There is nothing you can ever do to make God love you less. Nothing.
This is very hard for us human creatures to wrap our heads around: a love so generous we can’t do anything to lessen it. Jesus came to make this point perfectly and tangibly clear through His life and death. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus illustrates this in a brilliant, multifaceted story that not only affected His listeners back then, but should rock our world today.
I’ve heard this parable for over fifty years. I’ve heard countless sermons as I imagine you have too, and read commentaries to help tease out deeper meanings within. Yet at times, I can still fall into the trap of thinking it impossible for God to continue to love me, a habitual sinner and screw up extraordinaire. I would have expected more from myself by now, and am grateful for God’s abundant, patient, ineffable love.
This past weekend we had the pleasure to attend the Catholic Answers “Restoring Marriage Today” Conference. What was so evident was the deep joy emanating from each speaker. They were sharing the truth in love so that we all had a deeper understanding at what is at stake in living authentic, loving, sacrificial marriages ourselves.
On the final day, the speaker panel had gathered to take questions. Someone asked why Jesus had to go through the crucifixion. “If only a drop of His Precious Blood would have been enough, wouldn’t a papercut have sufficed?” I hear this question from time to time myself and was interested in what the speakers had to say. “God doesn’t just do the minimum, His love is extravagant.”
In dying in the way Christ did, he left no doubt about the lengths He would take for love of you and me. Loving us with an infinite, unconditional love, He then stretched out His arms and proved it. “Man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
Had you ever thought of the crucifixion in this way before? Love to the extreme. Freely given, freely chosen. I often will point to the crucifix on the wall in my office, and tell couples preparing for marriage that this is what real love looks like. If that doesn’t scare them away, nothing will. It is a perspective we all need to ponder especially during Lent and in the challenges of life.
This leads me to the other “nothing” I want to elaborate on. Nothing happens outside of God’s Providential knowledge. Nothing.
I remember reading this quote from Monsignor Giussani that impacted me deeply and has stayed with me, especially in those moments when nothing seems to make any sense at all. “Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain…because everything is for His plan.”
As I near the anniversary, almost one year ago, when I survived being hit by a car, I know I have spent a lot of time pondering that very statement. Had I not the faith and trust that God was using this seemingly senseless event for good reason, something like that could have caused great bitterness and anger in my life.
Nothing is coincidental, karma, or even random. Nothing. Take that perception and apply it to the many moments in your life that appear meaningless. When things go south, blow up in our faces, or just hurt like crazy, try and remember that God has a purpose in it. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
So “nothing” after all, is really in fact, something. It is not a void or absence or deficiency, but perhaps it is just a mystery. A Divine mystery at that. Like all mysteries, time will reveal, often in bits and piece, the greater purpose. These mysteries I believe, are also opportunities for us to practice letting go, trusting in the Love that never ends, and patiently waiting to be amazed at the work God is doing in the place we call “nothing.”