Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-16; Romans 5:5-11; Luke 15:3-7
The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. This thought of Saint Paul, which we believe has been inspired by the Holy Spirit speaking in Paul, is the sure foundation of the hope we place in God. Not hope in our own selves or in anyone elese around us–we have all learned that is no basis for hope. Rather. the hope we place in God who loves us.
God’s love is our only certainty in life, the only thing we can be sure of. I have learned that I cannot be sure of myself; if a person hasn’t realized that yet, he’s in for endless grief. So much of our grief in our lives is of our own making and that is how we learn. We all have to learn from our mistakes, sooner or later. Let it be sooner rather than later!
This verse about the love God has for us is from the letter Saint Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome. It occurs in the beginning of Chapter Five, in that greatest of all his epistles. But right before Paul claims that God pours his divine love out into our hearts, he speaks about human suffering. It would be good to read the whole paragraph which Paul wrote, not just the few lines we hear during today’s Mass; we need to read what precedes Paul’s assurance to us that God loves us. Paul writes about suffering before he mentions love. Our sufferings can teach us patience, he states, and patience can lead us to perseverance. And if we persevere, we will come to experience hope. Hope, which is gained in this manner, from persevering though our sufferings in life, is the fertile soil for love.
There are so many pitfalls in this path to God’s love! Not everyone who suffers shows patience; many turn bitter. And not everyone who practices patience perseveres in that practice: they lose hope. But if I manage not to lose hope, if I have the grace to persevere patiently in the sufferings I undergo, Saint Paul tells me where this will lead: God’s love shall be poured out in my heart.
Everybody wants to be loved, from the tiny infant in need of comforting to the confused adolescent testing his elders, or the depressed middle-aged person who faces emptiness and loss in his life. We all want to be loved and comforted. We see it so clearly in others–and we have to face it in ourselves. Saint Paul tells us that there is purpose in suffering. The love of God, he says, is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. And we expect that to mean the love God lets me feel. But what if it doesn’t feel like love? The downward spiral begins.
Suppose we try to understand what Saint Paul means in a different kind of way? Suppose we hear is words to mean that this love God gives us from the Holy Spirit we are supposed to give to others? Not God’s love for me to keep to myself, but God’s love which the Holy Spirit wants other people to experience through me? The love that God gives me, perhaps God intends for me to give as well. Try reading the gospels in that light.
What do we see Jesus trying to tell the disciples over and over? Can there be a purpose gained from suffering in life? Perhaps suffering that is borne patiently can serve to free me from things I cling to. If I persevere in this, I will learn to put my hope in God and not in my own efforts. If I sacrifice my own self-interests and try to give others what God is giving me, then everything falls into place. Jesus tells me that here is true discipleship: I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many. Do I understand what Jesus means by this, or do his words fall on deaf ears? God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
On this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, do I really understand what the love of God for us means?