God loves us. But God’s love is experienced by us through our fidelity and sacrifice for others


God loves us. But God’s love is experienced by us through our fidelity and sacrifice for others

I think we are all aware what magnetism is?  In simple terms, when two pieces of magnet are moved together, they attract (or repel!) each other:  there is a hidden force acting around the metal which we call the magnetic field (which is simply the motion of electric charges). Every material has a magnetic field – but we don’t think about it because we can’t see it.

This is a simple analogy for the presence of God in our lives: the feelings of love that we have are a reflection of God’s presence in our lives: both the desire to be loved or to love another.

Another good example is the effect of touch on babies: without human touch, babies do not develop or progress: they usually die.  Babies that are touched frequently develop quickly.

Many parts of the world are now focused on individual pursuits to become rich and ‘happy.’  It seems we must always go ‘somewhere else’ to find happiness and fill the emptiness inside us.  In a sense, we are trying to create a kind of artificial love that eventually kills us.

However, God’s love is within reach for all of us wherever we may be.  The Gospel reveals God’s love for each of us: when Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain, they hear the voice and they see Jesus in a new way: as pure light, a symbol of goodness and energy.

It is helpful for those of us who have fallen in love, to reflect back to that moment of joy and certainty when we saw the one we loved in a new way: we didn’t see the not so perfect parts of the other person, because we were so focused on what was pure and perfect for us.

Some say this is the romance stage of a relationship.  As we know, it does not last forever.  That initial feeling of romantic love must be transformed into something deeper for true love to be experienced: and the transformation comes through our actions of sacrifice for the other.

When young people fall in love we can see something different in them: they are more alive, frequently smiling, and energy comes out of them!  In the same way, the voice from Heaven, revealing God the Father’s love for Jesus, transformed him: he became dazzlingly white.

It was not some kind of magic, but the experience of love that made Jesus dazzlingly white: a sign of the love that God has for each one of us.  The characters of Peter, James and John are quite different: reminding us that, yes, even I myself might be loveable.

Peter was personable, impetuous but easily swayed by others; James was a radical, zealous extrovert man of action; while John was a gentle, quiet achiever, perhaps a shy introvert.

There are many theological reasons for the presence of Elijah and Moses, but one fact we often forget is that Moses never reached the promised land of Israel because he had a moment of doubt.  And, yet, here he is conversing with Jesus and in the presence of God the Father.

God is truly a God of love and God of the living: love is not limited by time or space.  But, to remain in this amazing love of God, we need a framework for our behaviour (the Law), and we need wisdom to understand the present and prevent the loss of love (prophesy).

The youth asked: why did Jesus tell Peter, James and John to keep their experience secret until after the resurrection?  Perhaps it was to avoid claims of magic or witchcraft but, most importantly, to connect the Transfiguration event to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

To connect the feelings of love with the actions of sacrifice: and so God teaches us that love can only be sustained through our actions of sacrifice for the other person.  Coming back to the example of love experienced in marriage, we can recall the words of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said to a couple during the marriage ceremony: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

Meaning, the rules of married life will constantly remind each person what their duty is for the other, and if they are faithful in their duties of fidelity, protection, providing, sharing and presence, then the initial romantic love will be transformed into a greater love: the sacrifice of choosing to do what is best for the other, rather than for myself.

The amount of sacrifice required is revealed by Jesus on the cross, and pre-figured by Abraham being asked to sacrifice not only his pride and joy, Isaac, but also his hope for the future.

And, yet, as great as the sacrifices were, both Jesus and Abraham were raised to a new level of life, freedom, joy and love: when we give ourselves totally for the good of the other, we also win big time.  But when we give little, we will only receive a little.

During this Lent, let us pray especially for couples who are struggling to stay together. Let us also pray for ourselves to be faithful to the Church as a community, so that we may safeguard and keep alive the message of God’s love and how to find it.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI