30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Unrelenting Lover

The word "lover" seems to have taken on a rather shady meaning these days, probably because of all of the cheap and superficial ways that it is used. But it would be a shame for us to lose the real significance of the word, especially when we try to understand God as being our Divine Lover.

Perhaps we find it hard to think of God as a lover, because of the many conflicting images that we associate with Him: our Creator, our Father and Just Judge. We need to work very hard to overcome that obstacle. We must grow to understand God as the one who loves each of us more perfectly, more relentlessly, more unconditionally than any other being. Otherwise, we will never fully appreciate the incredible gift of love that is ours by faith.

There is such a profound, instinctive need in all of us to be loved, to have a sense of our own worth and dignity. On our journey, there are so many times that we are made to feel unlovable. As children, and as teenagers - and even as adults - we necessarily make mistakes; we are immature, we are selfish, we are unreasonable. We are often scolded, blamed, punished. We tend to believe that we are only loveable when we are good and perfect, only when we please others. And we usually carry that sense of unworthiness to our relationship with God.

So many of today's personal and social problems are rooted in our failure to understand God as Lover. We stain and disdain His gifts. We pollute nature. We abuse our bodies, our minds and our spirits. We pervert and misuse the beauty and the power of our sexuality. We shrivel up, become dry and miserable for lack of love. We freeze to death in spirit despite the blazing sun of God's love that is always shining on us.

From the beginning, God used extreme means to show Himself to us as a Lover. He took that stance with His people Israel; He forgave them over and over again; He led them out of slavery into the Promised Land; He reassured them constantly of His faithfulness, of His unchanging love. He did everything He could to prove to them that He wanted them close.

And then He went over the edge. He sent His Son to bring the Transcendent into the very heart of humanity. We should certainly be able to recognize in all of the circumstances of the life of Jesus among us that He is the ultimate proof that God is a Lover!

Everything Jesus says and does is touched by this overriding concern - to reveal the exquisite, personal, compassionate love of God for each of His children, and for all of His creation. Jesus made it very concrete. He reached out to all, but especially to those who found themselves to be unloved and widows and orphans, to lepers, to the impaired and disabled, to sinners, to the disreputable.

I believe that the whole point of both the Old and New Testaments is not to tell us how sinful we are, how weak we are, or how corrupt we can become... - but to constantly remind us that God's explosion into our lives happened because He couldn't contain Himself… His Love for us was so great. Every episode of God's relationship with mankind, from the Creation story to the Resurrection narratives, point to this fact. True, we do see moments of His anger, His wrath and His Justice, but these are always tempered with Gentleness, Compassion and Comfort.

We have much to learn in terms of love. We need to take ourselves less seriously and His Love for us more seriously. We need no false sense of unworthiness or humility. No one of us is worthy of the Gift that we have received - and I doubt that God expects or wants us to be overwhelmed by it. He just wants to be loved in return.

And this is the "greatest" commandment that Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures: to love God with one's whole heart, soul and being. To do this, we need to be open to that love. We need to discard anything that will disguise it, hide it or hinder it. We need to trust Him so passionately that we allow ourselves to fall into His outstretched arms without fear.

Once we truly experience His love, we too will not be able to contain ourselves - we will necessarily need to give it back - and to share it with others.

If only we were as relentless in love as He.