By Patrick Schmadeke
Matthew and I were playing in the living room when, suddenly, our play was interrupted by the cries that signal the end of Catherine’s morning nap. Catherine, just 8 months old, is committed to using the full range of her vocal capacity on such occasions. We ran upstairs with Matthew leading the way and arrived in her room to find her sitting up in her crib. I picked her up and, upon seeing the tears streaming down each side of her face, Matthew reflexively ran to grab a tissue, instructed me to bring her down closer to him and tenderly wiped the tears from her face.
Not a moment of delay occurred between his seeing his baby sister in need and his immediate action to console her. Matthew’s spontaneity and tenderness towards his sister was a beautiful moment to witness. If Matthew is this eager to express his love for his sister, then I suspect that God is just as eager to respond with love to all his children.
The Scriptures are full of God’s eagerness to love. God’s love is expressed through forgiveness: “Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they may become white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
God’s love is expressed in eternal fidelity: “With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you” (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love also became incarnate in history: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Finally, it is God’s love that changes us: “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19); “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
God is eager to love as he reaches out to us. This love is not transactional — a commercial exchange of goods and services in the form of religious commitment, tithes and worship. Instead, it is deeply relational. That is, God’s love is an evolving reality through which we grow into the persons we ought to become. Like any good relationship, it evokes that which is deepest within us and brings it to the surface. We are not mere slaves to God. Rather, Jesus said, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). In the incarnation, God has reached out to us in an unprecedented way and has deepened the indelible bond between the human and the divine.
The effects of this bond ripple outwards and draw us into relationship with each other, revealing the ways we need to reach out to each other, especially to those on the margins of our community and society. The solidarity that is effected reveals the interdependent quality of our relationships: we need each other, including those with whom we most disagree and especially those on the margins who need us the most. Love, the bonding agent behind any solidarity we might discover, beckons us onward as we all become one in the body of Christ.
As in all times, the Lord hears the cries of those in need and God prompts us to action. Theresa of Avila put this challenge most keenly: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
(Editor’s note: Patrick Schmadeke is a graduate of St. Ambrose University (‘13) and a graduate of the Master of Divinity program at the University of Notre Dame.)