July 1998How Tenderly Thou Teachest Me To Love -----St. John of the Cross

Embraced From The Beginning

We are told that there is nothing more important in life than this and that this is our chief task on earth. All that matters is to love God with our heart, our whole mind and our whole soul. But, how does one actually do this? How does one love God with one's whole heart?

The Gospel writer goes on to present a story about one's neighbor. One commentator suggests that it is we, ourselves, who are lying on the roadside, wounded and calling out for compassion, hoping that God will pass by, or at least send someone - anyone.

Fr. Rahner writes that sooner or later, before we die, all of us will be asked to love God with our whole heart. He refers to this event as a moment of total decision, a moment in which we totally opt for God. In this moment, we become more fully what we were created to be before God, in the very beginning. It is interesting to note that this event can happen before physical death. In addition, there are other smaller moments along the way, in which we are asked to opt for God with our whole heart, foreshadowing that other wonderful moment of total decision yet to happen. All of these events are written in the Book of Life. Quite probably, we will recognize them when we come before God.

Henri Nouwen intimates that there is a First Love and a Second Love. All human love, the Second Love, is merely a reflection of God's love for us, a love without condition. This Second Love is limited, broken and very fragile. There is always the possibility of being abandoned, betrayed and left wounded along the roadside.

The First Love is unconditional. It is a love that calls us by name with tenderness, that carves us on the palm of God's hand. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from this love.

Julian of Norwich has a charming account of a hazelnut. She held the hazelnut in her hand. It was so small and insignificant that she was sure it would fade into nothingness. Then, she was given an insight in her understanding. Everything is kept in existence through God's love. We exist this moment because God loves us.

It would appear that we come close to loving God with our whole heart simply by returning to that First Love often, by touching it and by accepting it. Love for others naturally follows.

We were intimately loved long before anyone else ever loved us, or wounded us. Way back there, a still small voice came into existence, oh so secretly. "You are my Beloved, my favored one. I have hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I hold you with infinite tenderness. Wherever you may go in life, I will go. I will not hide myself from you. You belong to me and I to you. Nothing will ever separate us from each other."

By: Sr. Mary Jo Loebig