One thing I love about being Catholic, is the grounded nature of our faith. It never denies our capacity to engage in self-deception and genuine self-examination or to be both a prayer warrior and the wounded one being carried to Our Lord by others. We come to the cross with all our wounds and we wound Our Lord by our sins. Christ takes on all our sufferings, all our sins, all our pains, and offers us His friendship and somehow when the Lord of all Kindliness and Mercy offers us His love, we hesitate, we backtrack, we deny, we refuse, we hem, we wonder how much we have to love Him.
Wondering how much is not love. It is a calculation designed to do what we cannot do, to manipulate our Lord.
Love is always infinite. Love is always always. Love is a gift freely given. We understand this sometimes, and just as quickly, we forget it. It’s part of the complexity of being –not being able to stay easily in that grace, to rest in His heart as we are called to do –because the world and our own selves, distract us from the always, make us count the cost, or invite us to confuse the weight of our gifts with the infinite nature of God’s.
Everything between our approximations of love and perfect love is a struggle against concupiscence not because we don’t love, but because we don’t love as God loves. We love as children, who must ever grow deeper into loving through practice. We bring daisies but we didn’t think to bring them until the last minute. We begin to act willingly, but then grow vexed in a moment when the love we offer goes theoretically unseen. That God sees the intent behind every action and inaction should tell us, we must always seek to off God our first fruits, most especially when it feels like an empty act. Those actions when we feel dryest, when our hearts obey but the feelings that often took hold or drove us, feel absent, reveal our desire to love God because we love God, and not for the good feelings or spiritual rewards we might receive from engaging in acts of spiritual or corporeal mercy, or contemplation or active prayer.
The spiritual life we long to have, requires we recognize we will have only fleeting moments this side of the veil when our hearts, minds and bodies are all so attuned to God, we forget ourselves in the acts of service or prayer. Coming back from receiving the Eucharist, we see the whole body of Christ, some prayerful, some aching, some squirming, some looking for their coats and keys. God loves all of us in our distractedness, despite our sins, despite all the ways in which we fail to recognize His great offer of friendship or His full presence in ourselves when we receive. It is a reminder of how patient and loving a God we know –to know He does not tire of our tedium.
The easiest way to imitate God’s love is to practice gratitude, particularly when we don’t feel it; when we don’t want to; when we’d rather pull away into ourselves, thinking we deserve some time when we don’t have to love. Stay a little longer after mass. Add one Hail Mary to your ride to work. Off Him your first thought in the morning as praise, and last one as thanksgiving at night. It will inevitably grow into more, because love always expands toward the infinite. God’s love always ultimately looks like the crucifixion, the pouring out of self for another.
Love is always based on sacrifice. Love makes it possible. Perfect love makes it a joy.