Loving Jesus vs. Being in Love with Jesus
Loving someone or something and Being in Love with someone or something are totally different.
I love many people and things. I love my family, my friends, my ornery cat, and Italian food. Granted, I love each to a different degree. My family is closest to my heart, dearest to me in part because I have seen what happens when it is gone and malfunctioning, but also because I have spent the most time with them. And while I don't always enjoy spending time with them, anyone who knows me knows better than to even look wrong at any one of them unless they wish to suffer my wrath. My friends have varying levels of “love,” but I care deeply for each of them, and I try to show this by spending some time with them, praying for them, texting them randomly. Again, if someone attacks my friends, my claws come out, and I get defensive. I think we all know about the ornery cats that keep you up all night that you still feel guilty for not petting as you walk out the door when they want to cuddle (if not cats, think dog, computer, or something else). And Italian food speaks for itself.
Do we love Jesus? Do we count Him as close as family or friends? He should be closer. Do we spend as much time with Him (or wanting Him) as we do with (or wanting) our cats, dogs, or computers? Do we get defensive when He is abused? Do we make an effort to spend time with Him? Do we feel guilty when we leave church because we know we should spend more time with Him?
Is loving Jesus enough? I don't think it is. Loving someone or something is fine and dandy, but as I said before, I love my family, my cat, and Italian food. And Jesus said that if we, compared to our love of Him, do not hate our families and loved ones, that we do not have real love for Him. So, while loving Christ is a great place to start, what we need to be is in a relationship. We need not just to love Jesus but to be in love with Him.
But what does “Being in Love” look like? Well, if I count my friends who have successful marriages or deep dating relationships as partial models, it has some of the following characteristics. When someone is in love, he yearns for time spent with the other. He looks forward to every chance he can get to be with his love. He goes out of his way to bring his love things that will brighten her day, will remind her of him, and will minister to the needs she may have. He watches the clock anxiously, waiting for when he can go and take her out or talk to her and stalks her facebook page or texts with her while he waits. He talks constantly about her (even if his friends are sick of it) and loves taking her places. There is no such thing as “too close” or “too much time together” for these two, and partings are prolonged with gentle kisses or holding of hands.
Do we love Jesus even according to this human model? Do we yearn to spend time with Our Lord? Do welook forward to times where we can be in church, in adoration, praying, reading or scripture? Do we think of ways we can make God smile? Do we bring Him flowers – literal or spiritual? Do we count down the minutes until we can go spend time “sitting at the feet of Jesus?” Do we spend the time when we cannot be actively looking for what God is doing, listening to His Word, and talking to Him? Do we talk about God to our friends? Do we talk about the amazing things He has done in our lives on a regular basis? Are we ashamed to be seen with God out in public? Do we boast about being “in a relationship with Christ”? Do we ever dare to think that we've “spent enough time with God” and can now “go do other things”? Or do we sit and bemoan the fact that real life beckons and we must leave the still quiet where we can simply love and adore God?
Most – if not all of us – lack severely in many of those areas, yet Jesus showed us just how lacking thisview of love is when He came. He left behind His mantle of glory and beautiful crown. He forsook all His glory and entered into the womb of a young Jewish girl who opened her heart and body to Him. He stayed there, cocooned for nine beautiful months, clothing Himself in the garb of His creation. Then He entered the world He created as a weak, vulnerable, human infant with straw for His bed and the lowest of the low, shepherds, for His attendants. When He was threatened, He kept to His human vulnerability and trusted that an imperfect man would protect Him and His mother. They fled to a foreign land and stayed there for a while before returning. Then, He – the Divine Creator of the World – spent most of his life doing menial work, sweating, getting dirty, but all the while growing in body and spirit.
So much did He love us that, when He was thirty years old, He left His safe job, His trade, and He went out. From the lowest of the low, He called attendants: fishermen and tax collectors among them. They followed. He then spent three years patiently teaching them, letting them grow in their faith and understanding. Then, He prepared for His final act, His whole purpose of coming to earth.
He called His Apostles to Him and, knowing that they would not understand in full, but knowing that they needed Him, He transformed the ancient Jewish passover into a New Meal of a New Covenant. This covenant would feed the soul in ways nothing else ever could. It would be an echo of the early acceptance of Mary to the Body of the Lord. He established this Eucharist and then took them to witness the fulfillment of this covenant.
First, the Garden, where He must face the choice. He could leave us, let us live forever in Sheol, in imperfect unity with Him and His Father. He could leave us to our own fallen nature. The price asked to give us otherwise is high: his suffering and death. Jesus begs for another way, for this is hard, but He submits because He is in love with us. He suffers the indignity of being imprisoned, brought before secular authorities, spat upon by His own people. He allows his perfect flesh, formed in the womb of Mary, calloused by years of hard labor and harsh conditions, recently offered to his apostles to be flogged. His skin is rent, His muscle torn so that our sins of the flesh may be forgiven. He does not protest when His identity as King of Kings is mocked by a crown of thorns and a dirty cloak. He accepts beating, spitting, and vile insults for love of us. He allows an unworthy man to be set free in His stead so that all of us may be freed. He then carries His heavy cross to the place of His death, knowing that each step drew Him closer to suffering that which was so foreign to Him. But still, he went. He wept, not for Himself, but for those who wept for Him. He struggled on and turned aside pain killers, embracing the fullness of suffering as His clothing was ripped from His body, reopening wounds.
Then, He stretched out His arms and showed that He was in love with those driving nails into his hands and feet by begging His Father to forgive them! Even while He is hanging on the cross, He shows His love. He accepts a penitent sinner. He looks after His mother and bequeaths her to His apostle and to all subsequent generations. Though He could have left the suffering of suffocation and severe pain, He did not. He gave His life for us so that by His rising from the dead we could have a chance to be with Him.
That is what “being in love” looks like.
Are we in love with Christ? Are we willing to give every moment of our lives to the imitation of Christ? It's not easy. It's not nice. But it's what someone in love does. If we are in love with Christ, then we should not care if we are spat upon, laughed at, or mocked for following Him. We should not care if it costs us a nicer car, better job, or more attractive girlfriend or boyfriend. What price is it to spend a few more hours a week in prayer compared to the life Christ spent in the body of a slave for us?
Do we generically love God or are we in love with God? We should be so madly in love with God that nothing else in this entire world matters save loving Him and bringing Him glory. But do we?
We are given such a great gift of Christ in the Eucharist. We have the Body of Christ here, truly present as He was 2000 years ago. We do not have to wish that we lived then so that we could wash His feet with our tears. He comes to us every day in the humble form of Bread and Wine, and He waits. He loves us so much that He sits in Churches across the world, waiting for us to come to Him, to sit at His feet, and to adore Him. He waits for us to come so that He can shower even more graces upon us and join with us in the most intimate way possible. At any Catholic Church, the Body of Christ is visibly present in the Tabernacles and Monstrances. And He loves to spend time with us! Why don't we spend all of our free time there? If Jesus truly is the love of our lives, why don't we?
St. Padre Pio said, “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even and hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”
I pray that everyone who reads this may have a deeper love for Christ, especially Christ in the Eucharist, and I will pray that each of you will find more ways to love Christ and spend time at His feet. And I ask that each of you also pray for me, that I too may fall ever more in love with my Savior.
"Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own “yes” to God, for he wishes to give himself to you." --Pope Benedict XVI