For all the hundreds (thousands?) of talks I’ve given over the years, I really only have one talk: God loves you. Or, as you likely know if you’ve heard me speak, “You are loved beyond imagining by a God who died to know you.” That’s at the heart of pretty much every talk I give, whether it’s on Theology of the Body, discernment, confession, Mary, or evangelization. That’s because it’s at the heart of the Gospel. Really, it is the Gospel.
It shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me a while back, then, when I stood up to give a ten-minute talk before Mass and found myself saying that every moment of the Mass is a proof of God’s love. What else could it be? But when I asked the congregation to spend the Mass asking themselves how that was true at every turn, I knew I (or, rather, the Holy Spirit) was on to something.
So throughout that Mass, I kept repeating this to myself: “Because you love me.” We stood when Father walked in and I said, “Because you love me.” Then I thought about it. What does my standing have to do with God’s love? Standing is a sign of readiness, of willingness to go where you’re sent. Because God loves me, he asks me to go wherever he sends me. Because he loves me, he sends me to be still with him.
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, I’m marked by the Cross of Christ. My life is lived not in my own name or in the name of success or pleasure or music or fads but in the name of the Triune God. Because he loves me, he sees not my sin but his mercy. How he loves me.
“Let us call to mind our sins.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, he doesn’t leave me in my sin. He makes me look at it in the light of his love and name it evil. He wants more for me than a life of empty selfishness and so he holds it before my gaze and then destroys it. Because he loves me, he calls me a sinner—and then reminds me that sinner is not my name.
“A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, Paul was saved. Because he loves me Paul was saved. For himself, of course, and for every other Christian, but at that blinding moment on the road to Damascus God was also thinking of me. Because he loves me, he inspired Isaiah and Solomon and Moses and John. Because he loves me, he gave the sweet and loving things and the hard and convicting things. Because he loves me, he spoke straight to me two thousand and three thousand years ago, in poem and story and census and song. Thank God that he loves me.
“Alleluia.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, he gives the glad good news of the Gospel. Because he loves me, he asks me to stand to greet it, crossing my forehead, lips, and heart as I cry out (with Thomas Howard), “Let all in me that is not Gospel be crucified!” I hear the very words of the Word and am reminded of how I have been healed, fed, challenged, and consoled. Because he loves me, he came for me.
“Let us pray to the Lord.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, he listens to my prayers. Lord, listen to my prayers! Listen, because you love me. Because he loves me, he sometimes says no. Blessed be the name of the Lord.1
“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, he accepts my simple offering of bread, the joys of my life handed over for him. He accepts my suffering in the wine. And he makes my life into his body and blood, poured out for the world. Because he loves me, he doesn’t disdain my poverty but transforms everything I entrust to him into glory. He lets me serve him. Not because he needs me but because he loves me.
“Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, it is the deep desire of the heart of God that I be healed. Because he loves me, he spoke his Word, his healing Word who came into the world 2000 years ago to heal the blind and the lame and still today opens my eyes blinded to the evil of sin and heals my limbs so weary of doing good. He loosens my tongue to speak his name and dries up the flow of blood pouring from my broken heart. Because he loves me he shows me that I am wounded and that he is the only balm for my wounds. He awakens in me a hunger and then feeds me with his very self. What greater love could there be?
“Amen.” Because you love me.”
Because he loves me, he asks me to respond to his grace. He doesn’t just give himself without my consent, doesn’t just save me without my cooperation. Because he loves me, he lets me participate. And so I say amen, receiving his body and blood and offering him my body and blood. “This is my body, given up for you,” I tell him. Because this infinite God loves me enough to care about the pathetic gift I make of myself.
“Go in peace.” Because you love me.
Because he loves me, he doesn’t ask me to stay here. He could easily save the world without my help, but he asks me to be the instrument, to be the voice calling out the Good News, to be the hands and feet doing his work. Because he loves me, he doesn’t want me in a church 24 hours a day. He wants balance and leisure and rest and laughter and good food and community and the joy of knowing his love outside the church as well as within. Because he loves me, he has asked me to be fully human, fully alive, just as he was. He’s asked me to live in his love in the pew and the grocery store and the carpool lane and the cubicle and the bar and the airport and the living room. Because he loves me, he wants me to be a saint. It’s the most perfect love there is.
It’s a whirlwind run through the Mass, this. If I’d written everything God’s love could shed light on, it’d be a book instead of a blog. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Will you try this the next time you go to Mass and share your most powerful insights?
- Job 1:21 [↩]