Receiving God’s love is kind of like tuning in on a radio signal. God’s love is always there: fifty-thousands watts straight out of paradise, and you can catch the signal anywhere on earth. And we’re natural receivers, we men and women; God designed us to pick up on the signal with high fidelity. But we’re almost all of us badly out of tune with that signal: we pick up it fitfully, now and then, here and there.
Now, love is naturally expressive of itself, says St. Thomas, and it seems to be a kind of spiritual law that the way you tune in on God’s signal is by re-broadcasting it to others: that is, by loving your neighbor with His love, loving Him in your neighbor. The more you do that, the more of the signal you can receive, and with less static. (Raise your hands if you can remember static on the radio!)
So I was sitting the other day, thinking about this, and I began to wonder. It’s easy to see how a layman like me can do more to love those around me. I have lots of opportunities: there are quite literally millions of people within a hundred-mile radius of where I’m sitting, and thousands within a mile or two. But what about cloistered religious, Dominican nuns in their monasteries, and Carmelites in their Carmels, living a life of contemplation in an enclosure with just a few other people? They spend their days learning to tune in to God. If they have to rebroadcast His love to receive His love, where does it all go? Certainly, they can grow in love of their sisters there in the cloister, but that seems an inadequate outlet for the strength of the signal they must learn to receive in their years of contemplation.
And then it hit me: one way to love your neighbor with God’s love is to pray for him. (The one person I’ve known who I regard as a likely saint spent her days praying for others.) How powerful must those prayers be, fueled by such ardent contemplation! And how many hours they spend in prayer, simply saying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass, which they offer up for the rest of us!
The saints are, above all, those who have best learned to tune in to God’s signal: those who by penance and prayer and devotion and constant reliance on God’s mercy have eliminated all of the static from their lives. In life, they were conduits of God’s love, pipelines (to switch metaphors) of vast capacity. In death, they yet live; and here are we, their brothers and sisters, still in need of their prayers. There are they, in God’s presence, in the presence of Love Himself, a Love that burns to express itself. What else can they do but pass His love along, as He taught them to do? And to whom can they pass His love but to us? And how but by prayer?
Glory to God on high!