Loved By God

02-05-2023From the Pastor's DeskMonsignor Ellsworth R. Walden

The old Baltimore catechism asked, “Why did God make you?” The answer: “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.” First and foremost God created the world and created us in His very own image simply because He loves us and wants to share His life and love with us in this world and forever with Him in heaven. One of the thoughts we grapple with is why God loves me personally. We know we are not perfect, have said and done stupid and sinful things, and are not always as attentive and focused at Mass and in prayer as we would like to be and want to be. It is easy to trust we are lovable when we do and say good things. But we must never think we are unlovable to God. As I have written over and over again, the words of St. Paul in Romans 5:8 are perfectly to the point: “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” When we were estranged from God and not giving Him our time, attention, love ,and gratitude He never gave up loving us. That is why He came Himself in the person of Jesus.

The first evening of our Parish Retreat that will take place February 26, 27, and 28 is entitled, “Knowing the Love of God.” It is one thing to know we are loved by God, it is quite another to really take that thought to heart and believe it. In Luke 5:1-11 we have the account of Jesus asking Peter and the other fishermen to let Him stand in their boat a little from the shore so he could preach to the crowd. Once He finished preaching He told them to go out and put their nets in the water in the place He directed. Peter’s skeptical response was, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” He was the professional fisherman, not Jesus. When they caught almost more fish than they could handle Peter was humbled and disappointed in himself and “he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” He knew he should trust Jesus and His love for Him. Some of the things that we can do are giving without counting the cost, forgiving from the heart, and just being grateful to do good and love as Jesus did. Jesus trusted that His love for Peter would transform him as He said, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

In his human imperfection St. Peter models all of us. The challenge is to get to the point in our lives with God where we truly believe He loves us as we are at this very moment in our lives. These words from 1 John 3:1 are so inviting, “Think of the love the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.” That is the love we all hunger and seek in our lives. Our lives will always be incomplete with a certain inner restlessness until we trust, believe, and embrace that love with all our heart, soul, minds, and strength.

I offer Psalm 51 for your prayerful reflection:

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born, a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice, holocausts offered on your altar.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.

Psalm Prayer: Father, he who knew no sin was made sin for us, to save us and restore us to your friendship. Look upon our contrite heart and afflicted spirit and heal our troubled conscience, so that in the joy and strength of the Holy Spirit we may proclaim your praise and glory before all the nations.