How Jesus Looks at You

Like much of the world, I was rather entranced by the idea of the Royal Wedding yesterday, by which I mean I watched a few very short clips of it. The sermon was striking, the music beautiful, and the fascinators left me wishing I had my own milliner.

But the most beautiful moment I saw was one I’ve seen at a hundred other weddings.1 A man looked at his bride as if to say, “How is it possible that the most incredible woman in the world chose me?”

https://www.facebook.com/InStyle/videos/10156171451609985/

I’ve seen a hundred men surreptitiously (or not-so-surreptitiously) wiping tears from their eyes as they gaze upon the most beautiful woman they’d ever seen. There was nothing remarkable about Prince Harry’s reaction.

Except that he, of all men, could have had any of a million other beautiful women. He’s a literal prince. He’s handsome. He wears a uniform. His mom was Princess Di! He is a catch.

But he looked at an American divorcée from a broken home and said, “I’m so lucky.”

Now Harry has his issues and Meghan is an incredible woman. He really did luck out with her. But watching him gaze at her, all I could think of was one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture: Isaiah 62:4-5. There, God says to Jerusalem–God says to you–“No more shall men call you forsaken or your land desolate, but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land espoused, for the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your builder shall marry you. And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”

The way that Harry looked at Meghan? That has nothing on how God looks at you. And every time you go to Mass, your God stretches out his body on the marriage bed of the Cross and hands himself over in the Eucharist. He says “This is my body, given up for you,” as Harry and Meghan did in their vows, and you walk down the aisle to receive your bridegroom. When you say “Amen,” you make the same marriage vow: “This is my body, given up for you.”

And whatever your family background or dating history, whatever your race or income level, whether your ancestors were royals or slaves or both, he looks at you, this Prince who is making you a princess, and says, “I’m so lucky.”

The reason we love these royal weddings is because they remind us of what we’re called to be: daughters of the King married to the Prince of Peace who looks past all our flaws and sees only radiant beauty. The next time you go to Mass, imagine Jesus looking at you, with your bald spot and your stretch marks and your temper and your shame, and saying, “You look amazing. I’m so lucky.” Because he does. He delights in you. More than any mere man has ever loved a woman, he loves you.

What a God we serve, who would come to be beaten and suffocated to death so that he might stand at the end of the aisle and watch us walk to him, stunned by his good fortune in winning us at last. We are immeasurably blessed.

  1. Always the bridesmaid (or, in my case, cantor)…. []

The Day You Were Adopted

This weekend, I stood beside a baptismal font and wept as my friends’ little boys were buried with Christ and raised to new life. Now, I’ve been to one or two (or twenty) baptisms. And I always get excited when I watch God’s beloved born again. But there was something different this time. Johnny and Lele are 5 years old but they’ve only been with their family for 6 months. So when we listened to the opening prayer for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the eve of their baptism, I don’t know that any 5-year-olds were ever more excited by a collect:

Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you.

Jesus was baptized, just like them! And God’s children are adopted, just like them!

Charlton baptismWhen the Gospel described the Father’s declaration, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased,” Johnny’s face crinkled in joy as his mother whispered, “That’s you!” As dozens of friends and family members watched him in his pristine white suit, Lele leaned into his mom for security while Johnny bravely refused to hold his dad’s hand. And I stood there, having studied and taught and witnessed baptism time and time again, and understood better than I ever have.

Johnny and Lele adore their mommy and daddy. Nearly every night, Johnny wakes up and makes his way into their bed. He has no fear that they won’t want him, no insecurity. That’s his mom and dad—of course they want him. Lele snuggles into his dad when he’s taking a break from his wild game of marbles. Johnny calls for his mommy when he hurts himself. Dave and Janel aren’t their foster parents or second chance parents, they’re just their parents. It’s a complete and certain and unconditional relationship.

So when they heard that the Father was adopting them, they got it. God was going to be their daddy now. Not like their daddy. Their real, actual, no-holding-back, love-you-till-you-die (and then some) daddy. The Church isn’t like their family. It is their family. Jesus is their real big brother, their role model and best friend and family forever.

This is what happened to you on the day of your baptism. God the Father looked down from heaven, laughing for joy, and cried out, “That’s my boy!” or “That’s my girl!” And because he said it, it became true. You aren’t like his child, you are his child. He’s the one who cleans you up when you wet the bed, the one who holds you when you’re crying and you don’t know why, the one who yells too loud when you get fouled and even louder when you make the free throw. He’s not your stern father by some legal fiction, he’s your daddy who spent his life longing for you and came looking for you and did whatever it took to get you home with him.

Baby AJ's Adoption Placement

Here is a beautiful video clip of adoptive parents, Bruce and Christina, meeting their new son, AJ, for the first time. This was taken by one of the guests at the placement ceremony. Please keep AJ's birth family in your prayers.

Posted by Family Life Services Adoption Agency on Thursday, January 14, 2016

This daddy of yours holds you close and whispers his love in your ear. He makes you mac and cheese and warns you sternly to eat it when you’re too distracted to take a bite. He loves you just like you’re really his child—because you are really his child.

Some of us take the love of our Father for granted. More of us don’t really believe it. We feel more like God’s our boss or our uncle or the owner of the factory that churned us out. But Johnny and Lele know different. They know that God picked them. He came looking for them. He made them his very own little boys and he loves them just like they were his from the womb. He’s their daddy forever, no matter what.

thats my babyNext time you bless yourself with holy water, remember that at your baptism, heaven was torn open. Your angel twinkled, your saint friends turned cartwheels, and your Daddy shouted, “That’s my baby! And I am so, so pleased.”

 

(Can I speak a moment to birth parents? You are a hero. You are the mother taking her baby to the font offering him the life he deserves, even if it means letting go of him as you hand him to the Father. You are a gift and a triumph of God’s mercy. Thank you for the sacrifice you made and continue to make every day. Thank you for teaching me what it means to love.)

Because You Love Me

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.

Sunlight through a church windowIt 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?

 

  1. Job 1:21 []

In the Face of Suffering, We Live in Hope

When it comes to miracles, I’m kind of a skeptic. By which I mean that if you’ve got half a dozen atheist doctors who swear your healing was a miracle, I’ll consider it. But one marvelous thing about our Church is that it’s skeptical the same way. So when the Church declares something a miracle, you’d better believe there’s no other explanation. As an apologist, I find these miracles encouraging. But as a human being, they break my heart.

Judith 9:11-12, one of the most impassioned pleas I've ever read.
Judith 9:11-12, one of the most impassioned pleas I’ve ever read.

It’s not the miracles that break my heart, I suppose. It’s the many, many others that don’t happen. The stillborn babies who stay dead. The kids in car accidents who never recover. The people who got on that plane, the girls stolen from their school, the children sent away as refugees. In a world where innocents are being slaughtered in Gaza and Syria and Ukraine and Iraq and Chicago, how can we claim that our healing or safety or raffle ticket was foreordained? Are we really so arrogant as to believe that God cares more about us than he does about the thousands, the millions he doesn’t save?

This is what miracles seem to imply. If God saves some, he chooses not to save others. It’s an ugly idea, one we’re generally more comfortable ignoring as we pacify ourselves with platitudes about how “everything happens for a reason” and “God will provide.” Tell that to the mother fleeing Mosul rather than convert at the point of the sword. Tell that to the father sending his 9-year-old thousands of miles to the north, trekking through the most dangerous areas on the planet alone in the hopes that there will be safety at the other end. Tell that to the woman who lost her husband on that flight, to the little boy whose sisters still haven’t been brought back. Tell it to the victims of rape and torture who cried out to a silent God. It’s not enough.

It’s not enough because it’s not true. God is not your fairy godmother. He’s not your personal assistant or your oncologist. He doesn’t send angels to surround you to make sure you’re happy all the time. God doesn’t care at all if you’re happy all the time. Because he’s not your babysitter. He’s your Father. And fathers love their children too much to give them everything they want.

Our problem is that we’ve confused providence with luck. We see good things happening to people and assume the universe is on their side. Bad things, of course, mean the opposite. There’s no rhyme or reason to it all beyond a vague feeling that God prefers some people to others or has “a special plan” for them, which never seems to involve much more than occasional volunteering for a few years after their miracle. And the millions left to languish? Well, let’s not think about them.

I refuse to worship that god. The god who plays favorites, who saves some while abandoning others, is no god worthy of the name. He’s certainly not the God who died on the Cross, the God who desires that all men be saved.1 He’s a petty magician, an idol for the privileged who want to validate their comfortable lives in the face of the suffering masses.

What delivers me from the Baal of Miracles? Perspective.

If this life were all there was, it would be impossible to love God. Even acknowledging how much suffering is entirely the result of sin, there is too much pain to believe in a good God. How can a good God allow cancer and tsunamis and famines on top of rape and genocide and brainwashing? How can we say that God is love? How can we cry that he is good when there is so much evidence to the contrary?

Because the meaning of this life is not this life.

We can’t understand what God is doing any more than an infant can understand what his mother is doing–less so. We see the now, or even the 50 years from now. We see the splash. God sees the ripples. And not just the ripples on our lives but the ripples on the lives of those we love and those we hate and those we’ve never bothered to notice. God sees the ripples on eternity. God knows which miraculous cure will bring conversion and which painful death will draw hearts to him. He doesn’t give you cancer because you need to learn how to be a better person, but if he lets you suffer through it, he is working. This is the God who took the greatest evil of all time, the torture and deicide of Good Friday, and turned it into the greatest good for the human race. There is nothing he cannot turn to good.2

This is what gives me hope. Not that God might work a miracle for me but that he is working miracles, daily miracles. This is providence, that for me in my comfortable life and for those suffering and abandoned, for every last person on this planet God is working miracles. He is holding them close and drawing them closer, even when they seem most alone. Because he knows what they need. This is the Christian answer to the problem of evil: God knows better than I. And he is working.

Lamentations 3:21-24

So what can I say to the mothers with empty arms, the broken victims of abuse and neglect, the refugees and hospice patients and orphans and addicts?

“I don’t know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what God is doing, but I know that he is doing something. I don’t know what good will come of this, but I know that good will come. I know this the way I know how to breathe or which way is down: not because I can prove or explain it but because everything in my life cries out this truth. You are loved in your suffering. God weeps with you, hanging on the Cross for you. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what he’s doing. But I know who he is. He is good. He is love. He is for you. And there will come a day when all is made clear, when you’re welcomed into the embrace of the God who has been waiting for you since before there was time and you see just how all things worked for good. But until then, I will stand with you in the unknowing. Together we will hope and love and suffer. And we will trust in a God who is so much bigger than our pain.”

Miracles seem arbitrary and unfair because our vision is so short. But we worship an eternal God who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all.3 There is nothing he will not do for us. Ours is to trust that when we lie broken amidst the rubble of our lives, even then he is working. Even then we are protected. Even then we are loved by a Father who wills our greatest good, though it may be a long time coming. Wait in hope, my friends. My God will not disappoint.

My favorite prayer, by Dag Hammarskjold
My favorite prayer, by Dag Hammarskjold
  1. I Tim 2:4 []
  2. Rom 8:28 []
  3. Rom 8:32 []

Forgiven and Loved

There are so many things I’ve wanted to tell y’all about since I’ve been in Hawaii but God has been blessing me with such full days that there’s no time for anything. Tonight, though, I have to set aside everything I’ve wanted to say about the grandeur of God and the irony of giving a talk on humility and the inadequacy you feel when you’re working for the Lord. Because tonight, God showed up.

This visit has been incredible for so many reasons, but I think the greatest joy hasn’t been the beaches or the food but the opportunity for ministry. I’ve had at least one talk every day and I’ve seen so many of the same faces. These women, these incredible Army wives who stay behind as single mothers while their husbands are out serving their country—after only a few days, I’m so proud to call them my friends. They are strong and beautiful and holy and desperate to live in God’s will and I’m humbled by their service and their hospitality and their fellowship and honesty and brokenness. Again and again I’m amazed by them.

This morning, I had a room full of these incredible ladies for one of my very favorite talks on knowing that you are beautiful and loved and resting in God’s embrace. Friends, it was powerful. We ended with an Ignatian meditation on the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and women were sharing what the Lord had shown them in prayer. I could really tell that the Holy Spirit had been working.

So I wasn’t totally looking forward to tonight’s meeting. It was all women again and I wanted to give the same talk but I knew it wouldn’t be the same. When it goes so well in the morning, it never feels right in the evening. Besides, some of the ladies had come for round 2 and I didn’t want to bore them. But the Lord is in control, so I started talking, knowing that he would lead.

The talk went pretty well—knowing that God loves you, trusting that he’s working through your pain, accepting that you don’t have to earn his love. I sang “If You Want Me To,” by Ginny Owens, and moved into a meditation on the woman caught in adultery.

Woman caught in adulteryNow, I’ve given this meditation plenty of times. Every time, I get the same reactions. The girls are usually the woman, the boys bystanders. Occasionally I find a Pharisee in there, but it’s pretty clearly a meditation on how God forgives people and that’s how people interpret it.

I knew something was up when I looked up after the meditation and almost everyone was crying. Then we started talking about our experiences.

“I was so angry at the Pharisees. I was so, so mad—I’m still mad. I don’t have any idea what it means, but I’m mad.”

“I stood with Jesus and just looked at the woman. I looked at her and I loved her.”

“At the end, Jesus left, but I didn’t go with him. I knelt down by the woman and just stayed with her.”

“When they brought her in, I went and stood in front of her. I was going to shield her from the stones with my body.”

Almost every woman there shared that her meditation was focused on loving the sinful woman. I thought it was strange until the last woman shared.

“I was her,” she said, in a broken voice. “I was her and I don’t feel any better.”

And she sobbed. And we sobbed. And I looked around the room and realized that these women had all along been sitting in a circle around their heartbroken sister. During this meditation, they were surrounding her. In their hearts, not knowing what her struggle was, they were fighting her enemies, defending her, loving her, consoling her. For these women, in this moment, fellowship looked a little less like coffee hour and a little more like prayer warriors going into battle for each other. The Lord put these reflections on their hearts so that she could hear that not only has God forgiven her, so have they. And as we talked and prayed, they prayed and cried and loved her.

Apparently when Army wives say fellowship, they don’t mean it quite the way civilians do.

This, my friends, is what it means to be a Christian. We fight for each other and bleed for each other and weep and live and die for each other. We’re not called the Church Militant for nothing, and these Army wives know it. It’s so easy for women’s groups to become middle school girls’ groups, to be filled with drama and judgment and competition. Today, the Lord worked a miracle to show his mercy. “Neither do I condemn you,” he said. “Neither does she condemn you. And she won’t abandon you. And that one’s ready to go nuclear on anyone who does. Because you deserve it.”

This woman is beautiful and funny and loving. She is an incredible mother and has a husband who loves her desperately. She’s been forgiven. But her heart can’t hear it. So tonight, the Lord raised up a community to speak truth to her heart.

As she drove me home, this song came on the radio, sending that message of forgiveness once again:

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”
I remember, oh God, You’re not done with me yet

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

If you’re where my dear friend is right now, hating yourself, feeling worthless, certain that God couldn’t really forgive you, please hear this: When God washed you clean, heaven rejoiced. In that moment, the record of your sins was obliterated. Our God is so consumed by his love of you that who you were never crosses his mind. “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will wash them whiter than snow,” he said to David. To David. Like, send-others-to-risk-their-lives-for-me, use-my-office-to-make-a-married-woman-sleep-with-me, send-her-husband-to-his-death-to-cover-it-up David. White as snow.

He could have redeemed you with one drop of his blood but he wanted you to know what you were worth. And so, stripped and beaten, the God of the universe stretched out his arms between heaven and earth to tell you that he loves you, he forgives you, and he longs for you. Not because he had to–because he wanted to. And he’d do it again.

I would stake my salvation on this fact: no matter what, you are loved. I only hope you have a community around you that shows you.

Today, please stand with me and this community, swords drawn, to surround our sister in prayer. Pray with me for comfort for her broken heart. And praise God with me that she is forgiven, redeemed, and made new in Christ. How great is our God.

Unconditional Love

loveLately, I’ve been pulling my darling nephew onto my lap and snuggling him.

“Guess what,” I say.

“I love you,” he responds, because that is how this game goes.

“How much do I love you?”

“A dillion.” This is, apparently, an enormous number. It’s bigger than a trillion. A dillion squared is a sillion. That’s all we know.

“Will I love you forever?”

“Yes.” He’s smiling.

“No matter what?”

“Yes.”

“What if you do something really bad? What if you kick Cecilia hard? Will I still love you then?”

The first time I asked a question like this, he wasn’t quite sure. He just looked distressed. But now he knows. “Yes.”

“What if you’re really mad at me and you hate me? Will I still love you?”

“Yes.”

“What if you hate Jesus and you never go to church?”

“Yes.”

It goes on with different questions each time. He smiles the whole time, giggles sometimes–not because anything’s funny, just because he’s happy. I tell him over and over that I love him and he knows it but he still needs to hear it.

If you need to hear it tonight, let me tell you. God loves you. Forever and for always, to the moon and back. He loves you more than you could ever imagine and he will never stop loving you. Not if you are cruel to the people who love you, not if you reject him and hate him and nail him to the cross over and over. He will still love you. No matter what.

Jesus snuggling a lamb

And since you maybe don’t hear him when he sings it in symphonies and paints it in wildflowers and suspends it in a monstrance, I’ll say it again.

Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, whoever you are, whatever the cost. Deeply, madly, desperately he loves you.

Hallelujah.

In Which I Give Up On Trying to Describe the Love of God

Catholics go to Notre Dame (the university) the way they go to Rome: it’s like a pilgrimage.  When friends are going to Rome, they ask me where I want them to pray for me.  When friends visit Notre Dame, especially for the first time, they ask if there’s any place I want them to visit for me.

The correct answers, of course, would be the Grotto, the Stadium, and maybe the Basilica.  Or quarter dogs at LaFun.  Lovely places, all.  But I give very specific directions to my favorite spot.

“Okay, so go to God Quad–that’s the one with the dome on it.  Get really close to the Main Building and look up at Mary.  Then turn around and walk back to the statue of Jesus with his arms open wide, facing Our Lady at the top of the dome.  The one that says ‘Venite ad me omnes.’  That’s my favorite place.  Pray for me there.

Students call it “Jump, Mom, I’ll Catch You!”

I’ve been drawn to this statue since I first set foot on campus more than ten years ago.  I’ve sat in front of it praying at all hours.  Once, in a time of desperation, I actually hopped up on the wall that encircles the statue and paced around it for the duration of at least one rosary.  When I’m in Northern Indiana and need comfort, this is my spot.  I’ll gladly skip the grotto and I haven’t been to the stadium in years but I always take the time to run to the open arms of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and hear him say, “Venite ad me omnes.”

Am I a bad person if I find this kind of creepy?

I’ve never had much of a devotion to the Sacred Heart per se.  See, when I picture the Sacred Heart, I picture a rosy-cheeked Jesus performing feats of anatomical impossibility, exposing his heart without even breaking open his ribcage.  Or maybe some saccharine, jaundiced guy with an oddly heart-shaped heart that glows and shows through his transparent chest and shirt.  Or maybe it’s just a sticker.  In any event, the traditional images have never really done it for me.

But devotion to the Sacred Heart has nothing to do with all those pictures, or even with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, although she was a pretty big deal.  Loving the Sacred Heart of Jesus means loving being loved.  That’s why I’m so drawn to that statue: because it’s Jesus begging to love me.  His heart is ablaze with love for us and crowned with thorns because he has suffered so much out of love for us.  That’s what the devotion is really about: being caught up in the love of Jesus, whose arms are open and whose heart is crying out:

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy and my burden light. -Mt 11:28-30

I’m loving this song by Jamie Grace, inspired by this passage (which is one of my very favorites):

I’ll save further discussion of how being a Christian is not all sweetness and light for another day.  Suffice it to say that it seems to me that the promise of this verse is that your heart will be at rest when you learn to be meek and humble.  Because the less awful you are, the more you find rest from guilt and shame and anxiety and fear and all the other nonsense that was attached to that stinking apple.

Today, though, as we celebrate Christ’s heart bleeding for love of you, can we just let him love us?  Just revel in the promise of love in that bleeding heart?  Because the heart of Jesus is calling to you, begging you to know that, in the words of my incredible friend Jamie, you are a “totally accepted, deeply loved child of God…created, chosen, adopted by [your] Father.”1

One day in class, I was going on and on about how much Jesus loves us.  I’m kind of a broken record on that topic.  I’m sure it gets annoying.  Anyway, a kid piped up with a skeptical look on her face.  “Ms. H-K,” she said.  “How do you know Jesus loves you?”  It was funny, because that question’s usually earnest and coming from a place of brokenness and a desire for deep relationship with Christ.  This time it just sounded belligerent.

“Oh, honey!”  I stuttered, rather taken aback.  “Well, it’s all over Scripture!”  Whether or not you believe in the Bible is an issue for another day (although if you want an answer NOW, you can watch the first video on this page for an explanation2), but the love of God is everywhere in that book.  From Genesis, where the whole universe is created for the joy of man and woman, to Revelation, a description of Christ’s wedding to his radiant bride, the Bible is a love letter to all of humanity and to each person.

I spent this whole day trying and trying and trying to write something beautiful about how much God loves you but it all just sounded like a cliché.  Because what’s I’ve got in my head is the Word of God and nothing I say matches up.  Turns out the Holy Spirit is way better at everything than I am, most especially writing.  So here’s what I’ve got for you:

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start.   I actually put it together for the girl who asked how I knew God loved me and I keep a copy in my Bible for inspiration in prayer.

So basically this post is a long introduction to somebody else’s words.  Accuse me of plagiarism if you want, but it’s all I’ve got.  Maybe after I get some good time with Jesus I’ll have something profound to say, but so far today, my deepest theological moment went like this:

Cecilia: Biwd!
Me: Yes, Cecilia, that’s the Holy Spirit.
Cecilia: (angrily) Biwd!
Me: Yes, sweetheart, it’s a bird and it’s an image of the Holy Spirit.
Cecilia: (more angrily) BIWD!  TWEET TWEET!
Me: Can you say Holy Spirit?
Cecilia: (defiant) NO.
Me: Well, okay.  But that’s the Holy Spirit.
Cecilia: Biwd.  Eagow (eagle).  Biwd.

So I might not be in the right place to reflect on the love pouring from the bleeding heart of Christ, but I didn’t want to miss the Solemnity.  Consider this an IOU.

 

P.S. Take some time in prayer today to read this, a letter composed of Bible verses about God’s love for you.  You’ll be glad you did.

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  1. If you want to listen to the song–and you do–click here and scroll down to find the song “I Am.” []
  2. Please spend some time first admiring the really pretty face that somehow is the image for the video. I look like I’m about to vomit. []