Unconditional Love ❤️ 

I have a three-year-old who is quite mischievous. She keeps me on my toes all the time. Actually, who am I kidding? I can’t even keep up with all the places her little mind goes. At about the time I discover her first disaster of the day, she will usually do one of two things. She either runs and hides, hoping maybe she can blame it on the baby, or she fesses up and bravely decides to face the music. Perhaps her choice depends on the degree of frustration she hears in my bellow of O-LIV-EEEE-AAAH! I’m not sure. But, she’s a smart little whip, and in those moments that she decides to brave the consequences, she has learned how to diffuse my anger. She makes me look at her, right into those large green-brown eyes, and says, with the sweetest and most contrite-sounding voice, “You still love me though, right Mommy?” She already knows how to lay it on thick. In that moment, of course, my heart melts a little (just a very little!) and I love that I get the opportunity to teach her the very greatest truth that can be known. “Of course I love you, Olivia,” I say. This is followed by some version of, “I don’t like what you did and after you help clean up, you still have a consequence, but I always love you no matter what.” She just doesn’t know yet exactly how much my love will bear. Not even Olivia could withstand the power and the depth of that love for her if there were any human way to really express it. We are stuck with inadequate words and gestures that are feeble when compared to the true force of that purest love. It’s a love that sacrifices and has no conditions. And oh, is it ever patient. Real love transcends feelings and circumstances and is a thing in and of itself. I would gladly and easily lay down my life for this little imp.
The greatest truth we can ever know is that each and every one of us is Loved exactly that much and more. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, your Father in Heaven loves you to your depths. You can never do anything to lose it because it just IS.

I love the mornings in prayer, when I can find some silence to just sit with my Lord and greedily let Him fill me with that Love. I usually close my eyes and rest in His lap, safely in His embrace with no conditions placed. I tell Him how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged him, even if they aren’t always apparent to me. Gently, He shows me. I usually have to tune out the voice of the enemy that would justify my actions and my sins, keeping me bound up by them. Of course, there are probably good reasons why I’ve done whatever I’ve done, but the One who loves me the best dispels it all with one glance. I promise to try and never do it again. And when I feel brave enough to look up at Him, He is always ready and willing to meet my gaze with gentle, unwavering compassion and Joy. In those moments, I have not a care in the world! I’ve done wrong. I will do wrong again. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from the Love of the one who’s counted each hair on my head. I’m the only one who can allow it, if I were to run and hide instead of boldly asking “Lord, you still love me right?” 
His response is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No matter your sin, He would give His life for you and for me. Despite our sin, He did just that. 
Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.



More Reflections from the garden

Last week I finished the arduous task of preparing my soil for planting.  I ran out of time to actually get it planted before taking off for the holiday weekend and when I finally got back out there yesterday I was dismayed to see a garden full of weeds!  How did they grow so big so fast???  Seriously.  I dug them out by the roots myself and would have sworn they were gone for good.  Maybe they are brand new weeds that blew in on Thursday and were full-grown by Tuesday?  What gives??   And the little patch that I had planted with seeds a few weeks back finally sprouted some fragile little plants but the weeds I thought I had yanked out were well established and towering over my budding seedlings. Needless to say, I was more than a little bummed and completely frustrated.

This phenomenon reminds me of the bad habits and sins in our lives. Our bad habits, like weeds, can lead to sin without our even noticing and left growing unchecked, they get established and develop a root system that can sometimes drown out the fragile seedlings of faith and good works we are trying to establish in our lives.  The fruit bearing plants take careful nurturing while the weeds require systematic and consistent digging out.  And it’s a lot of work!!

If I didn’t know better I would think there was some evil force waiting for me to turn my back on my garden so the seeds of destruction could be sown…

English: The barren fig tree. French School. I...

English: The barren fig tree. French School. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 4911. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section H. parables of the kingdom. Mark 4:1-12, 26-32, 11:12-14, 19-26. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-f-to-h (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of the weeds I had to pull were actually flowering and pretty.  I kind of hated to kill them by pulling them out. Had they been in a flowerbed there may have been a place for those flower weeds but unfortunately not in my vegetable garden.  Isn’t it true that we can get caught up in something – not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself – but bad because it gets out of hand, or becomes consuming or simply takes away from doing something more constructive.  For me it’s researching my ancestry.  Filling in the family tree is certainly not a bad or wrong thing to do.  In moderation it’s very enjoyable, real life detective work, and even offers a perfect opportunity to pray for those who have gone before.  When the researching becomes so consuming, however, that I don’t want to take care of responsibilities, then I have to consider it a weed.  It has a place, just not in my schedule.  In the parable of the barren fig tree (Lk 13:6-9), Jesus equates the fig tree with a weed.  It hasn’t produced fruit in 3 years and therefore has no place in the vineyard.  Even though it appears to be a perfectly good tree the owner cuts it down.    Sometimes we really have to make those tough cuts so that we can bear fruit.  If we allow Him, God does that pruning work in us all the time!

There are also times in my daily life that I get busy and a little overwhelmed with inside duties but I know those weeds are calling me, pulling me out to the garden.  If I look I will have no choice but to drop everything and run straight to it. So when I just can’t face it, what do I do?  I simply don’t go there.  I avoid it until I know I can spend some time really digging out those weeds.  Weeds that are now bigger and deeper and stronger and actually require tools to adequately remove rather than the more manageable little weeds I could have just plucked out with my fingers.

In a similar way a daily examination of conscience and recognition and repentance of our sinful behaviors can go a long way toward cleaning out the ‘garden bed’ of our souls.  Some weeds, however, are so intricately woven under the soil and full of thorns they can’t simply be plucked out without a little help.

As Catholics we have the tremendous privilege of a sacramental ‘weeding’ if you will.  I am often pleasantly surprised by the wise counsel I receive in the confessional, by the loving exchange that puts my soul at the center of priestly concern.  Sometimes I don’t even know exactly why I’m there, there’s just a vague sense that I’ve disappointed and hurt my Lord and the priest and I figure it out together.  And then comes that most beautiful grace-filled moment of absolution, when the priest says, “By the power of Christ, I absolve you of your sins”, when my garden does not have a single weed in the entire thing, when nothing but fruitful seedlings are growing and flourishing.  It’s my moment of Eden. I glory in it.  I live for it. I praise my Lord for the gift of it.  I’ve been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. I feel it and the priest tells me it is so and I simply know it.   I have a clean slate, a perfect garden.

– for a time.