired to make an appropriate response.

Thank you, most gracious and merciful Lord, for your relentless torrent of reckless self-giving love.

Sacred Heart

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Imitate the tender, personal self-giving of God

From the homily of Pope Francis at midnight Mass for Christmas 2014:

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God, the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.

The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.

Francis Christmas 2014

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

MT smilingToday is the 17th anniversary of the death of Bd Teresa of Calcutta.  This short article summarizes the message that Mother Teresa lived and shared with the world.  I’ll reprint a few key excerpts, but I encourage you to read the entire article, and perhaps even read the book from which the article is extracted.

One part of Bd Teresa’s message:

God has so made the world that everything we do or don’t do has cosmic significance. With each new moment, we are presented with a fundamental option — to direct our acts and intentions either toward God or away from him. To love or not to love. And our little decisions in these matters have spiritual consequences we can scarcely imagine. When we are mean, we increase the sum total of meanness in the world. When we are indifferent, the world’s indifference to love spreads. But when we love, even in the littlest things, we fill the world that much more with the radiant fragrance of God.

The radical self-giving love which she encouraged in everyone:

She told us of the sacrifices made by leper parents, who must give up their newborns immediately upon birth or risk infecting them for life with the disease. She told us the story of one couple saying good-bye to their three-day-old baby:

Each one looked at the little one, their hands going close to the child and then withdrawing, trying, wanting to kiss the child, and again falling back. I cannot forget the deep love of that father and mother for their little child. I took the child, and I could see the father and mother as I was walking. I held the child toward them, and they kept on looking until I disappeared from their eyes. The agony and pain it caused! . . . But because they loved the child more than they loved themselves, they gave it up.

Her encouragement to us all:

Mother Teresa told us that we could be — in every moment of our lives — God’s answer to somebody’s prayers. We could be Jesus. If only we would let ourselves.

Bd Teresa’s zealous desire for Jesus was evidenced by her commitment to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration every morning and evening.  Her well-known “Varanasi Letter” to her sisters challenges each of them — and us! — to encounter Jesus in a very personal way.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
MCs in Adoration

Good Friday

Crucifix in chapel Mt Saviour 2013.06.04

This is a photo of a crucifix which adorns one of the small altars in the Crypt of the Chapel at Mount Saviour, a Benedictine monastery near Elmira, New York.  If I was a priest, this is the type of crucifix which would precede me down the aisle and reside at the altar for Mass.  It’s a graphic reminder to me of the monumental, pain-riddled self-giving sacrifice freely offered by Jesus so that I might have the opportunity to escape eternal death and the separation from God forever which is warranted by my selfish sinfulness (read what the Church teaches in CCC nn. 606-618).  How can I not strive as diligently as possible to make an appropriate response?!

Here are the meditations for the Stations of the Cross to be led by Pope Francis this evening in the Roman Colosseum.

Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Source of my hope!!

The primacy of gracious speech

In his otherwise very good homily at Holy Mass on Thursday, 09-January-2014, Pope Francis (commenting on the first Reading from 1 John 4:11-18) said something which could be misleading:

There is a question we must each ask ourselves: “If I abide in Jesus, if I abide in the Lord, if I abide in love, what do I do for God – not what do I think or what do I say – and what do I do for others?”. Therefore, he said “the first criteria is to love with deeds, not with words”. “The wind carries away our words: today they are here and tomorrow they are gone”.

In his zeal to see a more visibly loving Church, it is clear that Pope Francis significantly underestimates the importance and the power of words.  Most often, the first encounter of other persons with us will be their hearing of our words.  The way in which people express themselves in words has been seriously corrupted by our culture, as well as by our lack of knowledge of Sacred Scripture.  Ordinary conversation is now laden with negativity, complaining, sarcasm, slander, gossip, hypocrisy, falsehood, vulgarity, lack of eye contact, no smile, feeble efforts at humor in order to mask insecurity, and fear of mentioning our Lord and anything related to Him.  Our disordered desire for isolation has produced people who increasingly neglect to acknowledge others with a simple, friendly greeting.  The first impression we make on someone will likely be with our words, and contrary to Francis’ belief that “the wind carries away our words,” that first impression is often one which is lasting.

If we are truly disciples of Jesus, we should be seeing the face of Christ in everyone we encounter.  We should also be striving to have whatever we say to others be born of self-giving love.  Our speech should be filled with friendliness, affirmation, gratitude, truth and graciousness:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you know how you should respond to each one. (Colossians 4:6)

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another….No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.  (Ephesians 4:25,29)

The LORD loves the pure of heart; the person of winning speech has a king for a friend.  (Proverbs 22:11)

Opportunities to do loving deeds for those we encounter in daily life are relatively infrequent.  In contrast, every one of those encounters offers us the opportunity to speak words in a loving manner.  Loving actions can often be impersonal, and therefore easier to perform.  It’s possible to “love with deeds” and not actually be in the presence of the person who is the recipient of your love.  However, many of us find it intimidating and uncomfortable to look someone in the eye and, with a smile, affirm them, express our gratitude to them, or gently correct them.  One-on-one conversation is a very personal encounter.  This is precisely why it is so enduring.

Do not underestimate the primary importance of expressing our love with words, especially in our families!!!