When I was an 18-year-old college freshman, a chaplain at my school (Fr. Michael Ford) said the following words during a homily that have stayed with me all these years:
“Expect to be loved and be loving in return.”
Back then I was young and filled with insecurities. It felt a bit presumptuous to expect to be loved. Who was I, after all, to be worthy of such love?
It reminds me of something a friend said the other day. We were talking about the new love song by James Arthur – “Say You Won’t Let Go.” Assuming he wrote this song for his real-life spouse, my friend exclaimed: “How lucky this person is… to be loved like that!” Beneath her words was the subtle implication that she didn’t feel loved in this all-encompassing way.
I heard about a recent survey looking at happiness and well-being in adults, and 17 percent of all respondents said that they did not feel loved. How heartbreaking! I wish I could have found each and every one of that 17 percent and told them how wrong they were!
The journey of Lent and its culmination in the Resurrection on Easter Sunday shows us in the most profound way that we ARE loved.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
We were created to be loved by God. In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen describes it in the following way: “Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.” Can you fathom such a love? Can you fully comprehend the impact this Divine Love can have on the way you see yourself and the way you live your life?
And then we turn our thoughts to the second part of Fr. Ford’s advice—“be loving in return.” When Jesus gathered his disciples at the Last Supper he gave them this directive: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Parable after parable teaches us that we must love one another.
Yes—being born into God’s love comes with responsibility. One that we should welcome.
Sometimes I think our world has become less good at loving. People are defined as winners and losers rather than brothers and sisters. Cruelty prevails over compassion. Bigotry overshadows our shared humanity.
This is not what God hoped for when he breathed life into our souls. It’s not what Jesus wanted when he commanded us to love one another.
I invite and encourage you to reflect on Fr. Ford’s words during this season of Lent: “Expect to be loved and be loving in return.”
How will you acknowledge God’s great love for you?
How will you share God’s love with others?