What we are talking about when we say we ‘love Superman’ is admiration, respect and the like. Perhaps if we had a children’s TV series focusing on Christ which proclaimed His miracles, His teachings, His time with His Disciples etc, we might encourage the same sort of admiration and desire to imitate Christ that we facilitate for Superman. Boys might then grow up less likely to think about being like Superman than being like Christ; more likely to recognise that their love for God has to be about imitation of Christ rather than emotion for Christ.
Saturday, 18 August 2012
On Loving God
I was approached by a 20-something, male parishioner who occasionally views EWTN, most especially The Journey Home (my own favourite and one I highly recommend to those who have access to EWTN). On this programme guests can often be heard to declare their love for God. The young man’s comment was, “I hear people talking about how much they love God, and I just don’t feel that, so I’m never going to be like the saints.” There was a sense of despondency in his voice, so I pointed out that such despondency means that he already loves God, he just doesn’t feel it; that he is mistaking emotion for love.
I think this man’s plight may be more common than we think. I pointed out that as a young boy he probably thought of Superman or Batman as heroes, and was likely to be a bit obsessed by them with a desire to grow up and be like them. His parents would have facilitated this by buying him the requisite videos, comics and toys, and gleefully told people ‘Oh he just loves superman!’ As a boy he would not have corrected them, yet the truth is the sort of love he had for Superman was simply an admiration of heroism, strength and prowess etc. It would not be the kind of love he had for his dog, or even less the love he has for his mum and dad.
Not that an emotional love towards God is necessarily excluded, but it should never be the basis of our union with Him, for emotions are unfixed, and can change from love to anger when life goes astray. How then, to develop a mature love for God? Well, that one needs to be answered by the saints, but as the young man’s parish priest I had to offer some kind of advice, and the advice I gave was as follows...
Read the Gospels daily –in there we find a man of compassion, wisdom and inner strength.
Meditate on the passages you read –how would you feel toward Christ if you were the forgiven sinner or the healed paralytic? Speak to Him as though you were.
Contemplate God’s attributes: God is infinite in all that we need and desire, as well as in holiness and goodness. Contemplate the fact that He is all-knowing; all-powerful; all goodness and beauty.
Contemplate with thankfulness all that Christ suffered for you. Make meditation on the Passion as that which Christ did for you a central part of your prayer life.
Contemplate with thankfulness all the good in your life, all of which flows from Him since He is the source of all goodness.
Contemplate with thankfulness the wisdom and goodness of God in that He has made all power for salvation present to you in the Mass; the application of that salvation permanently available to you in Confession, and will strengthen you in that salvation by Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick) as you leave time and enter eternity.
Contemplate the struggles you have overcome with His unseen grace and by His helps, seen (in help from those around you) and unseen (your inner strength and wisdom which come from Him).
Read the lives of the saints who show you how love of God can transform you.
Not the greatest advice, I know, but my own love for God is less one of emotion than it is of admiration, thankfulness and the desire to please by close imitation (in which I fail so often!). Emotion is not excluded from loving God, but it is not its essence. What keeps me going is my thankfulness to Him and my admiration of Him, which solicit within me the desire to be like Him and the desire to please Him by my imitating of Him, that I may be with Him forever in heaven.