Monday, September 16, 2013

Falling in Love

Do you remember what you did on September 12th, 2001?  Most Americans spent at least part of the day praying, and many attended a church service.  When I saw the Gospel reading for Mass this September 12th, I was immediately reminded of being at Mass on 9/12/11 and being dumbstruck when the Gospel was proclaimed.

As you may know, the readings for Ordinary Time follow a three year cycle.  In 2001, as in 2013--, the Gospel at daily Mass centered on Luke, and September 12th reading was from Luke 6:27ff:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"To you who hear I say,
love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well..."
What are we supposed to make of these word--on the day after 9/11, no less?  What how do we understand Jesus' hardest of teachings in the face of rouge regimes or terrorists intent on destroying innocent life?  It is natural to want to defend life, to seek justice, and perhaps even to desire revenge.  It is clearly supernatural to respond with love and blessings and prayers and the other, un-struck cheek.
It seems to me that the only way this is possible is thanks to the gift of God's grace.  In other words, it is only by recognizing how deeply we have been loved, and are being loved, that we could ever respond in such a radical fashion.  In fact, I think that following Jesus through this very narrow gate is possible only if we have first fallen in love.

The following prayer, attributed to the former head of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., lays the foundation for an authentic Christian desire for peace.  Whether it be on a personal or international level, this prayer provides practical advice about properly disposing our hearts, even in the midst of our deeply flawed world:

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.

 What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
Isn't it time to fall in love and to stay in love?  What if we woke up each morning expecting to fall in love all over again?  Don't you think we would find ourselves filled grace, ever more capable of loving as Jesus is clearly calling us to love?