Yesterday morning found me at my daughter’s house in Kansas City. We were having a celebration brunch for my grandson, Jack, who would be baptized after the 12:30 p.m. Mass. As I was looking around the room at my family gathered there – my daughter holding Jack, her husband, my wife, and my youngest daughter – I couldn’t help but feel immense joy and overwhelming love for them all. If only my two older daughters, their husbands and my granddaughter were there, my joy would be complete. I thought, “How could I possibly love anything more than I love them?”
At Mass, the priest read today’s Gospel, which included John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
During his homily, the priest talked about an evil which Satan particularly likes to use against us, the Sin of Familiarity. This condition in which we often find ourselves leads to complacency and taking our Graces for granted. We forget from Whom they come. Everything we have has been provided, in one way or another, by God: our food, water, clothing, shelter, everything. We are so used to them, we take them for granted. I thought, “That’s me, I give thanks for many things but I usually forget those basics.”
Of course, he was leading up to his main message. We see “John 3:16” on signs at sporting events, on street corners, and in social media so frequently that we forget what it is telling us – that GOD LOVES US SO MUCH THAT HE SACRIFICED HIS ONLY SON SO WE MAY HAVE ETERNAL LIFE! It has become so familiar that we forget its importance. Like the shirt on our back and the shoes on our feet, we take it for granted. Yep, that’s me.
Thinking more about God’s love for me I remembered a quote from St. Augustine, “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.” I remember this quote because I often pray telling God that I wish I could love Him as much as He loves me.
You can see where my analytical mind is going with this, can’t you? Things make sense to me when I can go from point A to B to C in logical progression. If God loves me with an infinite love which I can’t hope to equal, and I love my family with more love than I can describe, and it is only because of God’s Grace to me that I have a family to love, then my question of, “How could I possibly love anything more than I love them (my family)?”, is answered: that which I love more than anything else is God.
Or, more simply put, if the only way possible for me to not only love but have something to love is because of His love through His grace, then I must love the source of this love, God, most of all.
As the communion hymn began, I understood clearly that Jesus’ words written similarly in Matthew, Mark and Luke, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”, wasn’t just a commandment to “do as I say”. It is a Commandment based on a logical truth, one which is so familiar to us that we take its meaning for granted.
And, I thought, if God can love me like I’m the only one He has to love and still have an infinite amount of love for everyone else, then my love for Him doesn’t take away from the amount of love I have for my family and others who I love so deeply. It simply makes it stronger.
As I returned to my pew after receiving Holy Communion I sang these words from the hymn We Have Been Told, “….as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” It’s a familiar hymn….so familiar, in fact, I had lost its meaning.
During the priest’s closing remarks before the final blessing, he announced that today, the fourth Sunday of Lent, is called “Laetare Sunday” which, translated from Latin to English, means “Joy Sunday”. As I stood there with my family, waiting for the congregation to leave after the recessional hymn so that the priest could begin Jack’s Sacrament of Baptism, I prayed silently, “Thank you, Lord, it certainly has been ‘Joy Sunday’ for me. You have opened my mind and my heart today to understanding Your Word. I’m not going to let the meaning of this God-moment get lost to familiarity!”
(Laetare (Joyful) Sunday was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic).
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