Love and joy come after hard work and sacrifices for others: the way UP is, first of all, the way DOWN


Love and joy come after hard work and sacrifices for others: the way UP is, first of all, the way DOWN

St Augustine said: “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.” So, why is it that many of us struggle to connect to that love?

Perhaps because we are born into the world as a baby requiring constant love and attention: we grow used to being number one in the world.  As we grow older, we are less and less treated as number one.  And, consciously or unconsciously, we resent it!  We all want to be number one!

So, how do we find that love of God?  Fr Richard Rohr OFM, says: the way UP is, first of all, the way DOWN.  It sounds like a faulty recipe for happiness.

Imagine a newly married couple: they have to learn to change from independent living and decision making to shared living & mutual decision making: being accountable to each other.

The way UP (for a happy marriage) is first of all the way down (giving up independence). For those who learn early, marriage is delightful and empowering. For those who are slow to learn, marriage can be a painful and frustrating experience.

Our Gospel today reveals the No.1 desire of God for us: that we might have life, and not just any life, but life to the full!  This is a statement of love for us: that God is more interested in our happiness than our sinfulness.

We become unhappy, like people in the exile (First Reading), because we fail to grasp the way love and happiness works: the more we share, care and help others, the more joyful we become.

The people in the exile had turned away from God’s love by becoming more selfish and less concerned about their neighbours.  I suggest they became divided and unwilling to defend each other due to selfishness, and so their enemies could more easily walk in and take over. So, it’s not God who punishes us for failing to love, it is the consequence of selfishness.

The way UP is, first of all, the way DOWN

70 years later, to be read in the context of the appropriate time, God revealed his love for the people, once more, by working through non-believers.

This is an important point for us as we struggle through Lent: to recognise that our sins against the non-believers often cuts us off from the very love of God that we desperately want.

The people returned to freedom but in difficult living conditions.  The reason they were able to experience God’s love, and embrace each other, was their increasing fidelity to the Laws of God: not as a burden but as the key to living happily as a Community: and became prosperous.

And the Second Reading from St Paul reflects the rhythm of the First Reading:  “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ…”

The way UP is, first of all, the way DOWN

It’s only in Community that we can find meaning and joy in our lives.
Community requires responsibility and mutuality: giving even as we are taking;
Community requires new life: either deliberately or even unexpected babies!
Community requires activities that bring out the creative energy of each person.

How about our Community?  Are we in danger of going into exile?  As self-interest increases, the culture of death is increasing year by year. Unfortunately, well-meaning people are promoting the culture of “my” happiness, rather than a culture of “our” happiness.

What about me?  Do I live and behave with due concern for the common good when I choose to do my “things”?

There was an interesting article in the Australian SBS news last week revealing how many young couples are struggling to have children as they are getting married much later in life: with increased risks of infertility or children being born with extra challenges.

One couple said they had chosen not to have children so they can be more-free.  They clearly don’t think about where the doctors, nurses, teachers and police will come from as they grow older.  We can’t survive without our community.  But do we contribute as we should?

Acts of sacrifice by elders, for the good of others, are powerful examples of love which will instruct our younger generations to keep doing good and helping others,
even when we are not appreciated.

Eventually people will change as they experience love: and sometimes tough love.

By Gerard Conlan, OMI