God’s love is unconditional, persistent
Sister Joyce Lehman • President, Sisters of the Precious Blood
We find ourselves in the winding down part of another calendar year while also beginning a new church year. The events of this past year are memories now, some delightful, others perhaps a bit less so. We have seen the election of a new pope whose first nine months have been the birthing of a renewed sense of being church. We have seen violence in many forms – some natural like earthquakes, tornadoes, and typhoons, and others truly unnatural like gun violence that takes the lives of innocent children and bystanders and the generous response of good-hearted people. Immigration, no matter which side of the debate you stand on, remains a broken system. Our country, both a democracy and a republic, too often becomes mired in ideology and rhetoric, the common good lost to partisanship.
How do we hold both the good and the bad, the pleasant and the difficult, the beautiful and the ugly? One basket large enough to hold the whole kit and caboodle is our spirituality, our personal relationship with God. Each of us relates to God depending on our image of God. A young mother once told me that a few days after her two young sons found a bird’s nest with young hatchlings and a hovering mother bird nearby, her three-year-old son made the pronouncement during his evening bath that “God is like a great white bird.” No doubt watching the mother bird keeping her young safe, fed and warm in the nest fit his experience of God’s love and care for him.
While this young boy saw God as a caring mother bird, some relate to God as though they are an offender or supplicant before a judge. For others it is as a child to a loving father while still others see God as friend or beloved. Some have a spirituality formed in the “Little Way” of the Carmelite St. Therese of Lisieux who saw true love lived in the ordinary actions of daily life. Others follow the way of St. Ignatius, a reformed soldier, whose spiritual exercises see our fundamental relationship with the Father through Jesus and all our actions done “for the greater honor and glory of God.” St. Francis of Assisi, a merchant’s son who gave away everything, even his clothes, inspires with his love of God’s creation, the church and the poor.
St. Gaspar del Bufalo and Maria Anna Brunner experienced their relationship with God through the saving, redeeming Blood of Jesus. Among many symbols that inspired them, the cross and the chalice were two that expressed so well Jesus’ gift of himself to us and for us. The cross is the place where his great act of self-giving brought about our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. We look at a crucifix and are called to the belief that life does not end with death or sin, but that God’s love carries us beyond the grave into everlasting life and union.
The chalice, like the cross, holds new life. It is a symbol of transformation, of resurrection, of loving presence. Knowing he would shed his blood for us on the cross, Christ chose to give himself to us in the Eucharist so we would remember how precious love, like blood, is.
Whatever our spirituality, we know that God is persistent and unconditional in loving us. Like the “Hound of Heaven,” God pursues us until we relent our errant ways and fall into the Divine and loving embrace. May this year’s end and new year’s beginning find us more deeply in love with Love Itself.