Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 20, 2008

From The Living God to the Unfinished Love of God

So I’ve finally finished “The Living God“. I’d repeat that it’s a good, well-balanced and thorough catechesis. Not a jet speed page turner… but that’s probably a good thing. I think taking the time to reflect on its contents is time well spent. For what it’s worth, my reflection on the last section I marked

“It is by believing in Jesus Christ that we discover that God loved us so much, that He gave us His only Son.

When we discover that we are loved, we ourselves begin to love: “We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Faith leads us to love. The reverse is also true: love leads us to faith, for it is through true love that we discover God. “He who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love” (1 Jn4:7-8).

To believe and to love are one and the same thing. This is God’s commandment, that we should cleave to His Son Jesus Christ and love one another. Then we are truly “born of God”: “We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God [that is, the Son Jesus Christ] keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 Jn 5:18-19). “He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24). Thus we are able to overcome Judgment through love.”

I think the authors of The Living God catechism hit it on the head here. As someone who comes at this the opposite way round (i.e. from love into faith), there were two thoughts I would share: First that ultimately love alone opens the language of scripture, and second that this journey from love into faith is simply life though perhaps we haven’t realized it yet.

The journey of love leading us into faith is a very concrete way to encounter God. This is to transit from belief of the mind, the realm of ideas, into the faith of the heart. For most of us I think this is probably not a short journey, but something that takes a lifetime, and yet probably many would recognize its course. For me at least, it extended from the theoretical idea of the “one day” when “you’ll meet someone and your world will change”, crossed over into the real and tangible, became a “goal” with a real, flesh and blood individual (my wife), and then led well beyond all expectations. Yes, of course I expected to live “happily ever after”… but the fact is I had no idea what that meant.

There is no imagining or realm of explanation that can equal the moment when you realize that all those years spent in beating your head against the wall at an office or in running endlessly around the house, the store, the school, and everywhere in between; in all those little sacrifices that were made along the way; the tears shed, the pains felt, the projects put together, the school assemblies, summer camps and all the other events attended when you really had four other places to be; all the things that didn’t happen, too… but still all those joys won and released… all that is just experienced in the raising children, holding of a family and home together, and in simply living and loving together…  all these good things were somehow part of an unconscious ascesis of becoming one flesh. It just never crossed my mind… I was simply too busy to do anything else, and then realized one day… that there it was, a life that was real, filled with love, and beyond holding…

For there you are… no longer young… but so too, you may find that love is no longer something just for young people, or a pursuit of the “perfect” in people, locations, or ambience. It is more than an object, idea or destination, and something far more meaningful, real and at peace in its ordinariness. It is special by its invitation, and yet open to all who seek it out. And it may be exceptional in that it is not for the demanding, but for the patient, and giving…. and becomes a love that is always new, where the same-old-same-old is never tiresome, where there is always joy and release from one’s burdens… and the very breath of life and home – no matter where you are. You breathe together, or hear soft breath in between your own, and feel a togetherness unconfined by place or physical presence… but instead you share even your separateness. And yes this love can still be fed by passion and desire, but more than that, it is fed by whatever or whomever is around – however much or little that may be. In the end, it is simply fed by a spirit of being together, and yet equally it is a giving to those beyond its fires. It is adult in its circumspect intimacy, and childlike in immediacy.

And from this, some of us Thickheaded folks can even manage the insight that our learning to love God follows a similar path… and yet differs in that it endures forever. Yes, it still involves all the day-to-day struggles we so often feel stand between ourselves and God rather than form the heart of it; but it also involves a life of prayer, of reverence, of willing submission and obedience in all these things. For there remains no other way to move from idea to action than by these steps. And the contrast between love on this level, and the love we may more commonly dole out to God as our tithe, our ten percent or our ten-percent-only-when-asked is far, far more pitiful. And it is pitiful all the more given that God accepts this small portion without complaint; accepts our petitions for mercy… and loves us all the same even as He knocks on our hearts once more. Like a child, He keeps coming back. How can our hearts not melt? or remain unmoved? And yet we so often forget ourselves in our forgetting God this way.

Nevertheless, we can be thankful our scriptures seem full of a better language, full of remembrances, full of others struggling to reconcile these longings, and recognize in this an opening to enter a relationship that similarly transits the possible to the real, finds warmth of heart, the breath of life, and all that makes for a more authentic faith in the Living God. But for now, our lives – mine especially – remain unfinished. And the more I live the more I realize how unfinished I am, and the more I understand that the love of one doesn’t just lead to the other, but in turn feeds a fully reciprocating process that is always unfinished, always beyond, never complete and always overflowing. Thanks be to God.


  1. Beautiful post and great thoughts. Thank you for sharing. I especially enjoyed the part about raising kids as askesis, as I often find myself making meals, folding laundry, etc, so that my full-time student wife can finish her Masters.

  2. Struck me after writing this that these thoughts could seem equally suffocating… and heartless to those who might instead feel “trapped” in relationships that are anything but loving. Suppose this is what could have driven the madness, the “chaos” within that seeks to be freed from an omnipresence rather than converted. So for that… forgive me.

    In a talk in Baltimore (may still be on the Holy Cross – Linthicum website) some time back, Archbishop Lazar Puhalo commented something to the effect that he thought the ascesis of marriage and family was under-rated by the Church, and in fact much more difficult than the monastic life. I’m sure he meant it differently than it comes out here… but I think he was trying to make the point in this brief aside that the Church could do more to illuminate family life. My patron saint is St. James the Persian (Sawn Asunder)…. just because he was married with kids. And with all of them ragging on him… probably while running chariot pool… I mean… duh… who wouldn’t go to pieces?

    I think the reason we don’t have much help is simply folks were so busy putting it together in familes… the LAST thing they had time to do was spend hours making ink, paper, and writing down their “stuff”. We have their laundry tickets, grocery lists, Chinese take-out menus etc. (I kid you not… from “dumpsters” in ancient Israel)… but not their ancient bloggings. Hmmmm….

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