Thursday of Week 9 in Ordinary Time
2 Tim 2:8-15
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The words in today’s gospel are familiar to many of us. These words are probably embedded in our minds and in our hearts. Jesus’ commandment is so simple. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Yet, it is so difficult for some of us. How can I possibly love God more than He loves me?
In recent times, it has been difficult for me to live that commandment. During these challenging times of a lockdown the world over, everyone is just dealing with the stresses of the new life that the COVID-19 crisis has brought upon us. I have stopped reading news about the situation because it really gets me down. As if being stuck at home by myself is not maddening enough, I am talking to my basil plant. I am struggling to keep my attention with on-line masses and also my prayer time.
In the early half of the lockdown, I felt very moved and saddened by the plight of many people who were suffering, especially those who are close to me. I felt very compelled to share and help those who were in need with whatever I could offer. As the days went on, weeks go by, new emotions surfaced. Emotions I can barely control. I was getting annoyed with people. I found myself getting irritated with the umpteenth WhatsApp messages that came via group chats – ranging from government notices on the pandemic, to shared links of online masses, to prayer requests, and also those inane pictures of what my friends ate and cooked that day.
I was disenchanted with the church — 2 weeks into the lockdown, Bishop ended his Sunday masses asking for donations. There are people struggling to keep afloat, people who have lost jobs and livelihoods. People displaced. Families unable to put food on the table. And he asks for donations to upkeep the church? At this time? Yes, I get it, donations have dropped since churches have been shut. But somehow, during such a time, I felt the church was unfeeling for the world’s suffering. Some parishes are even completely silent on new ways to feed their sheep. The messaging could have been better put. I was angry. I felt guilty for not loving His church. I dutifully contributed. But the emotions remain.
Not only that, I was disgusted – with my well-to-do friends for ignoring another friend in need. Also, old hurts started to resurface. New hurts presented themselves. Why were all these emotions surfacing? Was it ‘cabin fever’? I had lost the capacity to love, to be patient and to be present for others. You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
I present to you another way of looking at this commandment. God CANNOT be outdone in generosity. We CANNOT possibly love Him more than He loves us. It is not always easy to love God emotionally, especially when life is difficult. It is important that I am not afraid to say that to God and be honest with God always. And God knows how authentic I have been in my prayers. Has God forsaken me? Did He shake the dust off his feet and move on?
No. He continues to stay by my side. By your side. Gentle, patient and loving. God is a loving Father. He is not going to pout and banish me into the corner just because I am incapable of loving Him more than He loves me. He just asks that I love Him in the way that I am capable of loving Him. The amount is not what the Lord sees but the attitude of the heart.
And for this season, while all these emotions are welling up inside of me — sometimes so overwhelming and painful. I am going to sit back and bask in the glory of His love. Yes, I will fill myself with the abundance of His love. So that I can in turn love Him, love my family members, my neighbour, my priests, my co-workers or someone I happen to meet on the street.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Father, teach us to love you more. Remove the blockages in our hearts that prevent us from living out that commandment that You gave us. Teach us to love our neighbours, family members and friends, especially those who are hardest to love.
Thanksgiving: Father God, thank you for your huge, abundant and unwavering love. Thank you for being an example of love that we can follow.