We asked our Friars this question and here are their responses -
Fr. Richard Kaley
Whether or not God loves us is not up to us. God is love and what God does is love. God just loves us and there is nothing we can do about it. If we think our sins can make God stop loving us, that would be to say that we think our sins are greater than God, and we believe that no one and no thing is greater than God. God just loves us as we are; he isn’t waiting around until we get better. Knowing that God loves us can make us better, being better isn’t a requirement to be loved.
The power of God’s love is shown in Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16.)
It isn’t something we can earn because it is freely given; it isn’t something we can lose because it is freely given. God’s love is unconditional, there are no ifs about it.
If we don’t believe God loves us it may be because we have not been loved unconditionally by any human being, or it may be because we don’t love ourselves (perhaps because of things we have done wrong). It means that God has not yet been successful in getting through to us that he loves us as we are. If we want to know God’s love we need to be open to the reality of his love and let God show us that it is true.
Fr. Tom Smith - The Joy of the Gospel
We can choose how we respond to the various aspects of life. We can focus on the loss, the pain, the disappointments, the ugliness around us, or we can see beauty and joy and goodness in the simple and struggling aspects of each day. God has assured us that we are not alone. God is with us, in the Spirit and in the lives of those around us. The Gospel is the Good News of how the universe and all within it was created in love. We are not masters, we are part of that creation. We can bring joy to others by our approach to each person, to each day, even in the midst of sadness. We can be hope in the wilderness, and a living sign of The Joy of the Gospel.
The photo below was taken during the baptism of a Cuban named José. He came to the parish of St. Rita in Louisville with his wife seeking God. This image during the Easter Vigil is for me a sign of the joy of the moment! The power of Christ owing through the water and into his life! Let us choose to be messengers of that same joy for all.
Fr. Paul Schloemer
One of the greatest privileges of being a priest, is being able to enter into someone’s pain and bring healing through the Sacraments. And one of the most painful emotions I have encountered is the feeling of abandonment and unworthiness. When someone has committed some great sin (and sometimes minor ones,) there is an immediate sense of guilt, but if they have enough of a relationship with God to come to Confession, that alone tells me that their sin is not mortal, because the relationship with their All-merciful God is not completely broken.
Worse still is the feeling of shame, which tells us that we are not even worthy of God’s forgiveness. This, I believe, is from the devil, the Prince of Lies, and leads to true mortal sin, the complete division of ourselves from God. It is a lie because there can be no limit to God’s mercy- by definition! And yet, we are all susceptible to that little nagging thought in our heads: “I am not worthy.”
How do we believe that we are? Of course the greatest theological response is simply the person of Jesus Christ himself. Why would God enter into our weakness, if there wasn’t something there worthy of redemption? And certainly there are a thousand other intellectual responses, crafted after two millennia of Christians wrestling with exactly this problem. And all those responses are great- if you’re not suffering! Frankly, in the darkness of our shame, the love of Jesus is as distant as the mercy of the Father. How to bridge that gap? I don’t think responsibility lies in the one suffering from their shame. Rather it lies with the rest of us, the Body of Christ, to lift up our sister or brother.
Remember when you were little and had a scrape or bruise and your Mom would kiss it to make it better? There is no scientific reason why it should, but somehow the magic of motherhood did, in fact, make it better. It was the magic of Love that told our physical bodies that we would survive this wound; that the pain was temporary, that all was well.
In a way, the magic of the Sacraments (also a manifestation of Love) works the same way. It’s not a spiritual concept of a God that brings the “feeling” of forgiveness and acceptance, it is the physical experience of another human being, in effect, kissing the wounds and making them better. I know God loves you, because I love you!
The challenge is, of course, all our broken brothers and sisters that do not come into the Confessional. To you who may be reading this in that situation, please come, if not to confess, at least to talk. For everyone else, we, the entire Body of Christ, need to remember how God has granted us love and forgiveness and compels us to seek out the lost.
It can be difficult for all of us to believe that we are loved. It would get easier if we could become more comfortable and willing to say the words that others don’t feel worthy to hear- I love you.
Br. Bob Roddy
When I encounter retreatants who are going through a rough patch in feeling God’s love, I usually ask them to recall a moment when they experienced the love of another person: a parent, a grandparent, or a friend. I ask for as much detail as possible, though most people quickly become energized in sharing these stories. Their faces soften, their body language relaxes a bit, and as the memories flood back to them I then ask if they can see the hand of God in this relationship. I remind them that God sees in us so much more than we can see in ourselves, similar to the way in which those who love us see gifts and qualities that we gloss over. Yes, those who love us –especially our loving God--see our not-so-good qualities as well, but that doesn’t stop them from loving us or wanting to be a part of our journey. This latter lesson can be the most challenging for any of us to learn and to embrace.
This realization, that we are loved and accepted by God despite our shortcomings, gives us reason to rejoice. I have grown to believe that Joy is rooted in the many challenges and triumphs of our lives. I think that we can genuinely rejoice during these very polarizing times when we open our eyes and hearts to the incredible goodness of the people in our world, as well as the many moments of joy that weave their way through our day. Perhaps a good question to ask oneself before one retires for the evening would be, “Where and how and through whom did Joy cross my path today?”
Br. Dennis Moses
It can be a very difficult thing to believe that God could love us if we were raised on fear. Is our image of God the guy with the huge ledger book writing down every rotten thing we have ever done? Ready to strike us down , once He gets a hold of us? It could be, for some of us, that we have trouble thinking of a loving Father if our own earthly father- figure was not loving but harsh and cruel. Some people in twelve step spirituality learn the idea of “ ring our God.” The need here is to replace the harsh and cruel “God figure” we may have grown up with and replace it with someone who loves us.
For some it is hard to think of a loving God because we cannot think of ourselves as lovable. Ernest Becker, in his 1973 book The Denial of Death, says that our problem is that we are gods who have to use the bathroom. We have all this potential but there is no escaping the reality of our human- ness, our death. We then make the leap into assuming we are worthless. Or perhaps we had family members who were only too happy (in the name of “kidding” sometimes) to tell us we were worthless. How difficult it is to think of love when we don’t think it is possible. It is no wonder we turn to drugs, or food, or sex to ll this void. Some of us have something in our wiring that always sees the bad in things–and sometimes need the help of medication to deal with that faulty wiring.
Fr. Vincent Petersen
It is so sad today to hear of the many people who question God’s love for them. Perhaps much of it comes from our society’s stress on materialism and the subtle and not so subtle messages from the free market economy. This new world ‘religion’ is based on scarcity and tells us that ‘we do not have enough’ and that ‘WE are not enough.’
As an artist I see myself as a co- creator with an abundant God. A painting does not get signed by me - or even leave the studio if it does not meet with my final approval. I spend a great deal of time on all of my paintings; they are like my children. I love them unconditionally and I want them to give delight to others. At some point I have to let go of them, even though their images remain in my heart. It will be up to the beholder to love them into completion.
God is the master artist who has placed his indelible mark on each one of us. We are God’s work of art - each one of us is unique in our beauty and character. I cannot imagine God not cherishing and not finding delight in the work of his hands. Psalm #139 comes to mind here: “I give you thanks O God, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made - wonderful are your works.”