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Mining the depth of our Father's love
Divine love redirects suffering's power
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God (Jn 16:27).
The way our parents have loved us models the way the Father of all loves us. Whether intentional or not, the unconditional relationship of a parent for their child aptly/ineptly prepares us for God’s overwhelming attention and detail to our progress in life. Our Catechism calls this work the formation of our conscience, where we have in our heart “a law inscribed by God” (#1776). The call to love, though, requires assistance. “When God reveals Himself and calls him, man cannot fully respond to the divine love by his own powers” (#2090).
When our parents poorly represent the depth of God’s love, which unfortunately happens to quite a few of us, our consciences and our experience of love suffer.
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Theologians argue that distrust in a loving God is formed in more than just faulty parenting. A morally wobbly education, agenda-laced entertainment (distractions), and unfaithful relationships misrepresent God and redirect our conscience away from the divine. The host of influential folks in our daily lives varies from invaluable to inept. None of us are fully protected. In addition to knowing love, we are charged with loving. Do we learn how important we are at representing God to a child, teenager, or young adult?
Today’s gospel takes our relationship with God to a different level—one beyond the example of our parents. We are loved by a brother, with a kinship love. A sacrificial stand-in that we can rely upon and emulate. This scripture's love triangle of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit explains how vital community and collaboration are to the Father loving us.
The extent of God’s efforts to love us changed creation by Jesus joining our ranks. After Jesus, we get the Eucharist to remind us and feed us. After the Eucharist, we have the comforter, the indwelling of God’s Spirit to guide us. The Father is known to us because of the Son and the Spirit.
In this decade, this future time, we can access two eons where saints built revelation upon revelation of God’s presence. These ancestors and their witnesses come to us like our parental notions of God—lives of sacrificial love. Through our brotherly relationship with Jesus and the guidance and holiness of the Spirit, we believe and experience the Father’s love. Or, an uncertain, lousy lot of influencers veil us from God and lead us astray.
Our family is certainly the necessary start to being formed properly in the knowledge and experience of a lived faith. Still, our friends, associates, and even citizenry are vital to grasping God’s love.
How many of us are failed by families who don’t know or won’t witness God’s love? What number of friends do we have that share their Jesus moments with us, and we with them? What business associates let us in on the actions of the Holy Spirit? When does our nation or local government publicly honor God and insist upon freedom of a faith expressed by Christian and Catholic believers? At the least, a governed life that allows us to pray openly.
Jesus tells us clearly, For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. All relationships are important in the effort to know Jesus is God. If a few fail in our ongoing formation, we have the rest to urge us. A suffering world needs to know that sacrifice is the path to sainthood, as taught by Jesus. Our joy cannot be complete if most of our relationships are weak or nonexistent. Suffering, common to every living being, will make no sense. Death looms as the winner handing us over to oblivion, not the threshold to complete love.
Formation is not a task for the priest, the deacon, the nun, or even the usher at Church. This task is for us as parents, brothers and sisters, associates, and citizens. The Church's ordained and other holy servants provide a feeding yard for us to be emboldened, inspired, and challenged. Everywhere else is the space and time for the nurturing and guarding of the faith. We join together in worship to celebrate with heaven. We live together to witness, love, and sacrifice, drawing others to worship.
The Holy Spirit can tell us what we should be doing, affirmed by being among others in the Spirit. No matter how awful our home and world may represent God, the Holy Spirit will find those who know divine love. Jesus can model what we should do in both a crisis and amid the humdrum, confirmed by the witness and behavior of our fellow believers—introduced to us by God. The Father’s love will be visible and recognized only under these conditions, among the brethren with us in the trenches.
And then we can experience that love from the Father because we have loved Jesus. We believe he is one with the Father. We know this because the Spirit has filled us with that knowledge revealed in those he gathers around us.
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