In the Adoration chapel my eyes behold a crucifix that stands to the side of the monstrance. On this crucifix Jesus’ body seems to be buffeted by strong winds—His long hair is blown to one side, along with what little clothing remains on Him.
This crucifix feels dynamic, like the wind itself is raging, screaming “No!”, hurling itself outward at the moment of His death. Nature cannot be silent at such a sacrifice. My heart and my mind react antithetically to nature’s fury—all I can offer is profound silence.
I sometimes find myself holding my breath while gazing at this crucifix. My mind keeps asking: how did He have the courage to suffer this? To accept injury after injury? To give up everything?
This young man, our divine Savior, was so committed that He did not put a limit on how far He was willing to go to do His Father’s will. Fearful, I am sure, but there was no “No” in His response. His eternal “Yes” encompassed the many insults He bore on that fateful day to His divinity as well as His humanity. I don’t know which tormented Him more: to suffer the physical agony of both a scourging and a crucifixion within hours of each other, or the concomitant loss of His dignity, reputation, friends, and mother, all before dying. So much loss and yet, He still chose to utter, “forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24).
Jesus’ love overshadows all our inadequacies. I never feel more loved than when I remember these words of His.
Unrequited Love Desires Our Response
Author Gary Chapman talks about the five languages of love (i.e., acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and finally, physical touch). Human love can be expressed in these different ways. Jesus, the Author of love, seems to have a love language all His own. No one loves like He loves. He has gently complained to saints down through the ages of His thirst to love and be loved. His is often an unrequited love.
In prayer, Mother Teresa heard Jesus say, “I thirst” while she was traveling on a train to Darjeeling, India and thereby received her “call within a call” to minister to the poorest of the poor. St. Faustina Kowalska, during Mass, in a vision saw Jesus suffering on the cross and heard Him say, “I thirst. I thirst for the salvation of souls…” (Diary, 1032). The mission to promote Divine Mercy became hers.
It seems that Jesus’ divine calling card is to remind us that we are incredibly wanted and loved through this thirst He suffers. So much so, that He is not satisfied until He is in relationship with each human being. This God-man who sits at the right hand of the Father, beloved Son of the Trinity, who basks in eternal glory, still has a yearning—a thirst to love and be loved by souls so much less than Him. He is waiting for a response from each of us!
Continuing this contemplation on Jesus’ love, I read His words in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. It seems Jesus has set the bar impossibly high, but He has proven the task is possible, He has walked the talk. As our elder brother He goes first to show us how to do this. He believes we can do it, too!
Missing the Mark
Still, I fear I could never completely love like He loves. It is just not possible for a mere human to do this without divine help. My ability to love is constrained. I am sometimes afraid, and I have limits. At times I even find myself saying “no” to God. I confuse my priorities and make poor choices, sometimes choosing the easy way out. Hunger, fatigue, worries, and ignorance are often the greatest impediments to my ability to love well. Laziness, selfishness, or general contrariness impact my decisions to love, too. Perhaps, you have felt similarly.
I am barely out of the house in the morning when I miss the mark: A driver cuts me off on my early commute and I am leveling my own special brand of justice at him (with hand gestures I might add); the lunch line is long at the food truck and mentally I am writing a very poor Yelp review, and I haven’t even tasted the food yet! My relative shows up for a visit spewing the latest political conspiracy theory and I shut her down tout de suite, wondering if there is some type of therapy or surgery (lobotomy?) that can correct her thinking. I do not practice His brand of loving at times.
Jesus’ words don’t suggest that I can pick and choose who to love; He says, ‘one another’. That sounds like everyone. No exemptions, no exclusions. Does He really expect this? Does He see the types of people who rub elbows with me daily? Aggressive, abrasive work colleagues who care little but getting ahead at any price; loud, argumentative family members whose beliefs are freely displayed simply because they are exercising their amendment rights; social media “friends” who type away their hypercritical messages while hiding behind their screens? Must I find a way to love them all? Yes, I need to learn to love even in these challenging moments.
The Grace to Walk with Love Personified
My thoughts during Adoration have become “how will I remember to love like this? To love like Him. How can I even begin? Especially, in the daily grind, especially on those days when it all seems too much.”
To start, I am going to mentally imprint the image of that crucifix on my heart. This crucified Divine Lover with the wind-blown hair suffering in extremis through every breath, isn’t going to let anything get in the way of His Heart. Nothing. He is Love personified! So, if I really want to be like Him, I need to keep Him always in mind. That is my ongoing prayer asking for this grace: ”Help me to remember You, to love, no holds barred, everyone, in every circumstance, like You do, dear Lord”.
Next time, perhaps I will have the grace to smile at that crazed morning driver and let him cut in line, or to say a decade of the rosary while I wait patiently to order at the lunch truck. Maybe, just maybe, next time I will remember to adore Him privately in the depths of my soul while my opinionated relative blathers on about her politics.
The One who loves without limit thirsts for each of us. Why not ask Jesus for the grace to help you discern how you can love better?
Serafina’s perfect day swings between teaching loud middle schoolers and finding peace in an adoration chapel. A strong cup of Colombian coffee, a bite of Swiss chocolate, and the music of George Michael are the fuels that keep her going. A daily Eucharist makes everything possible.