Tag Archives: love

Know that you are loved – part 2

Earlier this month I wrote a blog post on the impact that this simple phrase had on me when Sister Peggy hugged me as I left Suchitoto: “Know that you are loved.”

This morning I came on these words of Little Brother of the Gospel Arturo Paoli, who died a year ago today:

Christians are persons who discover that they are loved, and find that the best response they can give, the only way to say “thanks” for the love they receive is the response of loving. The very need to love leads them not to refuse any proposal, any path that seems to them to be a good one for building communion….
…if you really love, if you been captured by the love of Christ, you throw yourself into the battle for communion, but you’re on the lookout not to lose the essential thing: love for human beings.

May I throw myself into “the battle for communion,” for solidarity and unity in the Body of Christ and in the world – so needed here in Honduras and in my native country, the US. But may I never forget the truly essential, “love for human beings,” not as a group but as real people with lives and names and the dignity as children of God.

 

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Know that you are loved

Last week I spent three days in El Salvador, three days packed with visits, with buying a stole and a processional Gospel book, and with a visit to Romero’s tomb.

Thursday night I spent in Suchitoto. Friday morning I saw Sister Peggy O’Neill at breakfast. We talked a bit. I felt particularly blessed by our thoughtful discussion on my coming ordination to the permanent diaconate.

As I left she gave me a great hug and said, “Know that you are loved.”

I was floored, partly because that is a message I need to hear – very day.

I need to remind myself that I am loved.

I don’t have to prove myself. I don’t have to be perfect.

I am loved.

I am loved by God.

And I experience the love of God in the love of so many people.

What a way to prepare for my ordination – remembering that I am loved.

 

The love of St. Damien

 

“Damien simply loved them
as souls redeemed by Christ
and was prepared to do anything for them.”
Butler’s Lives of the Saints: New Concise Edition

On May 10, 1873, Father Damien de Veuster landed on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. He was scheduled to be there three months every year, being relieved by three other priests. However, after a short time there, he asked the bishop to allow him to do his ministry there full-time.

Molokai was the place where lepers, those with Hansens disease, were sent to die. Father Damien came upon a horridsituation. The lepers were abandoned. There was a hospital but the care was minimal. There was no work. At times, lepers were cast off the ships and had to find their way onto the beach through the surf.

Father Damien found a situation where drinking and promiscuous sex were rampant, where the dead were not always buried, and where life was not valued.

He founded a funeral society to bury the dead; he managed to have the government expand the health care; he began projects.

But what was essential is that he “simply loved them.”

That was probably not easy. People like Dorothy Day who work directly with the poor know that. The poor are not always saints – nor are they always sinners. They are not always easy to live with or work with.

There are the people always looking for a handout. There are the people who call incessantly over a project. There are the people who do not follow up on commitments. There are the people who are dictators in their communities. There are those who drink too much.

The response has to be love.

“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams,” wrote Dostoevsky.

But love is our salvation. A God who is Love came onto our Molokais, finding us in horrid situations. And He loved us.

And He calls us to love.

 

Uncomfortable love

It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God.
Acts 14:22

I have lived a privileged life – loving and supportive parents, good education, steady work. I even live a privileged life here in Honduras – a nice house, fairly regular water and electricity, wifi, a fairly reliable pick up truck, monthly Social Security support.

So I feel rather uncomfortable reading the words of Paul and Barnabas about undergoing hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

I know others who undergo hardships. There’s the communion minister in the parish who will walk two or three hours to bring communion to a community. There’s the couple who cared for their bed-ridden father for years. There are those who go out to work in the fields for long hours under the burning sun of summer and the cold rains of winter. There are the women who get up early to prepare the tortillas for the family. There are the Dubuque Franciscan sisters I know who have lived amidst poverty and war in Chile and El Salvador and now in Honduras, showing God’s love with the poor.

But what about me?

Perhaps the hardship I most need to undergo is what Jesus calls his disciples to do in today’s Gospel: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Love is not easy. I’d rather stay in my house and read. But the call to be with the people, to let God’s love work through me helps me resist that temptation.

But what I find is that the moments of my life here that give me the most joy are the moments when I am with the people – helping train the catechists, visiting a sick or disconsolate person, talking with a bunch of kids who passed by the house, or just hanging out.

Today’s passage from the Book of Revelation contained one of the phrases of scripture that most consoles and challenges me. The author, citing Isaiah, describes the New Jerusalem, the holy city where God dwells. I do not see this as only Heaven; I believe God is building His City among us and calls us to see His work and share in it.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes… (Revelation 21: 4)

When we wipe the tear-stained faces of others, when we are present with them in their pain and tribulations, God can become present. No, God is present.

In those moments “it’s the end of the world as we know it.” It’s a time when God’s love breaks through.

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Fear that enslaves

Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death,
that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.
Hebrews 2: 14-15

This passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, which I was surprised to see is today’s second reading, fills me with hope.

Fear of death does not need to enslave us. That is the message of Christ’s death and resurrection.

I see so much fear in our world.

Here in Honduras I hear the fear of gangs and crime that people in the big cities express (and that is found in the US State Department warnings about travel to Honduras – and also El Salvador). I hear it in the concerns of people around me about crime, violence, poverty, and more.

I have noted that fear in what I have been reading about the presidential campaigns in the US, especially expressed in fear of the Other – Syrians, Latin Americans, and more.

But I recall the beautiful essay of Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation, “The Root of War is Fear.”

At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God.

But today in the Gospel (Luke 2: 22-40), Simeon tells Mary that her Son is the Light of the nations but that he is also a sign of contradiction that will cause a sword to pierce her heart.

How can we go beyond the fear of death, how can we be freed from that fear?

Perhaps it means taking seriously the words that the Jesuit priest Alfred Delp wrote from a Nazi prison, especially the words he italicized:

The fate of mankind, my own fate, the verdict awaiting me, the significance of the feast, can all be summed up in the sentence surrender thyself to God and thou shalt find thyself again. Others have you in their power now; they torture and frighten you, hound you from pillar to post. But the inner law of freedom sings that no death can kill us; life is eternal.

But i also think it includes loving, for “love casts out far.” (1 John 4: 18)

Lord, free us from the fear of death and bring us to love.

God’s loving

Beloved, we love God
because God first loved us.
1 John 4: 19

Real love is a gift and a response to a gift.

The problem is that sometimes we think we don’t need to be loved. Sometimes we think we are not worthy of being loved.

Both attitudes close us in on ourselves, isolate us.

But when we open ourselves to receive love, great things can happen. God’s love can get through our self-sufficiency or our self-deprecation.

But that also means that we need to reflect God’s love to others so that they can be opened to love.

God loves us first, but that love can be passed on.

So today, let yourself be loved and let yourself love.

 

Love even your enemies

Twice in today’s Gospel (Luke 6: 27-38) Jesus tells us to “love your enemies.”

In light of the anniversary of the events of September 11 and the killings in Libya, some may say this is unrealistic. But Jesus says this – and St. Paul calls us to “bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12: 14).

This is not easy, especially since we often reduce loving to sentimentality.

But love is not mere sentimentality. Love means, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, willing the good of the other person. We want the other person’s welfare. We seek the others’ conversion to the good.

Blessed John Duns Scotus says that love is wishing the other person to be. Recognizing the other as a person we wish that person be, exist.

Such philosophic definitions are useful in helping us see that God wants life for all, wants us to seek the good of the other, even the enemy – which means, respecting that person’s life.

This does not mean that we overlook the evil actions of other but that we recognize that all of us humans are connected as children of God, with all our faults. At times we must speak the truth, as did today’s saint, John Chrysostom, who did not stop castigating the empress and others for their luxurious life styles and their neglect of the poor. But we must learn to do it with love.

And so today, I ask God to help me love all, to do good to all, even those who oppose me.

It’s not easy. Dorothy Day knew this as she often quoted this line from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov:

Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared to love in dreams.