Let Him Love You

“I have only to love Him, to let myself be loved, all the time, through all things: to wake in Love, to move in Love, to sleep in Love, my soul in His Soul, my heart in His Heart, my eyes in His Eyes.”
–St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

As the sun sets, a soft, rosy glow from the Christmas tree fills the silent room. The dying light just catches on small flecks of gold in the sparkling ornaments, the star above the crèche, and the glittering cards from loved ones that line the mantle. On them, simple words written with paper and ink wish you a merry Christmas from across the country. The words seem to come to life with the thought of seeing someone’s sweet smile or hearing another’s joyful laughter, especially if they are far from home this year.

In the beginning, another Word, the Word, was with God, and was God—but this Word did not stay still. Knowing our sins and miseries, this unchanging and creative Word reached into the silence, “became flesh, and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). As St. Augustine explains in today’s office of readings, “In this way, what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.”

But, it was not enough for the Word to simply be seen, for Love to just appear to the beloved: our Love went into action, “springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills” (Song of Songs 2:8). In becoming visible, he became vulnerable, as an innocent newborn baby hunted by Herod. He became a servant, healing the sick, shepherding the lost sheep, and washing the apostles’ feet. He became the man of sorrows, carrying our sins and miseries to the end, when his heart was pierced, letting blood and water flow forth for the world. “We love because he first loved us,” (1 John 4:19), and he loved us from a cross on a hill in a faraway country, even when we were so very far from home.

It was still not sufficient for the Light to die and rise, for Love’s very heart to be pierced—for Love mingled with grief, and grew all the greater. During the Last Supper, Love took, blessed, and broke His own heart to be shared with the apostles and those to come, instituting the Eucharist and finding a way to be with us “always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). In his last moments on the cross, he broke his mother’s heart and placed us in the folds of her mantle through the beloved disciple, St. John. “Woman, behold your son… Son, behold your Mother.” His birth in a stable under a star “cost her no sorrow, but this birth of John and the millions of us at the foot of the Cross brought her such agony as to merit the title ‘Queen of Martyrs’” (Sheen). Her lifelong union with Love’s cross led her to loving us in the crossing of her arms, arms filled with roses.

Loving Someone like this takes courage. But, sometimes it takes far more courage to let ourselves be uncommonly loved by Someone who “moves the sun and the other stars,” a Love we receive under the visible appearance of bread and wine, forms of gold that do not glitter but are Light itself. Just as Christ names us as gifts from the Father (John 17:24), he gives us the gift of himself, calling us to arise and run to him, for “the winter is past, the rains are over and gone” (Song of Songs 2:11). As the Son is unveiled in our hearts and we come face to face with this “excess of love,” we can hesitate, one step away from being closer to home than we’ve ever been.

We know all too well our miseries and sins; we all know how vulnerable hearts can be “wrung and possibly broken” by imperfect people, or by stories that end far too soon. We know the way of Love is also the way of the Cross, filled with thorny branches and briars that will piece your heart as well as heal it. Even so—let yourself be loved more than this, by more than you think you could be loved. Even if your heart feels frozen under a bitter frost, or hidden inside a silent tomb, do not be afraid of love that is the gift of one who is “meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). For, as St. John Paul II says, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”

Let yourself be loved by the Love who can heal your precious heart this Christmas and always. Take courage, and “may the Lord of heaven grant you joy in place of your grief” (Tobit 7:17). For the Word was not content to simply use paper and ink to come across the world and bring us home. He came to us in a stable that held Someone “bigger than the whole world” and comes again each day in the breaking of the bread, in the breaking of his heart, so we may have joy, and our joy may be complete—our soul in His Soul, our hearts in His Heart, our eyes in His Eyes as we too are taken, broken, blessed, and shared with others. We have only to receive Him—and to let ourselves be loved.

Reading & Listening Suggestions
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Let Yourself Be LovedLetters
Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée, I Believe in Love
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Knowing the Love of God
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Josef Pieper, On Love
Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love

Say Yes to God

Could Mary have said no?

This was the question one of my confirmation students asked me. Could Mary have said no?

Well, yes, she could have said no. She could have said to the angel Gabriel that this was just too much, that she wasn’t ready to be a mother, she wasn’t ready to be talked about behind her back or be disgraced because it wasn’t Joseph’s child. She could have said that she didn’t want the responsibility. She could have freely said no. Lucky for us, that’s not the way the Annunciation goes.

Mary said yes to God.

Through Mary’s “yes” the word became flesh and God was amongst us. Through Mary’s “yes” a child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah in our first reading.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary freely and willingly accepted her mission as the mother of God. She knew that the fruit of her womb, her son, Jesus Christ, was our redeemer, the perfect lamb by which the world would find its salvation. And she pondered on all of this in her heart because God chose her to love and take care of a small, innocent, and special baby. Mary’s “yes” aligned the will of God with her own will, obediently allowing herself to be an instrument of the Lord.

Mary’s “yes” was powerful.

In the Gospel reading for today, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that “nothing will be impossible for God.” That message is for us as well. The Most High, almighty and omnipotent God can do everything and anything—He made every inch of the universe. And nothing is impossible for God. Let us remember that in our hearts when we pray and when we walk up to the altar. Let us remember that the impossible does not exist to God. Whatever fear or doubt we might have in accepting God’s good word, let us renounce it. Whatever uncertainty we may experience that is stopping us from going forth with God’s plans, let us be aware to walk away from it.

In today’s society we are always busy. Our calendars are full of meetings, appointments, dinner parties, sports tournaments, work, and classes. The list goes on and on. We plan our schedules thinking that we are in control. The hardest thing for us to realize is that our lives are not our own; our lives belong to God and therefore should be centered around God. He is the one in control, and He is the one in charge of our final schedules.

God made us in His image to love us and for us to love Him. That love has to be given freely. So, yes, Mary could have said no. But it was her love for God that willed her to say yes and be open to receive baby Jesus in her womb. It is that same love for the Lord that will shape our individual lives. Through our own “yes” to God, we will be open to receive His many gifts of grace.

During this Advent season, as we are waiting and preparing our hearts for Jesus, let us prepare in a special way to do God’s will. Pray that when God changes our schedules we’d be open and willing to accept this change, always aligning our will with the will of God. Let us prepare to always want to say YES! to our God. That the uniqueness of our individual “yes” may be as powerful as Mary’s fiat.

Image Credit: The Annunciation, 1742, by Agostino Masucci [Public Domain]

A Highway for Our God

There are some moments in our lives where we just feel lost and out of place. For me, the moment of complete and utter confusion happened my senior year of college. In preparation for my future, this should have been the year in which I checked off all the boxes on my master plan. But that was not the case; I checked off none. I didn’t even have a plan. I was lost. Although I knew my physical location—on the University campus—I couldn’t find myself anywhere on the map. Someone could have arranged fluorescent direction markers and flagged me down with bright orange batons and I still would not have known in which way to turn. I would have blindly walked past them, lost and uncertain with myself.

I have known about the parable of the lost sheep since I was a child—seeing this Biblical passage through the eyes of a child, I always saw a perfect, fluffy sheep in a picture book. I didn’t realize the impact in my heart this parable would make until my adulthood, when I found myself, no longer lost, in the Catholic Church.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that a shepherd has one hundred sheep and one of them goes astray and is lost. Just one. Jesus asks for our opinion, will you go in search of the lost sheep? I’m sure the disciples listening to Jesus were thinking: “Well, the man has ninety-nine other sheep left. He should be fine. He has more than what he lost. He should just let that one sheep go.” Jesus, however, continuing with the parable tells them the answer to his question: the man will leave the ninety-nine on the hill and go off in search of the one lost sheep. In the children’s picture book the shepherd and even the perfect, fluffy sheep look happy surrounded by beautiful green pastures and mountains, both underneath a beautiful blue sky. The reality, in first-century Palestine, is that a shepherd must have been crazy to leave ninety-nine sheep behind and travel the dangerous, unknown, and hard terrains of the mountains for one lonely sheep.

Who would realistically do this? God would. God would do this for you. Because out of one hundred, one thousand, one million, one billion sheep in his flock, God loves you and He will go after you.

Notice that in the parable it’s not the shepherd who loses the sheep. It’s the sheep that went astray. We are that one sheep. We expect God to love only those who listen to Him and follow His commandments. We forget that God does not love by the boundaries of this world. His love is immeasurable and powerful because God is love. Where we limit our love to those who are undeserving, where we neglect those who disobey or do not follow orders—God gives them His love. He follows these lost sheep, and when they are ready, He guides them home.

In the first reading the Israelites have been called back home after being in exile. They have been in the wilderness, and the Biblical passage describes the way they need to travel from Babylon to Jerusalem. Normally it’s a dangerous and rough journey, but God is with them in preparing the way for them to come home. Every mountain and hill is made low and the rugged lands will be made plain and easy to travel. Here is God gathering his lost sheep and leading them home.

“A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.”

Back in my senior year of college, my lost years, I found myself on my knees lovingly admiring the altar. The place of sacrificial love. I kept thinking about the lost sheep and painfully acknowledged that it was me. I kept thinking that I wasn’t the sheep from my childhood picture book. I wasn’t “fluffy and perfect.” I was a mess. Dirty. Broken. Defeated. I realized that I was looking at myself through the world’s eyes and wrongly thought I didn’t deserve love. But God’s love knows no boundaries. The sheep in the picture book is “perfect” because God always sees you as his perfect child. In the Catholic Church looking at Jesus on the cross, truly knowing that the good shepherd had walked through the wilderness to find me and bring me home—I believed him when he told me he loves me. God’s love is unconditional and no matter how long ago you’ve gone astray, what mountain or valley you’re lost in, no matter how deep of a mess you’ve made of things, if you haven’t gone to Mass in years, or you carry anger or guilt, nothing that you do will take away from God’s love for you. The good shepherd is in search for his lost sheep to come back home. And He will help you to “make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Image Credit: The Lost Sheep [Public Domain]

He’s Jealous for You

“Thus says the LORD of hosts:
I am intensely jealous for Zion,
stirred to jealous wrath for her.” -Zechariah 8:2

God wants your heart with such an intense ferocity.

He always has. He always will. On the cross, when He said “I thirst,” He was thirsting for you.

Today’s first reading and some popular worship songs describe God’s love as jealous or reckless. Some people argue against that and say, “No, that can’t be possible. That doesn’t sound like God’s love.” But the truth is that it is indeed the reality of this wild love of the Lord for us that is so far beyond our comprehension. To us, it seems reckless, but to Him, it’s exactly how things are supposed to be. God is love and mercy itself, poured out fully and freely without ever counting the cost.

Jesus just gives, and gives, and gives some more. He loves, and loves, and loves…forever. In every moment.

Jesus’ love is jealous and reckless because He took on human flesh to show us the Father’s love. He made Himself an outcast so we could be set free. Through His death and resurrection, He ripped open Heaven because He wants to be with us forever. He puts His whole self in the bread of the Eucharist so we can receive Him and adore Him.

Jesus knows we sin. He knows we mess up over and over again. He knows some people turn away and never come back. He knows some people hate Him. Yet He gives, and gives, and gives. And He loves, and loves, and loves.

Can we open our hearts to receive the extent of Jesus’ jealous, longing cry to love us? Can we declare our love and longing for Him in response?

He loves you so. He wants you all for Himself.

Amen and amen!

The Art… or Heart of Christian Hospitality

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment is the greatest… and He more or less gives two answers. (Jesus is very clever like that.)  The first commandment is the greatest and “the second is like it.”

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:37-40


Jesus teaches us that loving God with our whole heart, mind, and soul is inherently connected to loving others. 


I recently listened to a Catholic podcast on hospitality (for link to the podcast episode, see below or click here – I highly recommend listening!).  This has had me thinking and praying…  What does hospitality mean for us as Christians and what does it look like lived out?  I know it can look different for each person, depending on stage of life, vocation, etc, so it calls us to pray about what it looks like for each of us.  But at its heart, hospitality is a universal Christian call.  One of the priests on the podcast makes a beautiful connection between hospitality and receptivity.  In fact, ‘warm reception’ is a synonym for hospitality.  This receptivity, or openness, is not only at the heart of a hospitable person who opens their door to warmly welcome a visitor, but also at the heart of the visitor who openly accepts (receives) this gesture.  Being hospitable doesn’t require a perfectly clean home, the ability to cook a fabulous meal, or having a guest room – it requires a heart open to a visitor, or any person you encounter.  At the heart of Christian hospitality is a quality of being present to the person and the moment.  Thusfar, I’ve spoken of hospitality in specific terms of welcoming a guest, which is what I initially think of when I hear the word.  While this is a very tangible and beautiful example of hospitality, it is a specific example and many of us can think hospitality doesn’t really apply to us unless we often welcome visitors into our home.  (Though I do hope we will think of these things the next time we do host a friend or family member in town). 

The Christian essence of hospitality is its sacrificial and serving nature.  It’s the sacrifice of your time, your energy, yourself to receive another person, even, and especially, when it’s unexpected or last minute.  This can happen with a visitor from out of town, or a stranger at church who strikes up a conversation maybe looking for someone to talk to for a moment, or something as simple as being present and receptive to the person working the register at the coffee shop or grocery store.  For many of us, welcoming visitors into our homes may not happen often, but we all encounter strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – others – everyday.  These are all our neighbors.  Our current cultural challenge is to be present or to be receptive to our neighbors…  to love our neighbors… to welcome each as though he or she is Christ.  This can be more simple than we think.  Making eye contact with the person ringing up my coffee order, instead of checking my phone.  Saying hello to her and asking “how’s your day?”  Taking a moment to ask an acquaintance at church or work how he is doing.  Being receptive to those around us, as Christ is to us in every moment.  The two commandments Christ speaks of today are so interwoven because loving God is to receive from Him… and this moves us to love to our neighbors.  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  When we love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul, we are transformed to see every person for who they are – a soul loved by God, a soul whose very human nature reflects God.  We see Christ in them.  And we learn to welcome them as such. 

In our culture of inwardness, where it is easier to stay inside of ourselves, in our bubble, and not extend ourselves out into the reality around us, we can easily begin to lose touch with our call and ability to be present.  This not only challenges our ability to extend hospitality, but also to receive the hospitality of others.  We feel bad if someone offers to help us…we don’t want to inconvenience them…it will be easier to just take care of this on our own…  We are uncomfortable receiving. (Listen to the podcast for more on this).  This doesn’t mean we must forgo all sense of personal boundaries and, for instance, lose the ability to end a conversation when necessary or decline a visitor at a truly inconvenient time for your family.  Though, if we fail to practice and become aware of how to live hospitality and receptivity in our day-to-day lives, we may miss opportunities to share Christ’s warm reception and hospitality with others when He is calling us to.  It can be a great challenge to stay present to our reality.  But it is in this very reality that we meet God and others.  This is the receptive heart of hospitality – being present to opportunities, big or small, to serve another. 

It may just be my perception… reading through my modern lenses and bias… but in the first reading today, I perceived Naomi being uncomfortable with Ruth joining her.  As though it would be easier if Ruth stayed with her native people and Naomi was able to go on her journey alone.  But Ruth has a heart full of love for God and wants to be with her mother-in-law Naomi out of her total love – heart, mind, and soul – for the Lord.  His love takes us outside of ourselves and our inner worlds and connects us to each other in the tangible world.  It leads us to our neighbors.  But the source of this kind of service must be the love of God.  We must first allow ourselves to receive His love so we can emulate this authentic love to our neighbors. 

As the Lord leads each of us into our vocation, our mission, or as He guides those of us already in our vocation, I pray we are each given opportunities to extend Christian hospitality in many ways.  Some days it may be sacrificing time you ‘need’ to get something done to be present to a friend, a parent, your spouse or child, or a fellow friar or sister in your community. And sometimes it may be hosting visitors you know through a friend of a friend and welcoming them into your imperfect (maybe even slightly disorganized) home with the respect and attentiveness you’d give to Christ. The Christian host is not defined by the perfection of her home, but by the warmth and openness of her heart.  But a Christian does not have to own a home to be hospitable or to be a host in the Spirit of Christ.  He can be a young person, living anywhere, who extends a warm, open heart to those he encounters. 

Let’s pray together for an awareness of what Christian hospitality can look like for each of us – in our individual stages of life, in our vocations, or wherever we are on our path of discerning our vocations and the mission God is calling us to. 

Lord, how are you calling me to be more hospitable in my life?  How can I be more receptive of others?  Help me to receive your love more deeply into the crevices of my heart, mind, and soul.  Transform me and conform me to your heart, so I may understand what it means to be truly hospitable, to truly love my neighbor.  Thank you, Lord.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we pray all of these things.  Amen.         


Catholic Stuff You Should Know Podcast – “Chateau de la Rode”

An Infinite Love

edith stein

I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD

These words were read at Mass today in celebration of a very special saint of our times, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). A saint very close to my heart, St. Teresa Benedicta is one of the main reasons for my conversion back to my faith.

Edith was raised in a Jewish family in the early 1900s in Germany, eventually converting through an encounter with Christ through philosophy and the lives of the saints. A prominent philosopher, teacher, and speaker, Edith earnestly searched for the answers to who we are as human beings, what that means regarding our call to relationship with God. She died in Auschwitz during World War II, serving others whole-heartedly until her final moments.

The words from Scripture today are from the book of Hosea, words which God spoke to Israel. He desired an all-consuming and faithful relationship with His People. Even in their unfaithfulness, He kept pursuing them with this love.

The reason the Scripture reading was picked for St. Teresa Benedicta’s feast is that she lived her vocation as a human person, in particular, as a woman, to the fullest. She knew that she was created by Love and for Love. She had been captivated by the love of God, and in that, felt she could not contain that message of His love. Her life is a witness of what it truly means to allow God to love us.

When I read the words of the Scripture reading today, in all honesty, my heart is uneasy. I desire to be loved with such unconditional, all-consuming, and infinite love. But how often do I settle for less? In my own heart, I find that when I resist these words from God, it is because I doubt He is enough.

While we each have these desires for such love, it is so much easier to settle. We fill our hearts with finite things which give temporary satisfaction, in order to fill that inner void. But these temporal goods, while gifts from God, are not enough. They are finite. They are gifts which ultimately are meant to point us to Him. 

Today, as we pray through these words of Scripture, place yourself in a position of receptivity. Hear them as Jesus speaking them directly to you. Let us ask ourselves, “What are those things which I grasp onto to try and fill that spot in my heart meant only for God?”

Give these desires to Him, and allow Him to fill them. Give him the doubt in your heart, and allow Him to surprise you!

As we celebrate today’s feast, let us ask for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to intercede for us. She received the love of Christ the Bridegroom, trusting that her heart’s desires were given to Her by God for a reason. She was one who was not afraid to allow Herself to be loved.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, intercede for us and help us to surrender wholeheartedly to the one who loves us. Give us the interior freedom to receive His all-consuming love without fear!

For more information on St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross’s life, go to http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_19981011_edith_stein_en.html

Recommended reading on St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

Life in a Jewish Family: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Jewish-Family-Autobiography-Collected/dp/0935216049

Essays on Woman: https://www.amazon.com/Essays-Woman-Collected-English-German/dp/0935216596

Your Heart Is My Home

About 8 months ago, while on a retreat, I glanced through the retreat house’s library to borrow a book for the weekend.  Though I can’t even recall the title of the book, the spiritual nugget that the Lord gave me through it has stuck with me.  And on today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I am reminded of this nugget. 

The book was a sort of prayerful and guided walk through St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, and while I barely had time to skim the book, this specific principle stuck with me.  The author encouraged the reader to prayerfully discover a personal representation of the place within her (or his) soul where she meets and dwells with God.  I wish I could more accurately remember how the author guided this meditation, but the point is, it was an opportunity to create a visual “place” that resonates with you personally to help you enter into the presence of God in the innermost chambers of your heart and soul. 

For me, as I took time to allow the Lord to show me this “place,” I began to visualize a flower.  The flower petals opened gently, and there, safe within the beauty of the petals, I saw a tiny version of myself.  I was “Honey I shrunk the Kids”–sized, peacefully dwelling in the center bed of this flower.  A peace came over me as I received the gift of this image from the Lord.  It was like He had given me a new way to enter in to His presence in prayer through the uniqueness of this image of my heart and soul. 

Even though I began this prayerful meditation trying to visualize my own heart, as I sat with the image, I felt this security of being enfolded in the Lord’s Heart.  It is difficult to describe the experience, but I think it represents the reality of the exchange of hearts we partake in when we are in covenant with the Lord.  A Christian covenant is more than a contractual exchange of goods—it is an exchange of persons.  And we are loved enough by Him to be in a covenant relationship, a dynamic exchange of love, with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our heart, the place where He dwells, is swept up in His own precious and Sacred Heart.  I believe it is this mutual abiding of hearts, mine and His, that I was experiencing in prayer.

I invite you to spend some time in prayer, asking the Lord to help you see your own heart in which He dwells, and so come into contact with His Heart.  Today’s readings illustrating Jesus’ role as our Good Shepherd remind us of His overwhelming love for each of us.  He will go out in search of you, His single lost and beloved sheep, to bring you back into His Sacred Heart.  He loves you personally, deeply, and unashamedly. 

Allow yourself to sit and receive this immeasurable love of His Sacred Heart today.  Dwell in the joy of your covenantal relationship with Him.  May this remind us that Jesus’ love is this genuinely personal for each and every person.  I pray that we can receive this great love of our Savior each and every day, so we can in turn reflect this love to every soul who has yet to experience this love.  Right now, I hope you will take a few moments to dwell in the reception of His love for you.

“Why should I love God? …if one seeks for God’s claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved us.”

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God

To further your meditation, check out this song that guides me right to His heart… Will Reagan — “Your Heart is My Home” Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube