I have a friend who was a missionary sister in the Figi Islands for many years. She said that the islanders had a saying: There are three things in life that you can’t hide–smoke, a man on a camel and a woman in love.
In 2005, a group of local Catholics began meeting every month to study the writings Benedict XVI . After almost 6 years, we’ve had the wonderful opportunity of reading and discussing many of his works and have developed a more finely tuned sense of the themes that are important to him. Like any doting father, the Holy Father keeps repeating over and over the things he knows we have to learn in order to live a better life and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. One of his favorite themes is that Catholicism isn’t a set of rules or even beliefs so much as it’s a relationship. Our religion (the word ‘spirituality’ would be more acceptable to some people) is essentially our response in love to Love.
Jesus tells us that we didn’t choose him, he chose us. John tells us that love consists in the fact that God first loved us, not that we first loved God. My hunch is that, prior to the angel Gabriel coming into Mary’s room in Nazareth, Jesus was probably pretty happy in heaven. Except that we weren’t there. Worse yet, we had no way to get there. I know theologians who know more about this than I do say that God is sufficient to himself and he doesn’t need us. But then I look at a crucifix and I think: That’s what a person in love looks like.
When you’re really in love, you can’t hide it, as the Figians say. True love isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision. But as any lover knows, our feeling often feeds our decision initially and then, sometimes after many years,, our decision to love ends up fueling our feelings of love again. What a lovely surprise!
So, since Jesus made the decision that dark night in the Garden to love me and give his life so we can be together forever, it’s a joy for me to spend time with him now. To receive him in the Eucharist, to live in the Church he began, to minister to him in the people I meet. And, on the days I don’t feel that joy, I look at a crucifix and tell him that I want to join my pain to his there, on that cross. He always welcomes me with open arms.
No wonder the Pope insists that our Faith is a relationship built on Hope and Love. What a gift to be able to share it with others during the upcoming Year of Faith!