"I love you, Grandpa." These words are frequently spoken by my 5-year-old grandson. They often are accompanied by a hug. He is very generous with his love as "Grandma" hears the same refrain. Love for and from a grandchild is a special privilege. Love extended to a grandchild is amplified in return in special ways. The love I feel for my grandchild has given me insights into God's love. I know how deeply I love my grandchild and thus have a greater sense of God's infinite love.
February is the month for celebrating love on Valentine's Day. Many of the expressions of love on that day are heartfelt and generous. Society, however, has to a large extent made the day into a commercial extravaganza. Estimates range upward to $9 billion that will be spent on this one day. Words, hugs and other actions can express our love more personally than cards and other tokens.
God's love is limitless and thus extended to all. Jesus, throughout his life, showed his love through care for those most in need, including those who were on the margins of society or even outcasts. Widows, children, lepers and people with other infirmities were frequent recipients of his loving words and actions. Jesus saw others differently than the norm of his time. Tax collectors and prostitutes were welcomed. A many dying on a cross with Christ would receive love and forgiveness. How far are we willing to go?
"Do you love me ... (then) feed my sheep" (John 21:17). Throughout his public life, Jesus demonstrated that love was expressed in the literal feeding of others. Meals were an important occasion for witnessing to the inclusion of those whom others might reject. Jesus demonstrated concern for those lacking nourishment through the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Feeding, of course, also was meant symbolically of other dimensions of caring for others.
Faith should inspire and propel us to love all. As individuals and a society we need to open our arms in an ever expanding embrace. At a time in our society when some use political labels to distance or even push to the margins those who have different viewpoints, faith inspires us to go beyond toleration to love. God's love promotes reconciliation. Faith leads us to work for a love that is healing. Miracles of reconciliation can happen at the personal and societal levels.
One of the most challenging statements that Christ made regarding a limitless love was: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44). This standard challenges us especially at times of violence and war. Jesus told Peter to put down his sword. Promoting peace is a positive, loving action. Words and actions are signs of love.
To whom in our families, workplaces, communities, nation and the world do we need to demonstrate our love through words and actions? God loves all people. What is stopping us?
- Doyle is a member of Resurrection Catholic Church in Muncy and the Christian Social Concerns Committee of United Churches of Lycoming County.