He’s Not Finished with You Yet

Image: Hattiesburg Community Church

When do the Lord’s plans for us run out?

Does He stop doing ‘new things’ after our eightieth birthday? Surely ninety is too old for His mercies to still be new every morning? Clearly, though, this is not the Biblical witness. Think of Abraham and Sarah. Think of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Still, to many elderly men and women, entering a “senior living” facility symbolizes the end of life’s exciting adventures. At least, that’s what Sherry* thought when she moved into Belmont Village. After selling her home and handing over her bank accounts to her adult children, Sherry transitioned into what she assumed would be a quiet life of cribbage and quilting until her time in this world was up. Having been widowed for sixteen years, she believed that the best of her life was behind her. To her great surprise, however, some of her best days were yet to come.

Sherry has been a fervent and faithful Catholic her whole life-long. It was a deep sadness for her that her husband of so many years did not share her love and enthusiasm for the faith. He was fine with the kids being raised Catholic, but he was no praying man himself. Sherry dreamed of being able to go to Mass with her other-half, of sharing times of prayer and reflection together. But it was not to be so with her husband… at least, not with the first one.

Sherry never imagined, in her wildest dreams, that she would marry again at the age of ninety-one. But her friendship with her hallmate at Belmont, Charlie, was making her feel things she hadn’t felt since she was a teenager. When he walked into the room, she got butterflies in her stomach. Time in his presence passed without her notice. They seemed to just fit together, effortlessly, like hand in glove. After just a few months of knowing each other, Charlie asked Sherry to marry him.

There was no question in Sherry’s mind. This was meant to be. Far above and beyond the ease in their relating with one another was the spiritual life they were able to share together. Like Sherry, Charlie was a long-time devout Catholic. He attended daily Mass, and he made frequent visits to the chapel for times of prayer. Here, finally, was a man with whom Sherry could share not only her heart, mind, and body, but her soul as well. The local parish priest was, expectedly, surprised by the news of their engagement, but he was, nonetheless, supportive and encouraging of their new sacramental life together.

When I first met Sherry, only four months into her new marriage, she was aglow with the joy and love of her second union. It was such a wonderful blessing to meet with her and to hear her love story with Charlie. In addition to attending daily Mass and praying a daily rosary, Charlie and Sherry spent time together in the chapel each and every day, resting silently in the presence of the Lord and of one another. At ninety-two years old, Sherry said that she had never been happier.

My video calls with Sherry were incredibly reinvigorating for me. Her joy and her gratitude were both inspiring and challenging. At precisely the moment in her life when she surrendered most to the Lord—giving up her home and her familiar life—in order to follow where she felt He was leading her, Sherry received something she had longed for her entire life.

The Lord’s plans are always so much bigger and so much better than our own. I recognize many ways in which I limit the Lord’s action in my life by my attempts to manage my own happiness and my own ministerial success. Sherry has taught me the importance of surrendering my plans and my desires to the Lord, trusting in His providence and care. Although I may see an end in some personal or pastoral situation, it very well could be just the beginning.

Rightly does the author of Lamentations exclaim: “The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted; his compassion is not spent. They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:22-24).

* All names of people and places have been changed to preserve privacy.

The Cry of an Anguished Lover

The Cry of an Anguished Lover:
A reflection on Genesis chapter 3

“Where are you?”

The great tragedy of the human race… Man turning away from his Divine Lover in pursuit of lesser loves. Bishop Robert Barron once reflected on this Fall, calling the question of God in the Garden the “cry of an anguished lover.” For that is who God is to man: his Creator, yes, but only because of His passionate love for man. Since the beginning of time, God has been a passionate Lover seeking the hearts of men, not a tyrannical dictator angry at His disobedient subjects.

“Where are you?”

The tragedy of man’s Fall is not that we broke a rule, or failed to meet an expectation, or even that we ate a forbidden fruit. The tragedy of our Fall is that we forgot our Lover: the One who crafted us out of the clay with His own hands; the One who breathed His own Divine life into our nostrils, giving us our life; the One who prepared everything for us, and desired only that we would love Him in return.

“Where are you?”

What great sorrow that moment must have brought to the Divine Heart! The moment when His beloved took their gaze off of Him and looked to another, desiring lesser goods that would never satisfy them. To think of all the moments when you and I do this in our lives… The one and only thing that we have that God does not, but that He so desires, is our love for Him.

“Where are you?”

How easily man used to walk in friendship with God. After their Fall, the Lord came “walking in the cool of the day,” seeking the presence of His beloveds. This is the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present God… He certainly knew what had just transpired in the Garden and where Adam and Eve were hidden. And yet, still He asks…

“Where are you?”

We could hear this question as, “Where are you in relation to me? What has become of your love for me? Where are you?”

The cry of the anguished Lover. Not entirely unlike the anguished cry of the wife whose husband has been unfaithful. Except it’s even more tragic here. Man chooses to sever ties with his Maker, rejecting His love.

“Where are you?”

And instead of seeking reconciliation with their Lord once they had recognized how terribly they’d fallen, they pointed fingers and allowed something new, something foreign to now course through their veins: pride. Oh, wretched pride! The true source of all human sin.

“Where are you?”

Such unfaithful beloveds. If it had been any kind of human love that God had for His people, this would have been the end of it all. Betrayed and heartbroken, God could have given us what we truly deserved: a final death.

But no! So far above human ways are God’s, and so immense His love for His creation that this is not how the story ended. He sent us out of the Garden because of our choice, but with an angel to guard it for our eventual return. He promised a New Eve and a New Adam, one who would defeat Satan and reconcile man to Himself. What He gave in return for our unfaithfulness was not condemnation, but hope. For so great is God’s love for us.

“Because you are precious in my eyes, honored, and I love you.”
-Isaiah 43:4-

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
-Romans 5:8-

The Perfect Love of Jesus

The life of Jesus is a perfect demonstration of pure and beautiful love. Both His death and resurrection are testaments to the fact that His love is endless and unconditional.

It is easy to say you love someone when they love you back. On the other hand, loving those who hate you is not as natural of a task. While Jesus was on earth he was surrounded by both those who loved Him and those who despised Him. At the time of His crucifixion, however, He was abandoned by nearly all those who had claimed to love Him. Suddenly, within a matter of days, it seemed like the whole world was against Jesus. Even one of His hand-picked disciples betrayed Him. On the day He died, His followers had scattered in fear. His own people called for His crucifixion. He died a painful death on a cross, surrounded by a sea of people who doubted and despised Him. A pure and innocent man–fully God and fully human–suffered and died in a way that even the worst criminal should not be condemned to.

After all of this, He came back and gave us His heart. He came back and said to the people who had condemned Him to death, “I love you.” He showed us with His life that He loved us; with His death and resurrection, He added that His love is unconditional.

Imagine looking into the eyes of the person who has hurt you the most and telling them that you love them. But you don’t just say the words; you mean it and you want them to know that your love is genuine and pure. That is a nearly impossible task, one that even the greatest saints surely struggled to carry out. It is equally difficult from the other side. Words of love coming from a person who you believe despises you may be painful to hear and seem insincere. Yet Jesus rose from the dead and returned to His people, the very people that stood and watched as He was taken and crucified. He stood humbly before them and gave them His heart, gave us His heart. He showed that He loves us despite what has been done to Him. He forgives even the sins of those who hurt Him the most. As difficult as it may be to believe, He really does mean it, and nothing that you have done or ever will do could ever change that. He will never cease to offer His love to us. It is up to us to open our hearts and allow His love to fill us.

Jesus came back and said to us “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).  He came back and not only gave us His heart, but gave us hope. He needed us to know that there is life in Him and with Him, both in heaven and on earth. He departed, leaving behind an open invitation to share His Father and His God with us. He invites us all into heaven: those who caused Him excruciating pain and robbed Him of His life, as well as his loyal followers.

He rose so that we could see that death is not the end; so that we would know that it is possible to love and forgive even those who have done the worst to us. He came back to give us hope and show that no act is beyond the scope of His grace and love.