God Is Love

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.  It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything”.  These words spoken by the late Jesuit Father General, Pedro Arrupe, get to the heart of what we are all about. All life is about loving. All religion is about loving. Love is the ultimate meaning of life. Behind, before and beneath it all is the reality of God’s love. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.

Love begins not with our decision and will to love, but with the belief and trust that we are loved. That gift of belief and trust comes through the experience of prayer. On Sunday night I watched on television a Poor Clare nun tell of her first encounter with God’s love. It was undeserved and overwhelming and it happened out of the blue during a Mass. Recently I read of a young 20 year-old woman who, as she approached the Cross one Good Friday years ago, experienced out of the blue the all-embracing and compelling love of Christ for her: “I experienced the certainty that the Lord was on the Cross for me and had given his life for me,said the late Sister Clare Crockett later. Love comes from God not only as a source; it is itself the very essence of God. It is experienced as reality and certainty, and puts us in touch with our deep-down selves.

The second is this: you must love your neighbour as yourself. St. Therese of Lisieux spent her short life as an enclosed Carmelite nun and is honoured in the Church as Patron of the Missions. She had a very deep experience one Sunday when praying before a picture of the crucified Christ. She was struck by the fact that blood was flowing out of Jesus’ hands and nobody was hastening to gather it up. Like a sensitive artist watching a masterpiece  being defaced, she wanted to gather up the blood and make Christ healed and complete again. The image stayed with Therese and became the centerpiece of her spirituality and the source of how she saw the Church as the Body of Christ suffering on earth. She could not love the body of Christ and not love the suffering members of his body in the world. “The most important thing we can do for the world is to let God be born inside us,” wrote St. John of the Cross.

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…  Etty Hillesum, a young Jewish woman who lived in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, became one of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. From the day Dutch Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star up to the day she boarded a cattle wagon for Poland, Etty consecrated herself to an ambitious task: to bear witness to the inviolable power of love and to reconcile her keen sensitivity to suffering with her appreciation for the beauty of existence. She believed the most important task was to hold fast to the encounter with God in her soul and other people, to affirm the meaning of life in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Gradually, her diary became a prayer to God. Arriving at Auschwitz she accepted her fate and her calling to be present at the heart of suffering, to be “the thinking heart of the death camp.” Spiritually awake, she refused to give in to hate. She died on November 30, 1943, at the age of twenty nine.

Fr. QQ  – 10/20/2021

          I am a man who is not afraid of love;

                                    I am a moth who is not afraid of burning.

                                                                                       Rumi