Spiritual Reflections

Cardinal Basil Hume OSB

The Mystery of Love

Too often people are brought up with a wrong concept of God and their reaction to Him is one of fear or apprehension. This can take many years to break down. The simple thought that God loves me, and the words used to describe human love such as warmth, intensity, strong, unreserved, all have a meaning in describing God's love. It is quite literally true that no one can, or will ever, love me more than God does; nor will any experience of mine ever, even in the dimmest way, reflect God's love for me. There are no limits to God.

When we ponder on what the Gospel tells us of Our Lord, we cannot fail to be moved and reassured. In Luke chapter 15 we see how enormously sensitive He was to tax collectors and sinners. Anyone who feels depressed and fears rejection by God should read quietly the whole of that chapter. There we read of the shepherd's concern for the one sheep out of a fold of a hundred which has strayed. The sheep may be lost in fog or wandering aimlessly but the shepherd is always in search of it. No matter how desperate our plight, we may always rely on the love which will never tire of seeking us out, whatever may be the burden of sin or guilt we carry. God is always there waiting for us. He waits, He does not force.

Love is an art to be learned.
It is a giving experience, a selfless act.
Every experience of love gives us yet another glimpse of the meaning of love in God himself.
Human love is the instrument we can use to explore the mystery of love which God is.

We are, as we go through life, like lovers in search of the Beloved. That is the only way to try and understand our response to Cod's love for us. We are lovers in search of the Beloved, simply because He is in search of each one of us and sees each one as His Beloved.

Jesus had a human heart, an affectionate nature, and emotions like ours, never running wild or out of control as is sometimes the case with us. He knew the joys of human love and its pains. He loved Judas, but Judas was to betray Him. That hurt.

Yes, Jesus loved in a human way. Indeed, no-one loved more perfectly in a human way than He or knew better how to love as a friend. There was more, however, to Jesus' loving. His loving was an icon of His loving as God.

Love was a reality in God long before it ever became an experience between humans. It has been well said that the language of love belongs by right first to God. If we want to know what love truly is, then we shall not do so until we see God in vision. Then we shall see it in all its beauty and truth. Human love reflects divine love and, indeed, transmits it.

Friendship with God

Holiness involves friendship with God. The movement towards the realisation of God's love for us is similar to our relationship with other people. There comes a moment which we can never quite locate or catch, when an acquaintance becomes a friend. In a sense, the change from one to the other has been taking place over a period of time. But there comes a point when we know we can trust the other; exchange confidences, keep each other's secrets: we are friends. There has to be a moment like that in our relationship with God. He ceases to be just a Sunday acquaintance and becomes a weekday friend.

Forgiveness

When we love we want to forgive. It is so with God. Remember the tax gatherer (Lk 18) at the back of the Temple not daring to raise his eves, in contrast to the Pharisee who prayed at the front boasting of his accomplishments. It was not he who was justified, but the tax gatherer who prayed:

"Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."

That is a most marvellous prayer. Who, praying that, can fail to hear in his or her heart those words of Our Lord on the Cross:

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

It is beautiful to receive God's forgiveness, and it is there for the taking.

God the tremendous lover

Always think of God as your lover. Therefore He wants to be with you, just as a lover always wants to be with the beloved. He wants your attention, as every lover wants the attention of the beloved. He wants to listen to you, as every lover wants to hear the voice of the beloved. If you turn to me and ask: 'Are you in love with God?" I would pause, hesitate and say: "I am not certain. But of one thing I am certain - that He is in love with me."

He wants also to whisper a word of love into my ear. It may be a word of forgiveness, it may be a word of healing, it may be a word of comfort, it may even be a word of rebuke. He speaks to us deep down. Isn't it sad if the beloved disappoints the lover through negligence, or through walking away through stupidity.

Two great qualities of God: His fidelity to us and His tenderness. I love that idea of God being faithful to me. However much I go wrong, however far I may stray, whatever follies I may engage in, He remains faithful to me.

In the person I love is the One I am seeking. If I find myself loving a person it is only because I am trying to find, in and beyond that person, the God who is Love.

In the person who loves me I discover the One who loves me most. Because I love, I experience from that other person just a little bit of the way God feels about me. In the person who attracts me is the God who is drawing me. When I find a person I love I always take it as a message of God's love. The more you love, the more messages there are.

God's tutors

You may not be in love with God, but God is most certainly in love with you. Always remember that. He has given you two tutors who will give you your first lessons in mature religious response. They are called love and pain. It is love which will attach you to God, and pain will detach you from exclusive entanglement with the goods of this world. Once you begin to respond to these two tutors you will want to discover more about that God who is in love with you. You will then grow to appreciate what God has told us in the Scriptures, and what He gives us through the Sacraments.

He teaches me in the love I experience and the suffering I know The latter to detach me from this world, the former a foretaste of that endless now of ecstatic love which is union with Him. Then, our journey completed, a journey made with Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, happiness is achieved.

"Like an eagle that watches its nest, that hovers over its young..." (Deut 32:11) The image of the eagle watching over its nest is a beautiful one. The transcendence and majesty of God does not impose, does not smother us, but invites and beckons us to open our hearts and feed on His love. To hear the voice of God demands solitude, silence and stillness. In our society today there is too much noise, both around and within us, and the quiet voice of God becomes stifled. But in a moment of gentle stillness God not only reveals something of Himself, but transforms us too.

I thirst

When Our Lord said these words, there is no doubt that in that situation of intense suffering, He was in need of drink. But Our Lord was also in need of love. After all, the whole world had turned against Him. He was being tortured, crucified and insulted. Those are moments when we experience the need for love, to be wanted by, as well as to want, another.

Our Lord was expressing that need - God speaking through the humanity of Christ. That is an astonishing thought, God thirsting for me. Too many people doubt God's love for them; too many people seem to be unaware that God wants them. He does not like our sins, but he cannot help loving us the sinners.

Kneel in prayer at the foot of the Cross
and let Him whisper in your ear:
I thirst,
I thirst for you.

 


Too often people are brought up with a wrong concept of God and their reaction to Him is one of fear or apprehension. This can take many years to break down. The simple thought that God loves me, and the words used to describe human love such as warmth, intensity, strong, unreserved, all have a meaning in describing God's love. It is quite literally true that no one can, or will ever, love me more than God does; nor will any experience of mine ever, even in the dimmest way, reflect God's love for me. There are no limits to God.

When we ponder on what the Gospel tells us of Our Lord, we cannot fail to be moved and reassured. In Luke chapter 15 we see how enormously sensitive He was to tax collectors and sinners. Anyone who feels depressed and fears rejection by God should read quietly the whole of that chapter. There we read of the shepherd's concern for the one sheep out of a fold of a hundred which has strayed. The sheep may be lost in fog or wandering aimlessly but the shepherd is always in search of it. No matter how desperate our plight, we may always rely on the love which will never tire of seeking us out, whatever may be the burden of sin or guilt we carry. God is always there waiting for us. He waits, He does not force.

Love is an art to be learned.
It is a giving experience, a selfless act.
Every experience of love gives us yet another glimpse of the meaning of love in God himself.
Human love is the instrument we can use to explore the mystery of love which God is.

We are, as we go through life, like lovers in search of the Beloved. That is the only way to try and understand our response to Cod's love for us. We are lovers in search of the Beloved, simply because He is in search of each one of us and sees each one as His Beloved.

Jesus had a human heart, an affectionate nature, and emotions like ours, never running wild or out of control as is sometimes the case with us. He knew the joys of human love and its pains. He loved Judas, but Judas was to betray Him. That hurt.

Yes, Jesus loved in a human way. Indeed, no-one loved more perfectly in a human way than He or knew better how to love as a friend. There was more, however, to Jesus' loving. His loving was an icon of His loving as God.

Love was a reality in God long before it ever became an experience between humans. It has been well said that the language of love belongs by right first to God. If we want to know what love truly is, then we shall not do so until we see God in vision. Then we shall see it in all its beauty and truth. Human love reflects divine love and, indeed, transmits it.

Friendship with God

Holiness involves friendship with God. The movement towards the realisation of God's love for us is similar to our relationship with other people. There comes a moment which we can never quite locate or catch, when an acquaintance becomes a friend. In a sense, the change from one to the other has been taking place over a period of time. But there comes a point when we know we can trust the other; exchange confidences, keep each other's secrets: we are friends. There has to be a moment like that in our relationship with God. He ceases to be just a Sunday acquaintance and becomes a weekday friend.

Forgiveness

When we love we want to forgive. It is so with God. Remember the tax gatherer (Lk 18) at the back of the Temple not daring to raise his eves, in contrast to the Pharisee who prayed at the front boasting of his accomplishments. It was not he who was justified, but the tax gatherer who prayed:

"Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."

That is a most marvellous prayer. Who, praying that, can fail to hear in his or her heart those words of Our Lord on the Cross:

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

It is beautiful to receive God's forgiveness, and it is there for the taking.

God the tremendous lover

Always think of God as your lover. Therefore He wants to be with you, just as a lover always wants to be with the beloved. He wants your attention, as every lover wants the attention of the beloved. He wants to listen to you, as every lover wants to hear the voice of the beloved. If you turn to me and ask: 'Are you in love with God?" I would pause, hesitate and say: "I am not certain. But of one thing I am certain - that He is in love with me."

He wants also to whisper a word of love into my ear. It may be a word of forgiveness, it may be a word of healing, it may be a word of comfort, it may even be a word of rebuke. He speaks to us deep down. Isn't it sad if the beloved disappoints the lover through negligence, or through walking away through stupidity.

Two great qualities of God: His fidelity to us and His tenderness. I love that idea of God being faithful to me. However much I go wrong, however far I may stray, whatever follies I may engage in, He remains faithful to me.

In the person I love is the One I am seeking. If I find myself loving a person it is only because I am trying to find, in and beyond that person, the God who is Love.

In the person who loves me I discover the One who loves me most. Because I love, I experience from that other person just a little bit of the way God feels about me. In the person who attracts me is the God who is drawing me. When I find a person I love I always take it as a message of God's love. The more you love, the more messages there are.

God's tutors

You may not be in love with God, but God is most certainly in love with you. Always remember that. He has given you two tutors who will give you your first lessons in mature religious response. They are called love and pain. It is love which will attach you to God, and pain will detach you from exclusive entanglement with the goods of this world. Once you begin to respond to these two tutors you will want to discover more about that God who is in love with you. You will then grow to appreciate what God has told us in the Scriptures, and what He gives us through the Sacraments.

He teaches me in the love I experience and the suffering I know The latter to detach me from this world, the former a foretaste of that endless now of ecstatic love which is union with Him. Then, our journey completed, a journey made with Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, happiness is achieved.

"Like an eagle that watches its nest, that hovers over its young..." (Deut 32:11) The image of the eagle watching over its nest is a beautiful one. The transcendence and majesty of God does not impose, does not smother us, but invites and beckons us to open our hearts and feed on His love. To hear the voice of God demands solitude, silence and stillness. In our society today there is too much noise, both around and within us, and the quiet voice of God becomes stifled. But in a moment of gentle stillness God not only reveals something of Himself, but transforms us too.

I thirst

When Our Lord said these words, there is no doubt that in that situation of intense suffering, He was in need of drink. But Our Lord was also in need of love. After all, the whole world had turned against Him. He was being tortured, crucified and insulted. Those are moments when we experience the need for love, to be wanted by, as well as to want, another.

Our Lord was expressing that need - God speaking through the humanity of Christ. That is an astonishing thought, God thirsting for me. Too many people doubt God's love for them; too many people seem to be unaware that God wants them. He does not like our sins, but he cannot help loving us the sinners.

Kneel in prayer at the foot of the Cross
and let Him whisper in your ear:
I thirst,
I thirst for you.