One false construct of love (there are many) is the notion of being loveable. Too many of us are more concerned about being loveable then we are about loving.
Loveable is concerned about being loved in return. It wants to know that it is appreciated, acknowledged and reciprocated. True love loves without regard for being loved in return. Jesus Christ crucified did not seek to know from His Father how many of us would accept His act of love. He simply loved.
Lovable cares about being understood. Love simply speaks the truth. Lovable pleases and placates. Love elevates those who give it and receive it. Lovable will not die for others; it can't for it is selfish. Love, by its very nature lives to die for others; it is selfless. Lovable cannot inspire others, only intoxicate them. Love inspires and nourishes souls.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words, “Only when someone values love more than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death.”
Lovable tries to control the landscape and orchestrate everything. Love simply loves. Lovable is disposable. Love is eternal. Lovable can never fully connect, will never be vulnerable, will never trust because lovable is a lie. Love is truth.
Lovable is lukewarm. Lovable is inauthentic. Lovable flees if it's not appreciated. Lovable runs away when the inevitable cross comes. Love is zealous for the things of God, love is authentic, love remains on the cross and dies. Lovable is the crowds of Palm Sunday. Love is Mary and John at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. The end of loveable is death. The end of love is new life.
“Love attracts love” says Saint Catherine of Siena. Sadly, the opposite is also true, loveable attracts loveable. The choice is ours. Do we want to be the crowd of Palm Sunday or the few of Good Friday? Do we want to be Judas or Jesus? Do we want to be love or be lovable?
In light of recent events, ( take your pick among a seemingly endless number of tragedies),we probably all have uttered something like, “What is going on here?”” or “What is this world coming to?”possibly followed by, “When are things going to get better?” The truth is things are not going to get better, that is, not until we get better.
If you are waiting on the world to change, as the title of a recent song suggests, you will have a long, long wait. We don’t realize, like Saint Augustine did, that we are our world. He said, "The times are bad! The times are troublesome!" This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.
It is time to stop blaming “them” and start taking responsibility. We, you and I, are our culture. We are our times. We are responsible. It is up to us to change. It is not up to “them.””They” aren’t going to change until we do. Why should they? And, really, it’s not even we, it is me.
I need to stop my sinning. I need to avoid the near occasion of sin. I need to purify my heart, mind and body. I need to recommit to a daily prayer life. I need to return to the sacraments. I need to rededicate myself to my faith. And I need to beg God for the grace to do be able to do so. Beg Him for His mercy and forgiveness. I need to start living for Him and not for myself.
Saint John Vianney reminds us that “We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for heaven or hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God. If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to heaven.”
The corollary to that is if we continue to do for the world and not for God, what a great number of Christians will end up in Hell. It need not come to that. The truth is if we, as Catholics, ever lived our faith as we are called to live our faith, the world would change and it would change radically. The fire of His love would burn in us and through us. As Saint Catherine of Siena said, "If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze"
In fact, the world is waiting for us to get up off of our collective rear ends and lead so they can follow. The light of Christ’s fire burning in us will light the way for the world to emerge from the darkness. We were made for greatness, for God’s glory. One by one we would become a force to be reckoned with. An army of truth and love can overcome any enemy. Lukewarmness would be replaced with zeal for souls, anger with charity, envy with generosity, pride with humility, evil with good.
If as you read through this, you found yourself agreeing with the sentiment, then I have one final question for you, “What are you waiting for?”
Fair is a word of our times. “It’s not fair” is a phrase that this culture embraces as if it is the highest good or a right. Yet fair rarely includes God’s perspective of the moment. If fair were the highest value, the greatest good, Jesus would never have died for our sins. Fair is not love, for sometimes love is unfair. Do you want your spouse to treat you fairly or to love you?
Fair is, in many ways, lukewarm. Fair will never die for another, will never extend itself for another, will never challenge another to greater heights. Fair is a judgment you make that is predicated upon your chosen perspective. Fair denies, or, at the very least, ignores, God’s perspective. Fair is in many ways opposed to faith.
It’s not fair is the wound that was exposed and exploited in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s promptings were given a place to resonate in the hearts of Adam and Eve when they doubted God’s providence and said to themselves. “Well, that doesn't seem fair.”
Fair is fear of God’s will. “It’s not fair” is the battle cry of those who are not willing to acknowledge with their whole heart, mind, body and soul that God is God and He is their God. Ultimately, your response to life falls into one of two categories, Job’s wife or Job’s. The choice is “curse God and die” or “The Lord give and the Lord take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“It’s not fair” means your heart is not ready. It is time for it to be ready. Prepare your heart by trusting in God grace and mercy. His will, though perhaps not earthly fair, is heavenly perfect.
To complete this trio of related blogs, we have Divine Mercy Sunday as the backdrop. In speaking of "God is love," there is so much depth to plumb, so many ways to try and explore the richness of those words as they relate to our daily journey. The notion of mercy is inexplicable tied to the truth That God is love.
Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy, 1981), tells us that mercy is love’s second name. This God who is love, can also be known by the name of Mercy. Dives in Misericordia also tells us that mercy is God’s greatest attribute. And while we toil away on earth we have full access to His treasure trove of mercy. The time for His mercy is right now! (It is true that at the moment of death mercy ends and justice begins – so please, don’t delay.)
Don’t just sip in His mercy. Drink fully of it. God desires us to be totally free, to be fully alive in Him. He wants us to accept His love, His grace, His peace, His mercy. When you find yourself frightened, turn to Him who is love. When you find yourself in need, turn to Him who is grace. When you find yourself in turmoil, turn to Him who is peace. When you find yourself mired in sin, turn to Him who is mercy. When you find yourself frightened or anxious or uncertain or desperate or lonely or sad or wounded or naked or tired or cold or abandoned turn to Him who is your Creator, your “Abba,” your Daddy, your Father.
Return to the sacraments. Stop wallowing and head to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After that, return to Holy Communion. Stay close to the Lord through prayer, fasting and alms giving. Then trust in His mercy!
Saint Gemma Galgani once said, “If I saw the gates of Hell open and I stood on the brink of the abyss, I should not despair; I should not lose hope of mercy, because I should trust in You, my God.” What beautiful words of encouragement. We need to be like Saint Gemma and to trust in God’s mercy, no matter what befalls us. Similarly, Saint Faustina Kowalska tells us, “Oh, how beyond comprehension is God's mercy! But, horror, there are also souls who voluntarily and consciously reject and scorn this grace!”
Do not be the person of whom Saint Faustina speaks. Humble yourself and accept His love, His grace, His peace, His mercy. You will be eternally grateful you did.
Jesus, King of Mercy, I trust in you.
He has Risen! He has risen, indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia.
The simple truth mentioned in last week’s blog is that God is love. This week presents a corollary truth, that is, what God permits He can redeem. In the words of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, “Souls that really love God know that everything that happens in this world is either ordered or permitted by God.”
Nothing happens to us that is outside of God’s will. While certainly things do occur outside of God’s perfect will, nothing could occur outside of God’s permissive will. (If something could occur that was outside of God’s will, than He wouldn’t be God.) And whatever He permits can be redeemed.
Because of the true nature of love, God never forces us to love Him. In order to be able to freely give our love to God, we must have the ability to withhold from God this love. This is called free will. In the exercise of free will, we can choose to not love God. In short, we are free to sin. Our sins a are permitted by God, but certainly they are not willed by God. God never positively wills sin, but He does permit it, and can even redeem it for His glory and for the salvation of souls.
The greatest example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. It was, at once, the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened. In the Easter Proclamation, we hear, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” What He permitted (Adam’s sin), He redeemed (via the New Adam, Jesus.) Without Jesus’ death and resurrection humanity’s relationship with God would have remained fractured and the gates of Heaven would have remained closed.
God, who is love, loves us where we are at, in the midst of whatever we may be doing. In loving us, truly loving us, He offers us the opportunity to have even our sins repurposed. God used Satan’s plan to destroy humanity to instead save humanity. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that the “devil, in spite of himself, becomes, as it were, an instrument and coefficient of holiness.” Likewise, in our lives, God can redeem our sins and suffering, our trials and temptations. He can write straight with our crooked lines. Our moments of weakness, of anger, of fear, of pride, of envy, of hatred, etc. can be redeemed if we give them over to God.
Find yourself yelling at the kids or angry at your spouse? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself gossiping about a friend or lying to yourself? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself slacking in prayer or struggling with an addiction, Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself sick or suffering? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself doubting God? Know that this can be redeemed. God can use the worst to bring about the best. He can use ugliness to bring about beauty. He can use death to bring about new life.
So as we celebrate Easter and look forward to Pentecost, we can place our hope in a God who loves us and desires us to be saved. His mercy endures forever.