Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No Small Thing

A theme on this blog recently has been love.

Love vs. Use.  Love vs. Abuse.  True Love and our falling shy of it.  Only love matters.

A letter written to Rod Dreher is on this topic and includes the following (my emphasis) ... 

“My love is all that matters. And this is who I am.” [This is what God said to the writer of this letter the day he saw the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001].
I appreciate that you want something more, that you want to know what it is God expects of you. I am still learning to preach to such people, people whose lives and calls to follow Jesus have been quieter and less brutal than mine.
But you know what? It is no small thing to hear, and to say, in a violent and brutal world, in a world where many easily use others for pleasure and profit, “God is love.” When there has been no real love in your life — and my wife has another such story, for being a pastor’s daughter means little — then the most important question you will ever ask, and you will ever want answered, is “will someone ever love me?” It may be tawdry and sentimental and demand little from far too many comfortable folks who fill churches (though to be honest, so does supporting the troops and opposing abortion and loving Israel, mostly because such things as political postures require little discipline or sacrifice, and they don’t really form people in the image of Christ — and this is true also of mistaking the welfare state for the Kingdom), in many of the churches I have been in — in rough places, hard places, places full of broken, unwanted people — there is nothing more important than to grab hold of that love and know that despite all the world does and has done, that love is yours.
It is no small thing.

This being my birthday, I am reflecting upon the past year and more.

What I have learned more than anything else this past year is both that "only love matters" and that many people have no experience of love; such people spread a great deal of misery, betrayal and pain.

This is hard to comprehend, hard for those of us who have been blessed - blessed with families that were more or less loving, with spouses who have loved us deeply and whom we have loved, with good friends along the way, with a vocation that we have loved and that has somehow loved us back.

What gives us joy in life is not our two-car garages, our suburban ranch-style houses, our bank accounts or our gadgets.  What gives us joy is love - being loved and giving love.  And love is like health - when it's there we tend not to notice it, to take it for granted.  When it's not there, the pain can be intense.

It is hard for those of us who have known love - who have known God - to understand the pain of those who really haven't.

We assume God.  We count on love.  We forget that people exist like the writer of the letter to Rod Dreher, who would gladly fly planes into American buildings in order to express their rage.  We look with disgust at girls like Melissa, who can't imagine herself ever worthy of love and who voluntarily endure abuse and call it love.  We tear our hair out at atheists who make it their life's goal to deny that anything really exists or that anything is worth existing, including love or self-sacrifice.  We trust our episcopacy to protect our children, not realizing that behind the mask of piety that many of them wear lurks (for some) a culture feeding on hedonism and perversion, and not on love - certainly not on love for natural and innocent things like children or even normal, happy things like an attraction to women.

And we are in a Church that has a dreadful subculture of "Radical Catholic Reactionaries" whose one common thread is not love of Latin or a Puritan streak or a hatred of Jews, but an utter contempt for the Christian commandment, "Love one another".  This is behind the right wing Catholic anger at Pope Francis - for he dares to preach and live this shocking thing called love, in ways that unsettle and disturb us.

God is love.  Not the "luv" of indulgence preached by false prophets, but a love that includes judgment and mercy both, a love that made us and that sustains us, a love in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  It is a love that condemns sin, for sin keeps us from love.  It is a love that embraces the cross, for bearing the cross is the expression of love.  It is a love that makes the world, that gives the world the life of His only son, that re-makes the world.

It is a love that is no small thing.


Michael said...

Out of curiosity, can one be uncomfortable with Pope Francis and not be a 'right-wing Catholic'?

My trouble with Francis is that he is the man you want him to be (if you don't like Church doctrine).

We know he is not against doctrine but he carries himself in a way where people think he's pro-choice or pro-gay.

He's the rock yet people are treating him as plastocine.

Michael said...

Oh Happy Birthday Kevin,

you and your wife are in my rosary.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Thank you, Michael! As to who Francis really is and how he really carries himself, see

Michael said...

Thanks Kevin, will read soon.