Summary: We fall in love with Jesus because we are needy and He needs nothing. We have nothing and He is pure gift. So we sing praise to God.

September 9, 2012

Verbum Domini

Why do so many, hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ, hesitate to believe it? Why do we, baptized and confirmed in Christ, sometimes fail to trust in His Word? Why do I, despite my understanding of my weakness and my need, turn my back on His call? The failure takes many forms. Perhaps, when we see a person shabbily dressed, or of a different race, we look away or even cross the street. We know that’s insensitive, but don’t want to engage in what seems even lightly risky. Perhaps something good happens to us, but we are afraid if we celebrate, the good will vanish. Perhaps some injury is done to us, or we suffer a loss, and our response is to blame God, even for some difficulty that we may have contributed to.

By the day we reach adulthood, or shortly afterward, we are all hurt, physically, psychologically or morally, by some other human being. The injury may be real, or just perceived, but after a few of these we may acquire an edge of cynicism. We get suspicious of others and their intentions.

Being needy myself, I assume that everyone else around me is just as needy, or more so. I walk around with a list of needs in my head. Some are quite basic–food, shelter, clothing, safety. I do what I can to meet those needs for myself and my family. As I journey through life, I reason that everyone I encounter has a list of needs, and that those needs are to them more important than any needs I might have. In fact, I may even, from bad experience, believe that the other person may not hesitate, given the chance, to take what he needs from me.

When you run into someone who doesn’t tell you what he needs, who seems to discount his own needs in favor of yours, who only seeks to help you fulfill your own needs, our learned suspicion puts up its periscope and listening devices. We act like a wise child being approached by a stranger with candy or a puppy. “What’s with this guy, or gal, anyway? Why doesn’t this person act needy and ask me to fulfill those needs? Is this what love means?”

When, month after month, this lover continues to do nothing but help, bombards us with gifts and assurances of unselfish concern, and forgiving our every mistake or affront, we really can respond only in one of two ways: We can succumb to our suspicions and flee. We’ve been hurt so many times before, we just can’t believe that there is someone this selfless, this loving, this forgiving. We understand that at some point, if we fall in love, we will be asked to surrender something precious, something that we just don’t want to give up.

Alternately, we can allow ourselves to fall in love. When we do that, we understand that we must freely offer and give that which is most precious to ourselves. This is the act of trust that must be the basis of any life commitment, whether it is in marriage, the priesthood, or the religious life. Fall in love, and give everything away. Fall in love, and risk it all.

The deaf man had no idea what words sounded like, and he could barely make his needs known with speech. He would make signs and hope that people would understand and care enough to help him. Then his few friends heard about the itinerant Jewish preacher who had a reputation for healing the blind and deaf and sick, and they brought him to Jesus. The last word he couldn’t hear was the word that healed him–the command from the Master to be opened. Ephphatha. The “ah. . .” was the first sound that vibrated in his eardrum, that signaled to his mind that nothing would ever be the same. And from that moment he couldn’t stop talking, or shouting, or singing.

Have you had that experience–falling in love with Jesus? Perhaps it was on a retreat, or on a pilgrimage, or in the midst of a personal crisis when Jesus touched you, maybe even spit, and said the word of healing. Perhaps, like Augustine, you picked up the Scriptures and opened it to a word that ripped open a hard heart and let the grace of Christ flow in. Or maybe you heard a choir in a resonant cathedral and the word of God filtered in like water and set you free. From that moment you knew that you would do anything to give thanks to the One who lived and died and rose again so you would not have to die in your pain and suffering and sin. You owe Him. He built the Church so you would have access to his mercy.

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