God loves sinners

God loves sinners.

I think this is a lot easier to accept when the sinner in question isn’t myself. When I’m the sinner, I find it impossible to accept that God really loves me, and can’t help hiding from God and trying to earn my way back into His good graces. Which I also know I can’t do.

Basically, God has to batter me down with His tenderness, to accept His merciful love. It’s impossible for me, but not for Him. The most I can do is ask Him to do this.

When we sin, we are in a state of sin, and live by the logic of sin, which is entirely incapable of understanding God’s grace and mercy. We think God is like us, judging and measuring up and seeking to exploit his friends and crush his enemies. Like Adam and Eve, we hide from God, because love doesn’t make sense to us.

Somehow God breaks through. I am put in His presence, and His merciful love breaks me down. In fact, it crucifies me. The heart of stone is shattered, and I’m set free, made alive again.

But it’s not about becoming “righteous”… In fact, I think that when I’m no longer the sinner that’s being crucified by His merciful love, I’m back in the logic of sin, and will soon commit a sin that makes that clear. Christian holiness is God’s own life in an unworthy sinner, and once we’re “worthy”, we’ve kicked Him out.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen


We’re forgiven before we ask

‘Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.’ [Luke 15:11-24]


Did you notice, that the father actually ignores his son completely? He doesn’t hear a word he’s saying. He doesn’t even let him finish, but starts talking to his slaves.

The father forgives his son, when the son hasn’t even dared to ask forgiveness. And it couldn’t be any other way. We couldn’t ask forgiveness, if we were not already forgiven. We have no right to ask forgiveness, nothing to appeal to. Except that the Father loves us, and rushes out to embrace and forgive us. His grace always comes first.

An excellent prayer of repentance: Say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” And then feel the Father put his arms around you and kiss you, tears of joy running down His face.

God bless you

A mountain of mercy

This Sunday at mass, I was thanking God that by His grace, I have been given life in Him, so that at that very moment, I was blessed to be communing with Him, loving and being loved, genuinely touching my God. I was thanking God for every sin that by His grace I haven’t committed, and I realised I ought to thank Him for every sin I’ve ever committed being forgiven. I am with God at this moment, because every single sin, throughout my entire life, has been forgiven.

I saw that all the sins of my life would amass to a great mountain, made of all the filth, waste, and excrement of my soul. But where that mountain should have been, there was instead an even greater mountain of God’s mercy, and in my mind’s eye it was gold and precious.

I can’t just thank God for His recent mercy and forgiveness, because if He didn’t forgive my oldest sins, I’d be just as cut off as for my newest. This one moment with God, is thanks to a whole life of forgiveness.

God bless you.

Thank you Lord! 

Why do we love God? Part 2

[Part 1]

We cannot love for anything except love. Then what about the one without love? How could someone without love, ever begin to love? Perhaps, with no choice on their part, they might spontaneously begin to love. But if they don’t choose to, and so it doesn’t come from them, is it really them that loves? If they suddenly have a new will for something, ex nihilo, is it not a different will, and so a different person?

But they could not choose to love on their own either, as they don’t have the love necessary to motivate the choice, and so they are “slaves to sin”, incapable of love (but, according to St. Anselm, still have free will, as they couldn’t lose love without their consent, if they had it). The only way they could ever love again, is by the great miracle known as grace, somehow implanting love with free consent.

I believe grace is the mysterious working of God’s own love, deep inside the sinner, revealing true love to them, and revealing love’s absolute supremacy. It is an experience so radical that the will voluntarily surrenders itself, taking on a new foundation beyond its imagination. The will realises that God’s love is greater than it. In a moment of awe, the will drops all its desires, and accepts God’s love as its own.

In the depths of the sinner, Jesus Christ is revealed, encountered even, and yet revealed as a mystery so profound, it is impossible to grasp, except by its own light- “Unless you believe, you will not understand.” (Is 7:9). The reason we can trust this light, is not because it reflects whatever light we had before, but because it illuminates everything else so gloriously.

‘We love because he first loved us.’
1 John 4:19

‘Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes.’
Lumen Fidei n.26

Perhaps the analogy of a heart transplant applies here. Thanks to modern technology, we can actually live off of mechanical “hearts” (although maybe it’s not quite “living”, as there’s not a real heartbeat…), but eventually, we’ll need to have a heart of flesh transplanted.

‘A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’
Ezekiel 36:26

We cannot give ourselves a heart transplant. When we finally receive a living heart, the difficulty arrives of whether our bodies accept the new heart, or reject it, to their own destruction. The new heart is foreign, and the original body must give a verdict; yet if it chooses to accept the new heart as a part of itself, and so submit itself to the new heart, it will only be able to do so, because of the new life being given by the heart. And, should the body reject the new heart, it will also only have the strength to do so, because of the life from the heart- “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.”

When the heart is changed, the whole body is affected, transforming our whole realities. The heart becomes the body’s, but even more, the body become’s the heart’s, as the heart gives it life, and the body only receives it. And so, by the new heart, it becomes a new body. Likewise, by God’s grace, given entirely gratuitously, but accepted freely, the believer becomes a new creation.

So, we love God, not because if we do, He’ll be good to us, but because He has already been so good to us. “You did not choose me, but I chose you”. We love God because He first loved us.

God bless you!

P.S. This passage from St. Therese’s Story of a Soul seemed relevant, but I couldn’t find a good place for it in this post:

‘One evening, not knowing how to tell Jesus how much I loved Him and longed for Him to be served and honoured everywhere, I thought with sadness that not a single act of love ever ascended from the gulfs of hell. I cried that I would gladly be plunged into that realm of blasphemy and pain so that even there He could be loved forever. Of course that could not glorify Him, for all He wants is our happiness, yet when one’s in love one says a thousand silly things. This didn’t mean that I did not want to be in heaven, but for me heaven meant love and, in my ardour, I felt that nothing could separate me from Him who had captivated me.’

P.P.S. I should perhaps mention, that I originally wrote this with the teaching of John Piper, a leading proponent of “Christian hedonism” in mind, but was uncomfortable attacking the ideas as his, because I feel I really don’t know enough of his teaching to make judgments. Perhaps it is more subtle than it seems… The bit about salvation and condemnation just for God’s glory is definitely his teaching though.

P.P.P.S. I’d also like to say, I have here said some things on matters beyond my comprehension (particularly the end, on grace), and ask you for whatever correction you believe is needed. I feel quite confident of what I have said, but I don’t have the confidence of if I knew the exact same was taught by great saints, that I would very much like.

Why do we love God? Part 1

Do we (or should we) love and serve God because as a result we will be happy, or because it is good in itself? Some claim we should, not because it is right, or moral, or good, but because it is what’s best for us (I’m thinking of so called “Christian hedonism”). I believe that we ought to love and serve God, even if it would only bring us pain and suffering.

My basic reason, is that selfishness destroys love. We cannot love for a purpose. It is always for its own sake.

‘Love me for a reason,
Let the reason be love.’
-The Osmonds/ Boyzone

The Osmonds got it. Hedonists can’t. It is impossible to love God above all things, if you love Him because of anything, including the pleasure He can give. Perhaps this isn’t clear without properly defining love.

‘By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’
1 John 3:16

Love is revealed upon the cross. Not in the resurrection, or the ascension, or the glorious return of Jesus, but in his death. Love is pure gift, not pure desire.

Perhaps Hedonism is the natural development of Calvinism (or perhaps just some forms of Calvinism), with its doctrine that God Himself is both gracious (forgiving) and just (condemning) only for the sake of His own glory. If God saves or damns us for His own sake (without giving us a say) why shouldn’t we only be saved, loving and serving Him, for our own sake? Dare I say it, this God resembles no faithful spouse, but a promiscuous woman, who gets her self esteem by being desired, and from who she can “have” and who she can reject, and those she “has”, only desire her for their own pleasure.

But those who desire chiefly to be desired, to be a good to be consumed (as opposed to a person to commune with), are hardly even shells of real people. They do not give away all they are, but only the product they believe is desired, and always hold something back (at the very least their will is guarded tightly). And as their consumers only want the product, their consumers will never give all that they are either. They seek to possess others by being desired as a possession (whether they allow themselves to be possessed or not), and so all they are is primarily marketing; pretending to be desirable. They themselves are not being people, and they are not considering others as people.

On the other hand, those who desire in love to give themselves away entirely, are whole people. And those who accept them, must also give themselves entirely, because another person cannot be received while your own person has not been given; we must make space if we are to receive love. To encounter others in love, we must be surrendered, just as a knight must take off his armour to be touched. Both parties seek to belong to the other entirely, and so are mutually submitted, and enter into a profoundly humble communion, and are made one. Those who seek to be desired, can never be loved as perfectly as those who seek to love. Those who seek to be worshipped, can never be adored as perfectly as the One who seeks to be a pure gift. If God sought His own glory, He would be glorified less, not more. [This has beautiful applications to marriage, the Church, the Holy Eucharist, the Incarnation and Crucifixion, the descent of Holy Spirit, and I suspect much much more] As Jesus himself put it,

“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:12

God is perfect in Himself, and nothing could ever be added to the infinite God. So why in heavens would God the Son ever be incarnated as a human, capable of suffering and unhappiness? What could God Almighty have left to gain from this? What is there or could there be that is not already His, merely by its existence or possibility? What necessity could command God to become man, that God may be satisfied? Nothing. Creation, the incarnation, the cross, our redemption, and all things, were not for God’s sake; that is, not for God’s good, but for God’s will. Only because God is good: Only because God is love.

Why did God create us? Because God is love. As St. Francis de Sales said,

‘God has placed you in this world not because he needs you in any way–you are altogether useless to him–but only to exercise his goodness in you by giving you his grace and glory.’

Some believe, we are made in order to give God glory, by means of His grace and goodness to us (unless you are condemned). To St. Francis, we are made that God can be good and gracious to us. Some believe we are made to praise someone; St. Francis de Sales believed we are made because Someone is praiseworthy.

Love is never selfish. It is impossible to love for any reason except for love, because as soon as there’s a reason, it’s not love. Love is a crucifixion, and so demands absolutely everything: it can’t be for the purpose of anything, because that thing must also be sacrificed. Love either rules supreme, playing by its own rules, or doesn’t exist. As soon as we give in order to be repaid (whether on earth or in heaven), it’s just an investment. There’s no longer love or even morality, only thrift.

[I think this is a good time for a break. Go, get yourself a cup of tea, and then come back for part 2]

A scripture on God’s grace (and anarcho-communism?)

Ho, every thirsty one, come ye to the waters, And he who hath no money, Come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy Without money and without price, wine and milk. Why do ye weigh money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which is not for satiety? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat good, And your soul doth delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me, Hear, and your soul doth live, And I make for you a covenant age-during, The kind acts of David—that are stedfast. Lo, a witness to peoples I have given him, A leader and commander to peoples. Lo, a nation thou knowest not, thou callest, And a nation who know thee not unto thee do run, For the sake of Jehovah thy God, And for the Holy One of Israel, Because He hath beautified thee.
Isaiah 55:1-5

I’ve been enjoying this passage for the last couple of days now. I love it.
It’s very interesting that the imagery used to show God’s kindness here, is of buying without money and without price, not just necessities (water) but the good and fine things of life too (milk and wine), as Peter Kropotkin hoped for. Christians are told to be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect, so should it be our ideal to be rid of money?
God’s point here is how wonderful His grace is, especially when compared with the works of false religion. He also gives us a clear way to imitate His grace, that would result in something like anarchist-communism.

God bless you.

Was St. Paul a communist?

‘but by equality, at the present time your abundance—for their want, that also the abundance may be for your want, that there may be equality’
2Corinthians 8:14

‘One thing remains: put the needs above the works,and first of all recognize the right to live, and later on, to the comforts of life, for all those who take their share in production.’
Peter Kropotkin

‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’

Don’t worry, I’m not saying St. Paul was a Marxist. But the resemblance in these short and simple quotes is remarkable.
Was the apostle Paul some kind of communist? Certainly not in the modern sense. He didn’t force any redistribution of wealth, and opposed violent revolution (that’s how I read his words at least). But this idea of thorough equality and charity, certainly resembles communist ideas of justice.
Peter Kropotkin‘s quote above, has an interesting resonance with Paul‘s message, that we are justified by faith in grace, not by works. That which we received from God we did not earn, and could not earn, but was from His love. Should we not do the same?
God bless you.