This is a question Paul asks in Corinthians 1,13:1-2. A question, which at the times he preached was relevant, especially with the groupings of Jews relegated to focus of Jewish law as a means of living, for the one true God. However, as we see time and again, within the Gospels, we see the challenges given to Jesus in a manner of what appears to be a question with no way out but answered flawlessly by Jesus. So, in his answer, what was the one key ingredient the scribes and Pharisees were missing? Love! Their questions were aimed at a focus of rule and regulations as set forth by the Jewish teachings and prophecies as they were interpreted by the prophets. This is finally challenged when the Divine God walked, suffered, cried in pain, and eventually died for us as a matter of love. Our very definition of faith was challenged at this point. We were challenged to see, life as a matter of love and sacrifice in this love as a way of living. Essentially speaking, a new rule was brought forth, to challenge every rule ever set before. The rule was love, to seek a path so we could fall in love with the Eternal God, and in this path, we may be the light for others (like Paul), to help light their paths.
How many people have you ever met in your life, and wondered why they are angry, upset, or seemingly without joy, but at the same instance you see this joyless expression you determine your calling being the light this person needs for their pathway to be lighted? I will admit, I see it all the time, and I’m as befuddled at a solution to help light their way as I am my own, but I see the need. When we expressly understand, the need in others, this is the gift God has given us in the sacrifice of Christ. To not only have the faith to believe in what we see in others but combining this with love as we pour out ourselves to the other. Fulton Sheen said, “for no one comes to Christ, and comes back the same way he came” (Meditations of the Magi, Catholicism, Barron). Our path is such, we are forever transformed by what we see and feel. I’ve asked this question before, but for those, who have never read these words, “where you think you go when you die?” are the foundational understanding of our lives, our faith, and our interpretation of love. Once we truly answer this question, we are never the same, our pathway is forever changed, our blissful ignorance has become the very sand blown away in a desert to reveal the stone with which we build our foundations.
I talk a great deal about love, over and again on this, but it is for nothing more than the pursuit of faith and love we exist. We can never hope to fall in love with God if we are just faithful to the commandments. My son, indicated during our discussion, “yeah, I have to be good, so I can go to heaven, right?”. My eyes were wide at this moment, not only because, I felt he missed the mark of our faith completely, but I also felt this was a teaching moment to help form his faith more solidly and become a principle he could always come back to as his life continues to move forward. My answer to him was Heaven wasn’t about winning or losing, but about our relationship to God as a focus of our lives. I used the analogous example between my wife and myself as the prototype of the love we seek in Christ.
Imagine having a relationship where we seek only the result as a means of winning or losing. Many Christians may have this interpretation, one where they see the result of life as being good and walking through the pearly gates of Heaven or doing bad and burning for all eternity in the absence of God known to us as Hell. Since, I’m not a theological master, I can only explain it as my interpretation of faith as it relates to the Catechism. CCC – 1024 “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness.” I ask you, have you ever thought of Heaven in this manner? “To live in Heaven is to be with Christ” (CCC-1025). God has opened our minds to see past the rules and effectively attached our ability to fall in love with him, and in doing so, a beatific vision is given to all of us, allowing for our contemplation within the expression of love. Could we ever love our wives without being allowed to think on her and what makes her so wonderful in our eyes, but then not limited to an understanding she opens herself to us and creates an ability to understand her. We don’t always know ourselves but being open to exploration of our love and our purpose in our lives, allows our spouses to truly love us to depths we can hardly imagine. This is true with God, God opens himself to us in a way where we are called (through prayer) to contemplate on God to fall truly in love.
There isn’t a list which indicates, if you complete all the rules and follow everything which is said, you will inherit the kingdom of Heaven. We are called to do nothing more than to find the beauty in all others, and in our understanding of this beauty we can love our neighbor! Our perception of life and love is distorted by the times we live in, we find abject beauty as being a prerequisite for love. We also determine, if we don’t feel a sense of emotion or jittery feelings as they pertain to our perception of love, then we truly must not be in love. This pursuance of an emotive acknowledgement within our own person as the litmus test prevents us from seeing the real person we meet. We are ridiculed if we are with anyone who isn’t beautiful on the outside first, or at the very least pleasing to be around. Though this comes to us like a double-edged sword, why would we want to be anything other than accommodating when it means we have an opportunity to be around someone to love more? Have you ever treated, anyone who you determined in your eyes to be diminished of your own stature, in a less than loving way? In my shame, I have, I haven’t always treated people as though I am, if anything lucky to be in their presence.
So, is it any surprise to us when people attach an emotive understanding of love, to associate with God. In this pursuit of feelings (a reciprocal effort), when they don’t receive their expectational response, they determine a lackluster quality to a pursuit of love in life as it relates to God. Then it becomes, as I explained to my son, an atheist’s pursuit of life and to follow just the rules as to follow a rule and receive something for our efforts becomes a subjective morality and value system ever more. Morality isn’t a set of rules we must follow, in order we may fully understand our faith. Instead, morality is the surest way to keep ourselves focused, that we might have a clear chance to deepen our faith and love for the One True God.
Ok, so where do we go from here in our lives, if we determine God is truly where we want to be? A life of love, put down those instruments of hate and determine (unto our deaths) where Christ is, and don’t just walk or meander down this path, but doggedly pursue the relationship. Don’t let it elude your efforts by letting life slow you down or become the whisper in your ear indicating your unworthiness. You are worthy, you are lovingly fashioned by the hands of God, and it isn’t about emotion, it’s about your pursuit of faith in love which will create the deepest seas of emotion you’ve ever experienced.
My life as a father has been one of confusion for me, but one of the greatest rewards possible, and I can’t imagine what God must feel from us, when by our own unloving actions, we say, “leave me alone, I don’t want you!”. How this must hurt! Let this perspective soak in for a little while. Are we as fathers pursuing a loving relationship with our children and especially our wives? Do we allow God to lift us up for the lessons so desperately needed as a daily dynamic in our own families, or are we insisting our trying to be the unmovable rock? Don’t get me wrong, men, we should be men always, and our pursuance of a society, which has a pure focus on God is our utmost responsibility, but at the same time, are we seeking to understand above all else. Have we taken this beatific vision, and let the love of God permeate our senses to move us closer to God’s light?
My son’s comments today, made me question how we see events as they relate to those around us. His friends, who don’t believe in a God, are without a strong parental figure to show them the objective truth, but instead attempts to teach them the only way to a proper life is one of subjective feelings and morality which applied to life is the aberration of love altogether. This isn’t what God is about, God is about our attempt to have a closer relationship to Him, but we obtain this relationship by loving those around us, without condition. No matter what they throw at us (Acts 7: 54-60, St. Stephen’s Martyrdom), we must be willing to face this with only the armor of faith, and the weapons of love. Without either one of these, we can’t hope to best the giants which faces us, like Goliath and David. Without both, we will succumb to our own expectations and our own perceptions of what love should be. It is an all or none, a black and white existence, although we live in a grey world, our pursuit should be one of truth. The truth is, without the free will we have, we can never truly know love, but within our free-will, if we don’t pursue love, then our pursuit of right and wrong is marred by no other than us. My advice to my son’s friends, was to be the loving example God gave us, Jesus. Be the best person he could be to everyone, but be true, be himself, no matter how much people accepted him or not. It’s not about the acceptance of those who are not on the same faithful, loving journey we are on, it’s about us being the love to light their way. I’ve had too many situations based in some manner of conflict, over the years, to not have a take-away which is an understanding, our actions in love have more power to move those mountains which stand in the way of faith, than anything else we could ever imagine.
When you go out today or tomorrow, remember, you’re never alone, and so, all you need is to believe. Your belief will bring you great joy, but more importantly, your belief will be fulfilling. This pursuit of the fulfillment in your life is love, the ability to become fulfilled is faith as the tool to accept love. When you’re sitting in your spot tonight, watching TV, or when you look up from your plate at dinner tonight, and you look over at your wife, think on three things. The first, do you think it would be possible to love her if she didn’t open to you who she truly is? Second, could you love her even if she didn’t seem to love you back? The third, is love more transcendent than your own perspective of reality do you have to understand everything about her to love her? Sometimes, we aren’t meant to understand everything, we must trust our spouse, we must have faith in them, which isn’t too much to ask seeing as how we are in a covenant with them before God. As our trust/faith in them grows, we see a ripping away of those cultural and societal constructs which represent a shallow pursuit of love, and we see the deepening of a bond which as strong as an oak, sways with life.
I hope and pray we are all pursuing a means of faith and love as it relates to a closer relationship with God and our fellow man. We can’t take this physical life with us, which is why faith and love are the deepening of the soul, encouraged by the physical joy we feel by our pursuit. Don’t be tempted to act on a matter of reverse egotistic tendencies, when we don’t receive the answer we wanted or the response of another. Don’t give up, when we see the path change before us, and it isn’t what we originally planned our lives out to be. Have faith, know we are all going through our own journeys of faith and we all need each other to light the way. Objective truth shows us, our love is all God desires, and our purity though this love is needed that we may be in Heaven with God. If you see yourself sinning, sacrifice those sins so you can fall in love with God, be willing to let go as a matter of faith to feel the love of God in return. God speaks to us, within the silence of our hearts, and when you think about your family and friends, are we not moved to love them more when we see them sleep or see their actions of love as a matter in our own quiet contemplation on our feelings towards them. God is much the same, take time to think about your relationship with God, and in your silent contemplation, you will see how He fills those spaces of your life with the loving graces to an overflowing capacity. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!