In Exodus 34, God describes himself as overflowing with khesed, or loyal love. Khesed is a rich Hebrew word describing a love overflowing with generosity and born out of commitment to relationship. Khesed is shown through actions and deep personal care for another person even when they don’t deserve it. In the Bible, no one shows more khesed than God – it’s core to who he is. God creates out of khesed. He protects his people from disaster because of his khesed. He makes them prosper because of khesed. He forgives them in a display of khesed. God continually extends his loyal love to his people, not because they deserve it but because his love is generous.
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17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
Verse 17 tells us how to have something everybody wants to have. And v.18 tells us how to get rid of something everybody wants to get rid of. We, of course, do not like to talk about fear. We do everything we can to be free from it. Yet fear is an essential part of human existence and, like it or not, some fear will accompany us, always and everywhere, until the end. Continue reading
The God revealed in Scripture doesn’t just love, he is love. As a triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit—he has always been and always will be an others-centered, self-giving, communal being. God so loved us, loved the world that he sent his only Son, Jesus, who fully embodies the love of God. That love was demonstrated most clearly when he gave his life on behalf of humanity. When people learn to trust Jesus’ love for them, they join in God’s community of life and love, and their very nature is transformed to live a life of love with him. In today’s video offering from the amazing folks at The Bible Project, you can explore the biblical meaning of love.
Yesterday’s psalm refrain was “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.” From that I asked the personal question, “Do you ever wonder if people think you are gracious, merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness?” Today’s gospel begins: “Jesus said to the crowds: To what shall I compare this generation?‘” In one sense, it is the same question just on a larger scale. And a complex question to even begin to form a response.
“I, John, looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1) And so begins today’s readings.
In her story “Revelation,” Flannery O’Connor tells a tale of a vision of salvation being encountered by the smug Mrs. Turpin. Her idea was that heaven was an exclusive banquet with just a few guests. The story had told of her unpleasant encounters with the “unsaved” (aka “not like me”) during the day. Later while sitting on her front porch at sunset, Mrs. Turpin is granted a vision from God. Despite all her self-assurances and beliefs, she was about to discover that God’s invitation is for more than just her and those she deems of sufficient moral character and behavior.
The word “love” is certainly the topic of poetry, minstrels, Hallmark cards, stories, and life. But what do the Hebrew Scriptures have to say about love? Several weeks ago I mentioned the prayer, the Shema, speaking about the word “hear” or “listen”:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength“. (Dt 6:4-5).
But a key part of that prayer is to “love the Lord” to “ahavah the Lord.” As the popular song asks, “What’s love got to do with it.” The answer is everything – if love is properly understood.
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This day’s gospel is a well known story of an encounter during which Jesus is asked: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus reply is clear and unambiguous:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I was looking ahead on the parish calendar to see what the month of March would bring apart from the celebration of Lent. It was then I came across a simple marker “Mother’s passing.” It was four years ago now – hard to believe that much time has passed since my mom passed away. But that is the way of things as one grows older oneself; loved one are lost and time passes at an ever-increasing rate.
I am pretty sure I got my love of big band music from mom. She had several 78s of Tommy Dorsey (…and if “78s” is unknown to you, ask you grandparents…or great grands…or wikipedia). It was the music of her era. Continue reading
Some things are indeed complicated, deserving of our time, energy, and perseverance. Today’s gospel from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount is one of those things.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:43-44) Continue reading
Franciscan sister and scientist Ilia Delio (my master’s thesis professor), has written a wonderful autobiography. In it she recounts how her parents decided to name her Denise. (She would have been named Denis had she been a boy.) Later in life, she was delighted to find a meaningful connection with the man who first approached theology in an explicitly mystical way in his text Mystical Theology. Delio writes:
When I was doing my doctoral work in theology at Fordham University, I was introduced to the master of mystical theology, Denis the Areopagite, or Pseudo-Dionysius [who wrote in the late fifth to early sixth century]. I was immediately struck by the name “Denis”—the mysterious person who wrote the most exquisite words stretching into the mystery of the incomprehensible God. . . . God is the name of absolute divine mystery beyond any speech or thought or movement. God’s love is so tremendous, this mystical writer claimed, that God is like a sober drunk, falling over himself in the desire to share divine life. Continue reading