To love, allow God to love you first

The fact that God loves us first also tells us that God takes the initiative. He comes down of his own accord, He reaches out to love, He extends himself to love, He gives Himself to love.

Oct 29, 2021

                    Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Msgr Henry Rajoo

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28;
Gospel: Mark 12:28b-34

Maria (not her real name) came to see me one day. She told me about her husband who was a porn addict and who would even watch it in the presence of their children. He eventually left her for a younger woman. Many years later, he suffered a massive stroke and was hospitalised. The hospital could not do much for him. The woman whom he was living with left him by the roadside after he was discharged. Upon hearing that her husband was dying by the roadside, Maria went and brought him back. She fed him, cleaned him, massaged his body daily and helped him to recover.

However, upon his recovery, he fell back into his old habits – watching porn and having women “out there”. He had a sudden tragic death, and only then did Maria discover that he had converted and his body would be taken by the religious authorities for burial in their cemetery. She came to me and begged me to do something because she loved him very much and wanted him to be buried in the Catholic cemetery.

Such was my experience seeing this woman’s love for her unfaithful husband. I started questioning what love is. What was this crazy love for such an unfaithful man who destroyed her life and the lives of her children? There is something in her that made her love him so much! She is like the living saints among us who truly love despite the pain in their life.

The first reading and the Gospel talk about love; love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus adds “love with mind’ in the Gospel. To put this simply; love the Lord with your whole being or love the Lord with all of you! Is it possible to love God like this? From experience we know that this is nearly impossible! Further on, Jesus also mentions that you must love your neighbour as yourself.

Rick Warren, the writer of Purpose Driven Life, said something similar in an interview featured on YouTube TBN channel: “To learn to love, one has to refer to the First letter of St John 4:19, which says ‘Let us love, then, because He loved us first’.” He says, our love for God and for others will be in vain if we love God from our own perspective. To love God, we have to allow Him to love us first. This made me think a lot about how God actually loves us.

The question is, how do I allow God to love me? If I allow God to love me, then I will experience His love. I must also understand that God is always present, which means, His love is always there. I must be the one blocking God from loving me.

We have often heard this saying, “God loves you as you are”. What does this mean? Whatever I am, whatever sin I carry, whether I am good or bad, whether I am a sinner or a saint, successful or unsuccessful, whether I am ugly or pretty from my perspective, God loves me. Furthermore, God loves me, He loves me here and now at this moment. He is not waiting for me to become perfect before he will love me. The person I see in the mirror is what God loves. He loves me inside out. Therefore, He loves me as I am.

The fact that God loves us first also tells us that God takes the initiative. He comes down of his own accord, He reaches out to love, He extends himself to love, He gives Himself to love. We never asked Him to love us, but willingly and generously He comes to love. Since He is love (1 Jn. 4:16) and His being is inexhaustible, His love is limitless, He is ever ready to love. He is always present in love. Such is our God.

To reflect further, how did God show me His love? He became incarnate and died on the cross and took away my sins. Even if I sin repeatedly, knowingly or unknowingly, He still forgives. His love is so great that I am not able to grasp it with my small mind. An unworthy and insignificant being like me is loved by a love that’s so great. I suppose it leads us to wonder at the beauty of God the lover, to admire and adore the God who loves us so much to the extent that He sacrificed his Son for our sins.

Once we reflect on and experience this love, then we are ready to love. St Catherine of Siena says, “Love does not stay idle”. Love is dynamic, love moves. Love moves everyone who comes in contact with it. The experience of God’s love will automatically move us to love our neighbour.

Maria, with whose story I began, spends much time in prayer. There could be moments she experienced God’s everlasting love prompting her to love her husband to the end. She may have discovered that God loved her husband as he was. That could be the reason why she could love him as he was.

Our challenge to love is to experience a loving God who will automatically move us to love others.

--Msgr Henry Rajoo is the parish priest of the Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kulim, Kedah and assistant parish priest of St Anne’s Minor Basilica, Bukit Mertajam.

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