This Sunday’s readings speak to me of Love, the Love that is God – and the marvelous ways God is continually Love.
The God who made a covenant with the chosen people, was faithful to them when they continually “missed the mark,” were unfaithful. After long years of exile in Babylon (Psalm 137), Love moves the heart of Cyrus, the Persian king who had conquered Babylon, who proclaims that all those who belong to any part of the people of “the Lord, the God of heaven” are to return home to build a house for their God in Jerusalem. Love had moved the heart of Cyrus - this outsider, pagan, stranger – so that these exiles, this people whom Love had taken as a people “peculiarly his own” – might be able to return home, to come back to the Covenant. So often the face of Love shows itself to us through the most unexpected people and events. It is for us is to recognize when Love at work in our lives.
The letter to the Ephesians speaks strongly of what Love has done and is doing in each of our lives. “When we were dead in our transgressions, [Love] brought us to life with Christ – by grace you have been saved….this is not from [us]; it is the gift of God” (the gift of Love).
And, in the gospel, John reminds us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” Love sends the Son, not to condemn, but so that we are saved. Love invites every person who might feel exiled or caught in some form of darkness, to come forth into the light, into freedom.
Isn’t this what Lent is all about? It is not solely our looking at our sin, failures, shortcomings but rather, our looking into the Face of Love and, like the prodigal son, finding ourselves smothered in the embrace of Love – and being overwhelmingly grateful.
I share George Herbert’s full poem for our reflection:
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
-Sr. Marian Baumler
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur . 241 Lafayette Avenue . Buffalo, New York 14213 . (716) 884-8221