In my growing number of trips around the sun, I am more convinced than ever before that most, if not all, of our world’s problems result from humanity failure to truly believe that it, they, we are loved.
Humanity is hurting, and we have a terrible pattern in both directly and indirectly hurting others as a result. How many examples of violence are born in a person not knowing that they are loved, and in not feeling that love?
Religion, we would hope, would reflect this love. And at times it does. The issue is of course found in the humanity of the institution, not the divine Spirit. It is humanity that builds walls and reserves pews. It is our need to be in the inner circle that leaves people out. Remember, it was the religious leaders of Jesus’ time that sent him to the cross because he didn’t animate the religious “law” in how they expected it to be fulfilled.
When Jesus healed a sick person on the Sabbath (he did this 7 times as accounted in the 4 Gospels), it was the religious leaders who focused more on his act of “work” on “the day of rest” instead of the miracles before their eyes.
Jesus, and many other great spiritual leaders and teachers, remain our inspiration because they reflect God’s unconditional love. They are not bound to this world as they answer to someone, something, greater.
They also model a way of life that is not unrealistic. A life of knowing and giving God’s love is a life that is offered for all of us, and it is in fact, required and needed during these turbulent times.
Dorothy Day once said, “don’t call me a saint,” and I believe this was partly due to her awareness of our the temptation to turn our saints into idols of perfection.
They were humans who failed and who made mistakes. Their ordinary lives became extraordinary because they extended God’s love to others, a love they knew at an intimate level.
We are called to do the same.
In a time of constant news stories, and most of them more troubling than the next, there were two recent stories that reflected this expression of love in a very real, God-like example.
The first is the generosity of a father, named Howie Dittman, and his friends, who attended a Pride parade in Pittsburgh this month to offer hugs to those who need it. There are examples of other individuals who offered the same love at prior parades. What a beautiful example of reflecting God’s love.
I was equally impacted by the love of a mother of 11-year old violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa, who caught our country’s attention with his America’s Got Talent audition that aired earlier this week. Tyler’s bravery is inspirational, but I was drawn to the love of his mother and her smile that captured those famous words of the Prodigal Son’s father, “for he was dead, but he is now alive.”
There are many other examples of God’s love being reflected in our world.
Take a moment right now to examine your interactions from this day and the day prior. Who loved you, who offered a helping hand, a needed phone call or text, a social media message, or an act of service and love. Recall how you felt. Hold that feeling, cherish it.
After you reflect on your day, ask yourself this next question:
How did you reflect God’s love today? What did you do to make someone know they are loved? And how did that feel? Hold that feeling, cherish it.
If you couldn’t answer the last example, take a moment tonight to send a text or a message to someone you love and tell them how you feel. Help someone know that they are loved.
When I consider what I think heaven is like, I am confident that it is a constant experience of basking in God’s overwhelming love. I believe it will make us feel so loved, that not only will we not question why other people are there, we will instead want everyone we ever met to be experiencing this heavenly place with us.
And what would this feeling of being loved feel like. We can find answers in those moments of life when we get glimpses of God’s love. These are those moments when we feel deeper, we love greater.
They occur in major life moments, such as seeing a new baby take their first breath as well as seeing a loved one take their last.
It occurs in those more ordinary moments when you extend a helping hand, when you listen to a person who opens their heart, when the sun breaks through the clouds, when nature blooms and fades, and when that cool breeze comforts your body and your soul.
It occurs when you serve those on the margins, when you seek God in those who are in need of your time, gifts, and talents. It occurs when you open scripture, when you read spiritual leaders, and when you are silent, and when you listen to the God that lives within you.
You are loved. Never, ever forget that. Now, go extend that love to others.