Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of articles on the theme, “Being Lifted Up In Christ as Catholic Men.”
We really can experience God’s love. Is it possible for us to be lifted up into the presence of the Lord? Yes, it is! Can we really experience God’s love in a way that makes us feel we’ve found heaven on earth? Yes, we can! Scripture tells us that Jesus stands knocking at the door of our hearts, with an invitation: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
So as we ponder the hope of being lifted up into God’s presence, let’s look at two key considerations: First, God’s love is tangible; we can feel it. And second, if we want to be lifted up, we have to learn how to sense the presence of the Lord—and it is not all that difficult!
It’s Tangible. When we talk about being lifted up and experiencing God’s love, we are describing something that is invisible. We cannot point to it on an X-ray machine or find it with a CAT scan. But it is still something we can all know deeply. Just like the love between a husband and a wife or parents’ love for their children, the love of God is deep and strong, and the experience of it has the potential to be just as life changing.
How can we feel God’s love? Like all relationships, there has to be a connection. On one hand, love is a free gift, as seen in the way parents love a newborn baby. Think about Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The boy’s father was in a state of perpetual readiness, always waiting for his son to come home. In the midst of that “always,” the father’s love, compassion, and hope were constantly being poured out on his son, even though the son didn’t know it or experience it. In a similar way, God’s love is constantly flowing to us, even when we have turned away from him.
On the other hand, if we want to know the depth of God’s love, if we want to experience what it means to be lifted up, we have to put in some effort. Newborn babies experience their parents’ love without giving much in return. They may smile, squeeze our fingers, or calm down after we pick them up. But despite the beauty of these gestures, they are more superficial than the expressions of love that come from older children.
Think, for instance, about the expressions of gratitude that come from a teenager whose mother helps her work through relationship problems at school. Or think about the new father who finally realizes how his own father’s insistence on hard work, patience, and family unity have helped him be a disciplined and responsible husband and father. The more we become aware of the love that surrounds us, the more readily we will respond with our own expressions of love.
These are the kinds of responses that come to us as we discover more and more of what God has done for us. They are the responses that come when we find ourselves being drawn to Jesus, being lifted up by him, and being formed and shaped by his constant flow of divine love and providence.
In the next article, we will describe some of the tangible ways we can open ourselves more to being lifted up into the Lord’s presence and experiencing his great love for us.
(Joe Difato is the publisher of “The Word Among Us” devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com. Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to use his articles from their August issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. The article opens with these two questions: “Is it possible for us to be lifted up into the presence of the Lord?” “Can we really experience God’s love in a way that makes us feel we’ve found heaven on earth?” How would you answer these questions?
2. What is your understanding of this Scripture quoted in the first paragraph? “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
3. Have you ever sensed the presence of the Lord, e.g., at Mass, in prayer, or in a specific situation? How would you describe it? What impact did it have on you?
4. Many Scripture scholars think that “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” could also be called “The Parable of the Father’s Love.” Which one do you prefer and why?
5. In the article we hear these words: “The more we become aware of the love that surrounds us, the more readily we will respond with our own expressions of love.” Why is this true not only on a human level, but even more so when it comes to God’s love for us? Can you give some examples from your own life?
6. What do you think St. Paul meant by the following Scriptures, and how do you think they apply to your life?
And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)