ONWARD IN FAITH:
Love Is What We Need
In my last writing, I began by saying that we need more than love, contrary to the John Lennon, Paul McCartney song “Love is All You Need.” Now I’m no longer sure. I ended by feeling that maybe the Beatles were right. Perhaps love is the source of the courage and resilience we need during transitions. I’m clear that my life has been full of love since day one. But it does get murky when entering into the realm of God’s love.
This has always been a hard one for me. I embrace all the wonder and beauty of this world, this universe and all the loving people in it. I believe that God’s love is connected to this. Like most of us, I struggle with the pain and horror of that same world. And with that same God.
But when you’re up against it, as I feel I am in battling lymphoma, somehow, somewhere, God is there—and love is the only word to describe that presence.
From Tom’s journal–Fortifications for a cancer Journey*
- God is in this. I remember sitting next to my friend Joe at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC when he had a few days to live. He could barely speak. I asked him if there was anything good here. He responded, “Yes, God is here and I’m loved—and it makes all the difference.” If God’s love was there for Joe, then it is certainly here for me.
- Today as I face another treatment, I go deeper inside myself for courage. And as my soul takes me to that place, don’t you know, an attentive, mysterious God waits with reassuring love. I can do this.
- If I turn out whole and healthy through this cancer treatment—maybe a new faith was involved. If it’s not successful, however, then I still know God has loved me for 65 years in amazing ways—and I will know God’s love in new and undiscovered ways in the years I continue to live.
- I lean into Merton’s message that it is every human being’s birthright to find themselves at home with God. I don’t need to find my way through the “jungle of language and problems that today surround God” and whether I get it or not, God loves me. As Merton says, “God is present in me, lives in me, dwells in me, calls me, saves me, and offers me an understanding and light which are like nothing I ever found in books or heard in sermons.”
Thomas Merton also says we waste our spirit trying to understand God. There is a “graced union” between God and humankind which is already present. We don’t have to achieve it or strategize to find it. It’s right where it’s always been. In us.
We need to simply recognize that as love! Merton’s term is “grounded love” as expressed in a letter to Amiya Chakravarty, Indian poet and Gandhi disciple. However complicated our lives, this “grounded love” provides the stability we need; calamity can threaten but not overtake us.
Karl Rahner,** maybe the smartest Jesuit ever, according to my pal Bill, SJ, has a wonderful prayer which expresses this encompassing love.
“Only in love can I find you, my God. In love the gates of my soul spring open, allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom and forget my own petty self…then I can bury myself entirely in you, O mysterious God, and with myself all my questions.”
I treasure this idea. We find God through love and in so doing, forget our questions. Our doubts. There isn’t a better way to discover the light from the shadows of our transition.
How do the blessings of your life connect to the God you believe in? What are some ways you think about God’s love and the transition you’re in? What resources might help you in this process?
** God of My Life
Karl Rahner, SJ
Only in love can I find you, my God.
In love the gates of my soul spring open,
allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom
and forget my own petty self.
In love my whole being streams forth
out of the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion,
which makes me a prisoner of my own poverty and emptiness.
In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you,
wanting never more to return,
but to lose themselves completely in you,
since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart,
closer to me than I am to myself.
But when I love you,
when I manage to break out of the narrow circle of self
and leave behind the restless agony of unanswered questions,
when my blinded eyes no longer look merely from afar
and from the outside upon your unapproachable brightness,
and much more when you yourself, O Incomprehensible One,
have become through love the inmost center of my life,
then I can bury myself entirely in you, O mysterious God,
and with myself all my questions.