It's about Love...
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
During this month of October, the month dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, let us ask our Blessed Mother for the Peace of Jesus Christ for our country and the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart in our world! This Sunday, I share with you a reflection on our Lord’s Love for each of us. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“To Love with Deeds - The First Commandment: The texts of today’s Holy Mass show us the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the perfection of Divine Revelation. In the First Reading we hear the First Commandment stated in no uncertain terms: Listen, Israel: The Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. (Deut. 6:2-6) This passage was well known to all the Jews. They repeated it twice each day, in their morn-ing and evening prayers.
In the Gospel we read of a scribe’s encounter with the Lord. (Mark 12:28-34) He had been listening to the dialogue between Jesus and the Sadducees. The scribe was impressed by the Lord’s response to their questions. He was moved to inquire personally into the teaching of the Master. Which is the first of all the commandments? he asked. Jesus paused to give time to this apparently sincere individual, even though He had spoken so harshly of the scribes and the Pharisees in general. At the close of their conversation Jesus has some words of encouragement for the scribe: You are not far from the kingdom of God. Jesus is always ready to spend time with souls who express an interest in Him. The Lord repeats those words from Holy Scripture: Listen, Israel: The Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart…
This is the first of all the commandments. It is the summation and culmination of all the others. But what is the meaning of this love that is insisted on? Cardinal Luciani - later Pope John Paul I - wrote the following definition in an imaginary letter to St. Francis de Sales: According to you, the man who loves God must board the ship of God, determined to accept the course set by His commandments, by the guidance of those who represent Him, and by the situations and cir-cumstances of life that He permits. You imagined an interview with Marguerite, when she was about to embark for the Crusades with her husband, St. Louis IX, King of France: ‘Where are you going, Madame?’ ‘Where the King goes.’ ‘But do you know exactly where the King is going?’ ‘He has told me in a general way. I am not concerned to know precisely where he is going, however: I care only about going with him.’… That king is God, and we are all Marguerites if we really love God… To feel, with God, like a child in its mother’s arms; whether He carries us in His right arm or in His left arm is all the same: we leave it up to Him. (A. Luciani, Illustrissimi, pp. 106-107)
This is the only things that matters: to be with Jesus. The place where we are, the pain that we may suffer, our success or our failure - these must be accepted as having only a relative importance. If anything, our circumstances should help us to love God more. We would do well to follow the poetic counsel of St. Teresa: Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee: All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices. (St. Teresa, Complete Works, III, Poem IX, p. 288)
Corresponding to the love God has for us: We pray in today’s Responsorial psalm: I love You, Lord, my strength. My God is the Rock where I take refuge; my Shield, my mighty Help, my Stronghold. (Responsorial Psalm, Ps. 17:2-4; 47; 51)
Psalm 17 can be thought of as a Te Deum which David directs to Yahweh. He wants to thank God for all the help he has received through-out his life. (cf. D. de las Heras, Ascetical and Theological Commentary on the Psalms, Zamora 1988) The Lord had delivered David from his enemies. He had given him many victories over the Gentiles. After the rebellion of Absalom the Lord had returned Jerusalem to David. He had received assistance from God time after time. This explains David’s thanksgiving and his love: I love You, Lord, my Strength. God had forever been David’s ally, his stronghold, his refuge, his shield… Yahweh always supported him: He delivered me, because He delighted in me. (Ps. 17:19) Each one of us might repeat these very same words. The determining factor in our lives is the fact that God loves us. This reality should fill the heart with hope and consolation: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins. (I John 4:9-10) The Incarnation is the supreme manifestation of the Love of God for each one of His children. This love existed even before the Incarnation, for it springs from the Divine Nature: I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3) This love has preceded Creation itself. St. Thomas teaches that this same love is the source of every Grace we receive. (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, 1, q. 43, a. 5)
What is even more amazing is that God’s Love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:5) St. Augustine has written: We have been loved even when we were most undesirable. God has wanted to grant us something to praise Him with. (cf. St. Augustine, Commentary on St. John’s Gospel, 102, 5) This same saint has also said: Listen! Think of the way you were loved when you were not lovable. Listen to how you were loved when you were not lovable. Listen to how you were loved when you were clumsy and ugly, before there was anything in you that was worthy of love. Because you have been loved first, you have been made worthy of being loved. (idem, Sermon 142)
Can we really fail to correspond to such a great love? The Lord asks us to love Him with deeds and with the affections of the heart. Every day we should come to know more about the Sacred Humanity of Jesus, which is the best route to the Trinity. The Father loves the Son. (John 3:35) He loves us too: Thou hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23) He loves us even more when we love His Son: He who loves Me will be loved by My Father. (John 14:21)
Love is shown in deeds. It is shown in the confidence of children who go to their Father whenever there is a problem. This should be a daily affair. We should have a joyful spirit of thanksgiving for the many blessings we have received. We should give Him our loyalty as His sons and daughters, in the place where He has situated us. In the castle of God we seek to accept any position: cook or scullion, waiter, groom, baker. If it please the King to call us to His privy council, we will go, without being too moved, knowing that the recompense does not depend on the position but on the loyalty with which we serve. (A. Luciani, op. cit., p. 106) God wants us to be happy in the place where we are. How many times ought we to tell Him: Lord, I love You…, but teach me how better, how best to love!
Love shown with deeds: A biographer of St. Teresa of Avila pro-vides this illustration of refined charity from the early days of the convent of St. Joseph’s: When money ran very short the nuns content-ed themselves with dry bread, but there was never any lack of wax candles for the altar and everything connected with Divine Worship was as exquisitely perfect as possible.
A visiting priest was scandalized: ‘What! A scented towel to wipe one’s hands before saying Mass?’ Teresa, her fine face lighting up with fervor, took the blame on herself: ‘It is from me my daughters get this imperfection. But when I remember the way Our Lord reproached the Pharisee for not receiving Him with sufficient honor, I could wish that everything here in the church, from even its very threshold, were perfumed with sweet waters…’(M. Auclair, Teresa of A vila, p. 173)
The Lord greatly appreciates such signs of sincere affection. We will show our love for the Lord by our faithful fulfillment of His Commandments and by the way we carry out our duties in the middle of the world. Our love will be shown by our hatred of sin and of every occasion of sin, by our exercise of Charity in little details like a genuflection well made, punctuality in our norms of piety, a loving glance at an image of Our Lady…. It is precisely in the context of these little offerings that we keep alive the flame of our love for the Lord.
Everything we do for the Lord is of relative importance compared with God’s initiative. God loves me. And John the Apostle writes: ‘Let us love God, then, since God loved us first.’ As if this were not enough, Jesus comes to each one of us, in spite of our patent wretchedness, to ask us, as He asked Peter: ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these others?’ This is the moment to reply: ‘Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You!’ adding, with humility,
‘Help me to love You more. Increase my love!’ (J. Escriva, The Forge, 497) ” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, St. Joseph, St. Michael, St. Paul, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Grace of total Love for Jesus!
In Christ through Mary,