God loves you. But I don’t feel God’s love.
God loves you. But how could God love me when I’ve messed up?
God loves you. But how can I know God loves me? Really know for certain?
God loves you. But how could God say he loves me when he didn’t help me when I most needed him?
God loves us and yet we are so fearful. So insecure. We insist God needs to prove his love to us beyond a shadow of a doubt.
For many years, many more than I’d care to admit, I doubted God could love me. Why did he let me have a stroke at twenty-one? What about this weakness and that disordered attachment? How could he love me when I’m not all that I should be? How could God love me when I can’t even love myself?
I’ve also listened to the hearts of others whispering their secret fear that they were ultimately unlovable or unloved by their Father in heaven.
When I was praying with today’s Gospel passage, I was overwhelmed with how Jesus loves us. Loves me.
Pause right now and read this passage from the Gospel of John, replacing every “them” with your name. Read it slowly. Read it several times. As you eavesdrop on Jesus’ prayer to his Father, listen to what he thinks about you. What he desires for you. What he feels for you. “I pray not only for Sr Kathryn, but also for those who will believe in me through her word…. And I have given her the glory you gave me, so that she may be one [with us], as we are one, I in Sr Kathryn and you in me,…that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved her even as you loved me. Father, she is your gift to me….
God loves me, we each can say it. We may not feel his love because our emotions are caught up and “bent out of shape” by the turmoil of our inner world and the situations in which we live. The Father’s love is deeper. He loves you so much he has made of you a gift to his Son Jesus.
God loves me, we each can say it. In this passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is praying about his apostles who had certainly messed up many times during their three years with him and were about to fail miserably as Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and crucified. Jesus knew these dear friends of his through and through. Yet Jesus prays to his Father with confidence that even as the Father loves his Son, so the Father loves them. He doesn’t say the Father loves them a little bit. Be certain that the Father loves you as he loves his own Son.
God loves me, we each can say it. You are the Father’s gift to Jesus, his beloved Son. Anyone on earth who professes love for another can be trusted more or less. Some more. Some persons less. We all know the countless reasons why we may decide that we can’t trust someone who tells us they love us. And at times we may have good reason to be wary of entrusting ourselves to them. God, however, is not a creature. He does not love us to get something from us for himself. He created, saved, and sanctifies us so that we may be one, as the Father and Jesus are one, that we may be brought to perfection as one.
God loves me, we each can say it. God’s love is not diminished when unfortunate or tragic things happen. After many years and many sorrows it is clear to me that these are the times when God’s love is multiplied and overflows in a tender compassion that far exceeds what even the most loving of mothers could show. God is so good, so great, so beautiful, so true that he can take any and every tragic moment in our life and use it to advance our ultimate glory: that the love with which the Father loved Jesus may be in you and Jesus in you.”
This may be a bit of a stretch in reading this passage of John in this way, for it is clearly addressed to all the apostles and all Jesus’ followers throughout the ages together. I can imagine, however, that each of those who heard these words from the Master’s lips heard them spoken to himself personally and to all of them together as they became a community, as they became one, immersed in the love the Father and the Son had for each other, in the confidence of their mutual love. They knew God’s love not because they felt it, deserved it, could prove it, or had evidence of it. They knew this dynamic and living love because Jesus said it was so. And so it is.
This love of God for us exists, and in that, we can put our trust more than in anything else in the world. In his extravagant forever love, Jesus has given you the glory the Father has given him from the foundation of the world.
Praying with this passage of Scripture
Lectio Divina is a way of listening to God as he speaks in his Word. It is a practice of communicating with God through Scripture and attending to God’s presence and what he wishes to tell us. In this slow and prayerful reading of the Word of God, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit who forms us into the image of Christ.
There are four movement in Lectio Divina: Read (lectio), Meditate (meditation), Pray (oratio), Contemplate (contemplation).
Begin by finding a still space to pray. Breathe deeply and become quieter within. Abandon any agenda, worries or thoughts you bring to this prayer and entrust these things to the merciful care of God. Ask for the grace to be receptive to what God will speak to you through this Scripture reading. Grant me, Jesus Divine Master, to be able to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God and your unfathomable riches. Grant that your word penetrate my soul; guide my steps, and brighten my way till the day dawns and darkness dissipates, you who live and reign forever and ever Amen.
Begin by slowly and meditatively reading your Scripture passage out loud. Listen for a particular word or phrase that speaks to you at this moment and sit with it for a time.
All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Read the passage a second time. As you re-engage the text, let the word or phrase that stood out become your invitation to speak from your heart with God who wishes to share his heart with you. Allow this word or phrase to wash over you and permeate your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to repeat this phrase quietly and gently for a period of time.
Read the text a third time. Listen for what God is saying to you. Speak heart to heart with God. Notice the feelings that this conversation with God raises up within you. Share with God what you notice about your response to this conversation. You may wish to return to repeating the phrase quietly and gently, allowing it to permeate you more and more deeply.
Read the text a final time. Now be still and rest in God’s embrace. Ask God to give you a gift to take with you from this prayer. You might ask God if he is inviting you to do some action, for instance, make some change in your thoughts, attitudes or reactions, in the way you speak or how you treat others. Thank God for this gift and invitation as you conclude your prayer.
Photo by Earth Minister Coke’lat “Brown” Commander via Pexels