IS THE GOD OF
LOVE MORE DEMANDING
Father William McKee, CssR
IS it easier to follow a God of rules and justice and regulations than it is to follow a God who tells us to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you? Luke 6:27.
THIS question came to mind one night when I was conducting a class for folks returning to the Church after long absences. A young couple, beautifully dressed, assisted faithfully at the six sessions. After the last session I asked the couple: Well, how did it go? The man, whom I found out later, was president of a large international company, said: Not well, Father, not well at all. I said: What was wrong? He said: You did not tell us exactly what to do as Catholics. I give orders in my business and it goes well because they do what I tell them to do. You didnt do that. You should do it. Thats your job. I said: What about the principle: live a life of love and mind your own business." He said: Thats hogwash!
I wondered later if he ran his marriage the way he ran his business? Or do many husbands frequently treat wives and children as if they were employees? Is the status of our relationship with our God determined by loving choices or obedience to laws or by both?
DR. Scott Peck in his book THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED writes that many people are willing to give up freedom for security. They are afraid of freedom because they do not want to make personal choices for which they would be held responsible. Years ago, some Russians who had immigrated to this country returned back to Russia because they felt very insecure in this land of freedom and competition. They preferred security to freedom.
MANY people do not want to love because love is hard work, time consuming, frequently frustrating, never absolutely certain and requiring involvement of the heart and surrender of deepest emotions.
AND then Jesus comes along and says to us: By this they shall know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. John. 13:35.
IN the Old Testament the Jews viewed God as a tough and demanding tyrant - a God Who would wipe out thousands if He saw they were disobeying Him.
ONE of the reasons He sent His Beloved Son was to correct that notion, to make sure that we got the idea that He was love, indeed, love itself, because as St. Paul says: Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. That Jesus was a lover is clear on practically every page of the New Testament. His many thousands of healings are proof of that. He loved people all kinds, believers and non-believers, saints and sinners, friends and foes.
EVEN though we have proof in Jesus of Gods great love for us we still prefer to obey a tough, demanding God because it is easier to obey than to love. With obedience we do not have to get fully involved. All we have to do is take orders. We can hide behind the thought that we are doing everything that we are told to do. We keep the commandments, obey civil law, pay taxes, keep up our properties and do a zillion and one things except the one essential thing that Jesus requires of us: As I have loved you, so must you love one another. John. 13:34.
IT is easy for us in the priesthood to avoid love too. We can be proper in a thousand different ways and yet not be Jesus-like. Father Andrew Greeley writes that many of us are guilty of institutionalized evasions. Father Vincent Dwyer says that we might be doing holy things without becoming holy.
THERE are many reasons why we do not choose the loving way of life. Some might be a lack of self love, or of self confidence which says that I am not a good enough person to be a lover, or our fear of having our love rejected, scorned.
LAW is indeed necessary for successful living. But we can learn a great lesson from what happened to Peter when he met Jesus after the resurrection. Before Jesus crucifixion Peter had said three times that I know not the man. Luke 22:57. He, who had walked and talked with Jesus on a thousand different occasions, especially when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor and a voice from Heaven said: This is my beloved Son, (Matthew 17:2) Peter said he did not know Jesus.
WHAT does Jesus say to Peter after His resurrection? Did He condemn him for the denials, or reject him for betraying Him? No, Jesus simply said to Peter: Do you love me? John.21:15. When Peter said yes and Jesus knew it to be true, all was well.
IT may well be that the only thing that Jesus will ask us after our death will be the question He asked Peter: Do you love me?And if the answer truthfully is yes, the doors of Heaven will swing open.
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