A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘God’s love

We may lose a loved one, a friendship, our job, or money. We may suffer illness. Our spouse may be unfaithful. When life brings sad moments, some people convince themselves that God must hate them.

As we read in Wisdom 11:24-26*, they couldn’t be more wrong:

For you love all things that exist,

and you loathe none of the things which you have made,

for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.

How would anything have endured if you had not willed it?

Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?

You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord who love the living.

In our culture, there seems to be a belief that, if we follow Jesus, we’ll never have to face challenges or loss or hardship—that, if we’re “good Christians,” we’ll know only blessings. But God doesn’t promise us that, as just a few examples from the Bible show us:

  • Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 21:1-7), Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-20) and Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-25) waited years to have a child.
  • Jacob’s wife Rachel died in childbirth (Genesis 35:16-20).
  • Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:12-36).
  • The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14).
  • Except for John, who died in exile, all the apostles were martyred, beginning with James (Acts 12:2).

In fact, Jesus tells that we may face challenges because we follow him (Matthew 5:10-12):

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

What Jesus does promise us is that he will be with us:

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

“Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

When we struggle with the challenges life brings, I pray that we would take comfort in remembering just how much God loves us and draw strength from the truth that he will always be with us.

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

family photo

My mom, my grandmother and me

Ten years ago today, the last of my grandparents passed away. My mother called me early in the morning to give me the sad news so that my husband would be home for me to lean on.

Nanny loved her three grandchildren and thought we were wonderful—not because of how we looked or behaved or what we accomplished, but just because we were her grandchildren. We didn’t have to earn or deserve her love.

Do we realize the same is true of our heavenly Father?

Just as we strive to earn better grades in school, a place on a team or in a play, or a promotion at work, we might tell ourselves that we can serve in more ministries, give more to charity, or pray more to earn or deserve God’s love. But that just isn’t the case.

We can’t make him love us more. And as sinners, we can never do enough to deserve his love. But God loves all his children, whether or not we acknowledge and worship him and do what is pleasing to him. He loves us so much that he gave his only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to save us from our sins and lead us to eternal life (see John 3:16-17*).

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, in his book Remade for Happiness, put it like this:

He loves you despite your unworthiness. It is His love that will make you better rather than your betterment that will make Him love you.

If we love God, we’ll want to be better people and answer his call on our lives, which includes showing love to those who dislike or even hate us. And to do this, Bishop Sheen wrote, “we must recall that we who are not worth loving are loved by Love” and never believe ourselves more worthy of his love than others are:

That is just the way Our Lord intended that you should love your enemies: Love them as you love yourself, hating their sin, loving them as sinners; disliking that which blurs the Divine image, liking the Divine image which is beneath the blur; never arrogating to yourself a greater right to God’s love than they, since deep in your own heart you know that no one could be less deserving of His love than you.

On those days when we feel less than loveable or less than loving toward others, I pray that we would remember how much the Father loves us—all of us—and be moved to share that love with others, as Bishop Sheen encouraged us:

Your knowledge will get out of date; your statistics will be old next month; the theories you learned in college are already antiquated. But love never gets out of date. Love, therefore, all things and all persons in God.

(*Scripture reference taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Last night, as I prepared dinner, I couldn’t believe the allergy warnings on a couple of packages. Buyer, beware: the peanut satay sauce may contain peanuts and the pork and shrimp dumplings may contain shrimp. Yes, really.

Sometimes things are so obvious they don’t need to be pointed out. But sometimes we need a gentle reminder.

I’ve been reading Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage, and Transform by Elise Ballard. Among the interviews of famous and not-so-famous people, Ms. Ballard includes the story of Maya Angelou.

Ms. Angelou, at the time in her twenties and taking voice lessons, was asked to read out loud. Several times, her teacher asked her to read this line: “God loves me.” And the fact that it was the truth suddenly sank in. Her story ends with these words:

I could weep with joy at the knowledge that I am loved by Love itself.

embroidered card

One of my Great-Nanny’s embroidered cards from WWI

How many people know that God is love and that he loves us but don’t know it deep in their hearts? How many people feel unworthy of God’s love because of the things they’ve done or are afraid to trust in God because of hurt they’ve suffered in relationships? How do we help them to see?

We can be with them where they are and just listen.

We can invite them to come with us to parish events and Mass—whether they’d be visiting our parish for the first time, or for the first time in many years—so that they can learn more about God’s great and merciful love for all people, whoever they are and whatever they’ve done.

We can remind them that the Bible tells us of God’s love for us in many places, such as 1 John 4*:

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (v. 7)

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (v. 16b)

And we can pray that God would fill their hearts with the knowledge of his love.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, may we know—really know—that God is love and loves us.

Nothing is sweeter than love; nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing more generous, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth: for love proceeds from God, and cannot rest but in God, above all things created.

~ St. Thérèse of Lisieux, quoted in “Celebrate February 2015,” Catholic Digest, January/February 2015

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

 

 

 


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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