Prodigal-SonWhen I think about the way God loves us I am often amazed, and the worldly part of me thinks God must be crazy to love me. We can all be so ungrateful and undeserving of God’s love and providence, but He still offers it.

Some of the parables speak of the “crazy” side of God’s love, There is the parable of the woman who lost a small coin and, after finding it, she  threw a party that cost many times the value of the coin she found (Luke 15:8-10).  Crazy huh? Well Jesus is teaching about God’s Kingdom love for us, it is extravagant, beyond all reasonable bounds.

Then there’s the parable of the Man with two sons (Luke 15:11-32). One of his sons tells him to drop dead and wants his inheritance now. He gives it to him! Crazy! Off the son goes and messes up big time. He sinks so low he starts to admire how well pigs eat. Upon his return to the father he had told to drop dead, he expects wrath, but he gets embraced and the Father throws a party. Crazy huh?

But the story does not end there. The second son, offended at the party, now cops an attitude and insults his father by refusing to enter the party! Instead of sending servants out to force him in, the father himself goes out and pleads with his son who continues to dishonor him with bitter rebukes as to his leadership! What a crazy Father! He seems to love his son anyway. What father in the ancient world would ever plead with his son, it just wasn’t done. But Jesus is teaching again of his Father’s “crazy” love for us.

And Jesus is crazy too. He actually chooses to die for us, not because we are good, but because we are bad. We, having run his wrists and feet through with railroad spikes hear his prayers of mercy for us. And who would have excused him if, after dying, he just went right back to heaven and said, “Father, I’ve had it with them I’m coming home!” But instead he rose and said “Peace be with you” to men who had abandoned him.

Crazy. Just crazy.

It is clear that God loves us in a crazy sort of way. But thank the Lord his craziness is to our advantage.

Disclaimer: To the pious who may take offense at me calling God “crazy” let me remind that I am here echoing an astonishment from a worldly point of view and not asserting that God is actually crazy or unreasonable. You might say I am taking up the voice of the world for the sake of illustration.

Ah” but you might say, “what about the souls in Hell?!” I say to you he loves them still! They do not want to live in the Kingdom with him and he respects their freedom in that regard. But have you noticed, he doesn’t wipe them out or annihilate them? They still exist, in an unpleasant place, but a place of their choice. Surely God regrets their choice, but, respecting their freedom, God still sustains and provides for them. Even Satan is not killed by God. Crazy!

So face it, God loves you. He even likes you! Not because you deserve it, you don’t. Neither do I. God loves you and me “for no good reason.” He loves because He is love and that’s what love does. To think that we could lose God’s love is actually a sign of pride since we think that somehow we have the power to make God stop being what he is, Love. I know full well that God does not love my sin but I do not doubt that he loves me…for no good reason, for no explainable reason other than he is Love and that’s what love does, it loves.

Now I hope You’ll find this video as much of a blessing as I do. I suppose that the closest example of unconditional love we have on this planet is a mother’s love for her children. Behold and be blessed: Shirley Caesar’s “No Charge.”

27 Responses

  1. Heather West says:

    Nice blog, Msgr. And sweet song. I could submit a few photos of more adorable babies if you ever run short. I’ve got a house full of ‘em.

    Cheerio*,
    Heather

    *in the spirit of the London Olympics

  2. esiul says:

    Dear Msgr. Pope,
    Great video! A mother’s love is just as crazy. That’s how Jesus created us. Without Him we could not do it.

  3. Annette Strachan says:

    Yes, He died that we might live.

  4. Annette Strachan says:

    And greater love has no man.

  5. Peter Wolczuk says:

    A scriptural example, previously quote by others here on this topic; 2 Corinthians 5:13. Seems, to me anyway, to tie in nicely with your disclaimer. Judging (maybe assessing as a better word) the Divine by our standards isn’t likely to be too effective but, comparing the two like in a parable, has definite worth, although to go to the original Latin meaning of, “set within limits” seems too confining. I’ve heard, from time to time, that one shouldn’t “put God in a box” which I take to mean to set limits.
    The father in the parable may not follow biblical standards of a father at the time but he seems to guide both sons within the context of their free will.
    Another thing I’ve read. When the dutiful son complains that the father has never thrown a party for him; well the father told the dutiful one that everything of the father’s was available to him so, why didn’t that son throw a party if he wanted one.
    As I write this two things come together. What if the dutiful son had thrown a party while his brother was still, “out there” in the Twelve Step meaning – usually referring to self destructive hedonism.
    And, what if the party of the dutiful one got out of hand with some excessive sinning. Well, the sons of Job used to throw some pretty good parties and Job followed up with a big sin offering (or peace offering) in case the activities at the party were offensive according to God’s standards.
    A lot of our activities, in pursuit of pleasure, have been offensive to God so, The Father has sacrificed a pretty impressive offering for our sake. Job, being human, never sacrificed the life of his oldest son for his other children and, if he had, he probably would have made the death as painless as possible according to Jewish standards. Job doing such a sacrifice in a suffering way to the offering would have been crazy indeed, but then Job was only human.

  6. Howard says:

    Alternatively, you might well say that the full price of real love is one’s all — for the lover, not for the beloved.

    I have heard it said that the very flames of Hell are made of the love of God, which those in Hell do not want and do not return.

  7. Nick says:

    “for no good reason, for no explainable reason other than he is Love and that’s what love does, it loves.”

    God loves us because He sees Himself in us, because He made us in His Image, because of His Plan, because of Jesus, and because He is Love. And all of those are good reasons.

    • Well, “for no good reason” is just an expression. Don’t be too literalistic.

      • Tess says:

        Msgr, I have a question. God punishes, correct? God is at times deeply offended, correct? God can get very, very angry, correct? Why do we then FEAR the Lord if it is the beginning of wisdom?
        Why did Judas be tagged as the man who would wished he never be born?

        So, all the vile, cruel , sadistic, sacriligeous and heinous sins perrformed by souls on innocent souls will not have Gods righteous judgement defend them?

        To die in mortal sin and be a Catholic and an ignorant, non practising one at that means nothing anymore? Is
        this part of the Crazy Love realm?

        • I would recommend that you avoid resolving the paradox and tension evident your questions. Since you evidently pose your quetions to rhetorically I fear you have attmepted to resolve the paradox by moving love to the periphery. With God justice and mercy are alike. Remember, othodoxy holds the tension. It does not seek to resolve it in any absolute sense. Heresy says either/or, orthodoxy says both.

          • Tess says:

            OK then, respectfully , is it true that before God comes again , He will be a God of Mercy and then He will come as a God of Justice? How can God be a judge if we get to choose? Doesnt the Judge Himself judge us? Or is it a twoway street? Are there any Doctors of the church who have made this clear? In the creed, we say…He will come to JUDGE the living and the dead…..so where is our choice and freedom then?

            • You are thinking of judgment merely like a judge in a courtroom handing down a sentence. But even there, judges do more than utter sentences. They also assess what has really happened and make a determination of the facts, a determination of the free choices others have made. And in this sense, God will also judge, in accepting the facts of the case. That God utters a sentence is not detached from accepting the free choice a person has made, saying in effect, you choice is to live apart from me, apart from my Kingdom and its values, your choice is now firm and unchanging, depart then from me and live there, as you have clearly chosen. And hence the sentence and our choice are not opposed, but conisdered together.

              That said, I will also not fall into the trap of trying to equate Jesus as Judge with our little earthly category. Here too there are mysteries and paradoxes to be held. And so I cannot and will venture to answer your objections entirely here except to once again say, that orthodoxy holds these tensions in balance and says both. Heresy seeks to resolve tensions by choosing one truth over another.

              • Joseph Q says:

                Msgr, could you also talk about Fear of the Lord and what it really means in modern day commonspeak? Or link to where you already talked about it?

  8. Bro. Francis says:

    Love is giving, with no thought of getting it is tenderness and folding with strength to protect his forgiveness. Without the further thought of the things forgiven. His understanding of human weakness, with knowledge of the true man shining through. It is quiet in the midst of turmoil. It is trust in God, with no thought for self. It is the garment of Christ without seam or spot. It is the one altogether lovely, the light in the mother’s eyes, the glory in the sacrifice, the quiet assurance of protection.

    It is the expectation of her father’s promise coming true. It is the refusal to see anything but good in our fellow man. It is the glory that comes with selflessness and the power that comes with the assurance of the father’s love For His Children. It is the voice that says, “no.” To our brother, though “yes” might be more easily said. It is resistant to the world’s lust and greed, thus becoming a positive law of annihilation two error.

    Love… The one thing no one can take from us… The one thing we can give constantly and become increasingly rich in the giving. Love can take no offense, for it cannot know that. Which it does not of itself conceive. It cannot hurt or be heard, for it is the purest reflection of God, good. It is the one eternal, indestructible force for good. It is the will of God, preparing, planning, proposing always what is best for all his universe.

  9. Jon White says:

    Monsignor Pope,
    Great article (again!)
    In permanent honor of God’s crazy love for us, may I please ask that you in future captialize pronouns referring to Him? Thank you very much for considering my request.

  10. RichardC says:

    There is no description of what Jesus looks like in the Gospels. I heard somewhere that St. Thomas Aquinas said that God loves us so much that it is almost as though we were God to God. Still, there will be judgement time for all of us.

  11. Ellis says:

    Well, since Hell is a topic dear to my heart, I again noticed something weird to me. It is this about not annihilating souls in Hell. You mention it here as an example of love, but to me (and I thought about it a lot) it seems quite opposite. Preserving someone in existence only to suffer I wouldn’t call love. You say it is a place of their choice. But is it? Isn’t it possible that a soul in hell doesn’t want to exist? If it is possible to wish it in this world, I don’t see why it would be impossible to wish it eternally in hell. Wishing not to exist is wishing contrary to God’s will, therefore it is sin. And the one who dies in sin goes to Hell. Everything adds up. So we have a soul in Hell that doesn’t want to exist, but God preserves it in existence eternally only to suffer eternally. I simply have problems connecting that with a notion of ‘love’ as I intuitively grasp it.

    • I would be careful about thinking too deeply about speculative matters, or at least avoid drawing conclusions about them that are too certain. We cannot really know if “wanting to die” will be a quality of our lives after our life in this world. Part of the mystery of the life to come is that our decisions are forever fixed, and thus we cannot really know how things like “regret” and desire will be experienced. Allow the mystery here, and avoid making God conform to your notions of justice based on merely speculative presuppositions.

      • Ellis says:

        But how can I allow mystery in a question so important (at least to me). I mean, there is heaven and there is hell, only two options, so if we push to mystery all the souls from one option then the mystery is half of it. Such a teaching is then simply not satisfying. I just can’t imagine someone would prefer eternal existence in suffering to nonexistence. So, the fact that God preserves all such souls in eternal existence turns the sentence ‘God loves all’ into a sentence ‘God loves all except those he does not love’ which is completely senseless. The same thing happens with the goodness of God if one starts to think the same matter from the perspective of souls in Hell. I often wondered what God’s goodness (and you often her how God is good) means to souls in Hell. I mean, what kind of goodness is it if you don’t want it, and souls in Hell didn’t want it. So again ‘God is good’ becomes ‘God is good to all except to those who do not find him good’. And so everything falls apart. And I can’t just allow mystery there since I can not plug myself into a kind of thinking ‘my daddy is the best in the world because he is good to me’. Or maybe I could if I found him good, which I don’t, so these kind of questions are quite essential to me.

        • God does not give us teaching to satisfy us, avoid egocentric reasoning. The prupose of truth is not to please us, it is enlighten us and ultimately set us free. That the light seems harsh to us is not a problem with the light. The fact is life is riddled with mystery and paradox. Even the physical sciences encounter this. If would seem that God, and even this material world simply cannot fit wholly into our little categories. Hold the balance and avoid becoming dogmatic about things you “cannot imagine” . You do not have all the information and are drawing conclusions contrary to revelation based simply on presuppositions that are unproven and unknown to you. You do not know what it is like after we die, how we think, what eternity is like, how it is expereinced. So again Ellis, hold the mystery, admit the limits of your knowledge and embrace what God reveals more like a simple child than a lawyer who wants everything spelled out in contractual language.

          As for your definition of Gods goodness, here too, you seem rather reductionist in demanding that God be good only in terms you understand or find acceptable. As for me I am not sure how to reconcile God forcing people to live in his kingdom with its values with goodness. There are some people who would, in the words of an old song “rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints” or as is also said, who would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. Mysteriously some choose this path, and that choice at some point becomes forever fixed. I dont know how it is “good” for God simply to overrrule them as you suggest and say, In effect, to heck with your choice you are going to accept my kingdom and its values whether you want to or not. I only say all this to illustrate that your notion that we cannot reconcile Gods goodness with souls being in hell is not an an invincible presupposition. You build your arguments on premises that are usually shaky and to some extent quite unkowable. You hurl earthly categories at eternal ones. I on the other hand, and others who see faith as the rule, am more content to know these truths by revelation and by faith. And while there are paradoxes in many things, not just matters of faith, I am more content to hold the mystery and paradox in balance for there are things of eternity that you and I cannot know just now.

          So again I say, do not fall into the trap of demanding that everything beyond you fit into your categories. Realize that there is mystery, even about important things, and hold the balance that orthodoxy demands here. Heresy seeks to resolve the tension by choosing one or the other, Orthodoxy says both

          • Ellis says:

            The problem is not of God fitting wholly into my little categories, but of fitting mainly into my little categories. For whatever little decision is on me, if any given the doctrine on grace, I make that decision according to my reason who has its own little categories. I simply have no other but that one of my own. So if a teaching, or whatever amount of it revealed to me, mainly does not appeal to that reason of mine with its little categories, how do I accept that teaching? No other way but by discarding my reason. But then another problem arises – why then accept that precise teaching, why not accept any of the many teachings circling around. I mean, they do not appeal to my reason, but if I am to discard the reason… So you see where the problem is – I MUST be dogmatic about what I “cannot imagine”. Simply must, there is no other way. I can accept there are things beyond me, but to accept that there must be enough things that are not beyond me which appeal to my mind. It is like a balance with mystery on side and understandable on the other. For a balance to be obtained for every mystery there must be enough understandable things that appeal to my little mind. And there are not. Almost every of the questions important to me, when I started to ponder it, ended up in ‘mystery’. For example, it is a mystery how grace works with free will, but in practice nothing I did or could do brought me the faith, other people did nothing and they were granted faith. So one sees a practice which is not appealing on one hand, and when one looks it up in theory searching for explanation one finds a ‘mystery’. Well, one thing is not mystery there at least – why I don’t go to church any more.

            As for forcing the souls to accept his kingdom, he doesn’t have to force them. The way I see it he didn’t have to create. Or if he wanted to create he could have created beings with the possibility of annihilation if one wanted it. Or whatever. I generally don’t like the picture which includes beings suffering eternally, especially if it is a good prospect that I am going to be one of those beings.

            • St. Anselm, quite an intellect in his own rite, said that theology is fides quarens intellectum, (faith seeking understanding). More personally he stated credo ut intelligam (I believe that I might understand). You will note that one seeks in faith and one understands in faith. Faith is presupposed. There are many mysteries that must simply be accepted on faith. Of themselves these truths are not unreasonable, but many of them transcend the power of reason unaided by grace to know. You are seeking to engage matters of revealed doctrine based merely on reason, but the essential element of faith seems wholly lacking in your writings. I am not sure this conversation, at least on a blog, can continue, and would urge you to speak to an orthodox priest or believer personally. But at some level I do not sense you wish to move from your position at all and that you will not accept any answer at all except on your own rationalist terms. I sense that your purpose here is to argue rather than to try and understand or at least admit that the paradoxes cannot be wholly resolved by reason, unaided by faith. Neither do you seem at all willing to consider or trust that God’s revelation is not wrong, you are, or that paradox and mystery are things to accept. Hence I cannot go any further with you here since there seems to be no terms for the discussion or at least no movement in the conversation. These are matters of revealed faith of which I write and faith on your part must exist to some degree before understanding or at least acceptance of the paradox and the limits of your own premises can become evident.

  12. Aloysius Duque says:

    Love wants to be matched with Love…………

  13. Phillip says:

    To Msgr,

    I live in California. Love to read your blog! thanks for sharing.

    Philllip

  14. Jill says:

    Why is it so hard to accept this love; to give up our pride and just accept this love when we really do want it? Fortunately God is so patient.

  15. Mei says:

    I have often felt we are at a disadvantage from the beginning (since we are born with original sin and then are surrounded by temptations throughout our life–including our fallen nature which is prone to weakness) and so it never seems unreasonable that God would go out of His way to get our attention—because we really, really need it! I might be wrong on that but given the state of our country right now (and many other parts of the world)–I think we need a lot of help!

  16. TeaPot562 says:

    The physical scientists have, in the last six decades, discovered many “fundamental particles” smaller than the proton, neutron and electron that were known in the 1930s. They also have determined that all galaxies that have been observed through the telescopes are traveling away from each other; and seem to be radiating from a common point. Extrapolating backward in time, they determine that all observable matter in the universe was at a single point about 13 billion (plus or minus) years ago, and at an extremely high temperature. Some of them reject the idea of a Creator, and try to rationalize what could cause: first, the existence of this ultrahot, ultramassive point; and, second, what could cause the matter at that point to explode into the observable stars in the universe. To date, nothing convincing has been published.
    I like the description in Genesis: “And God said, ‘let there be light.; and there was light.’”
    Even for super-intelligent humans, some matters need to be simply accepted, rather than be perfectly understandable by our finite human brains.
    The existence of a Creator is one such item.
    How many human souls who have deliberately chosen Hell rather than Heaven is another. Nobody gets there by accident.
    Our assignment is to so live (Matt:25:31-46 and Luke 16:19-31) that, with the help of God’s grace, that we finish on the right side of history – with the Sheep, not with the Goats.
    TeaPot562

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