Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Believe In Love

“There are times in marriage and religious life
when we do not need to feel or understand love
to make the decision to love, we only need to believe in it.”

When I read the above words by Anthony Lilles (in his book: Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden), they really struck me:  We do not need to understand love, only to believe in it.  How often in my life have I let my decisions be guided by my feelings or my understandings of a situation?  I let reason or my logic --- as poor as it sometimes is --- be my guide, doing what I felt or reasoned to be right, and then often being surprised at the poor outcome, especially, sometimes, at the hurt feelings of others.
I thought I had to make reasonable or logical decisions in my life, and these would “or course” be good.  I thought I could understand love, and analyze it.  I thought love was logical.  (I guess I forgot the cross, and how illogical that great love was.)  I wanted my life to make sense, to plan it out.  I now realize what I wanted was my success to be the work of my hands (although at the time I didn’t realize I was thinking that way).  I was taught that I could have anything I wanted on this earth if I worked for it.  I guess I took that lesson too deep to heart, and forgot the one about it being impossible for me to earn heaven … or to earn love.
They say seven is the age of reason, and twenty-one is the age of adulthood, but it took me about forty years before I began to gain any wisdom, and even then saw that wisdom was a gift, not something “I” gained.  My eyes were opened then (in Medjugorje) and “I gave my life to Jesus,” as my Protestant friends would say.  In truth thought, it took me ‘til then to realize that He gave HIS life to me, and He loved me unconditionally.  Unconditionally, of course, because it made no sense to me that He would choose to love me.  I know I didn’t.  Looking at my life up to that point, I didn’t feel that I deserved to be loved.  And that was my true analysis of the situation.
But He chose to love me anyway.
At that turning point in my life, I first began to feel God’s presence, that undeserved love, and since then I’ve felt it more often and consistently.  And maybe because of that --- that He first loved me --- I’ve grown to feel, to somewhat understand, and to firmly believe WHY He loves me.  The answer is the answer to that third grade catechism question:  Why did God make me?  (And if you really don’t know the answer to that question, please use your internet search skills for something useful for a change.)
God loves me that I might be all that He made me to be, His presence to those I meet, that I might love them as He does.  It’s family.  The Father created the children out of love, and that they might love Him.  The children don’t need to understand His love, nor even their love for Him.  They just need to believe in it and act on it, and all happiness will follow. 
The Gospel today had Peter telling Jesus to deny His cross, but Jesus said: “Get behind me, Satan.”  Jesus believed in love, and would not be tempted to put self-love before His love for us.  Despite facing the cross, Jesus chose to believe in love.
Anthony Lilles’ quote begins “There are times …”  I believe those “times” he refers to are the tough ones, when we don’t feel loved and we don’t feel like loving.  That was the time Jesus was facing.  We’ve all had similar tough times in our lives, and our usual response to them was to pity ourselves.  Jesus didn’t pity Himself.  Those are the times when we need to throw out all our logic and our self-pity, all our thoughts about deserving love, or needing to understand a particular situation or person --- especially one who should love us --- and just believe in love.  We just need to decide to love, and believe in it.
It is how God loves us, and how He asks us to love our neighbor.
And yeh, it ain’t easy some times, to believe without seeing results, to believe without understanding, and to believe just because He said to …. But, I believe in love. 
And every time I look at a crucifix, I see it.
Whoever wishes to follow Me, must deny himself.
We sang these beautiful words of love this morning in church:
Behold the eyes of the Lord
Search the face of the earth
To find hearts that are given,
Seeking souls to make pure.
To enflame this world’s darkness
To warm cold hearts with grace.
Am I here, Lord,
For such a time, for such a place?
Here is my life, Lord,
Heart, mind, and body.
My soul’s surrender,
Take it for Your own.
And You will lead, I know,
Where only love can go.
Here is my life, O Lord,
My life for You.
There is a love stronger than death,
Passion deeper than this life.
In the heart’s purest longing
Lies the pearl of great price.
One Love all loves surpassing,
True surrender the cost.
Am I here, Lord,
To bear this love, and share its cross?
Here is my life, Lord,
Heart, mind, and body.
My soul’s surrender,
Take it for Your own.
And You will lead, I know,
Where only love can go.
Here is my life, O Lord,
My life for You
-- Here Is My Life, by Ed Conlin,
© Servants of the Word, Ann Arbor, MI

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