When visiting the owner of a tavern, the Rabbi saw two farmers who were heavily intoxicated. Arms around each other, they were protesting how much each loved the other. Suddenly Ivan said to Peter, “Peter, tell me, what hurts me?” Groggily, Peter looked at Ivan, “How do I know what hurts you?” Ivan’s answer was swift, “If you don’t know what hurts me, how can you say you love me?”
That day I learnt what love is, the Rabbi always concluded. When you love someone you go beyond the façade and see the heart. It is there that the game of life is played. It is there that we celebrate and weep. Only the one who loves us can penetrate and touches us there. And cry or laugh with us. This is how God loves us.
But God does not only love us. He does more. This struck me when one day I accompanied home a father of a year and a half old child. The moment we entered the door, the small boy came flying down the stairs, screaming ‘dad, dad’ in obvious glee. He had just come out of the bath, he was dripping wet and when he reached dad, he just threw his arms around him and gave him a big affectionate hug. Would you think the father minded getting wet? Not at all! He just grasped the child and threw him lovingly in the air and then started kissing him…
I suppose these are the feelings that God has for you and me. More than loving us, He delights in us. We amuse Him! We bring him great enjoyment and pleasure! I suppose this is what God meant when He uttered from heaven “This is my beloved Son in whom my soul delights.” The big news is that He adopted us in His family. In baptism we become family. We can go His family outings, picnics, birthday parties! Our relationship with God is not formal, distant and legal but close, warm and loving.
When yesterday I visited the hospital, the difference was so stark in the two patients I visited. One was alone, restless, agitated to the point that the nurses had to tie him down to bed. Very sad. Very angry. The other, a mother of nine children was very calm and relaxed. And what made me so happy was to see her surrounded by her husband and all her nine children. All of them were there – and distances in Canada are big – one was softly chanting a song, the other was holding the mother’s hand, the other was rubbing her leg…Tenderness surrounded this woman. God – I believe – is like these children of this mother.
We can live life restless and agitated, imagining that we are alone. Thinking that we are uncared for and unloved by God. Like that man in the hospital. Or we can bask in the certainty that God is around us, loving us and sustaining us. Believing deep down what Saint Paul once said that nothing can separate us from His love.
A missionary tells this moving story that happened to him in Sudan. This woman was lying on the ground holding in her arms a tiny baby girl. He only had a cooked sweet potato that he gave to her. Not much but that was the only thing he had.
Before departing, he could not but admire the dedication of this mother. Taking a bite she was chewing the sweet potato carefully and placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she was forcing the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.
The missionary finishes the story recounting how during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived.
Love is a costly thing. It cost Our Father in heaven His only Son!
This conviction that we are loved makes life simpler. This is why there are people who give their lives to spread this good news. A one legged school teacher from Scotland once came to the missionary office to offer himself for service in China. “With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary? Asked the person in charge. “I do not see those with two legs going…” was the simple stark answer!
We are a servant people. Let us serve.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.