Sunday, June 24, 2018

Happy Birthday, John!

Usually the Church celebrates a feast on the death date of a saint.  That is their "birthday" into heaven.  But for three people we also celebrate their earthly births--Jesus (on Christmas Day), the Blessed Virgin Mary (on September 8, nine months after a celebration of her Immaculate Conception), and John the Baptist (today, June 24).  Three months ago we celebrated the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and that her kinswoman Elizabeth was sixth months pregnant with a son, the one who has come to be known as St. John the Baptist.

You and I celebrate the days on which we were born and we also, at the end of our lives, are remembered and prayed for by our friends and relatives.  In between those dates--our birth and our death--we live our earthly lives.  John the Baptist is a great example for how to live those days.

What is the most important lesson that we can learn from John?  Humility.  In the second reading at Mass today (Acts 13: 22-26), in a speech of St. Paul, we hear how John told the many people who had come to follow him that he was not the Messiah, the Anointed One.  In fact, he said, he was even lower than the Messiah's servant: "Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet." 

Yet our first reading (Isaiah 49: 1-6), in words that the Church applies to John the Baptist, says that "it is too little for you to be my servant.... I will make you a light to the nations...."  That sounds pretty glorious.  However, light is humble.  We don't turn a light on and then focus our attention on it.  Light is not there to be stared at. It does not draw attention to itself.  Rather, it humbly enlightens a place so that one can find one's way in the dark. 

We too are called to be light for others, not to draw attention to ourselves but to help others find their way through the darkness of the world. 

There is an expression: "to make a name for oneself."  Those who try to make a name for themselves want to become famous so that many people will recognize their name.  They want to draw attention to themselves. 

John the Baptist did not try to make a name for himself.  He was given a name by God.  He should have been called "Zechariah," after his father.  But on the day of his circumcision, his parents made it clear that in obedience to God's will, which came to them through the Angel Gabriel, their son was to named "John."  It's a name that means "God is gracious."  John's identity was to show the graciousness of God who sent the Son to live our life, suffer with and for us, and even share in our death so that we could share in his resurrection.  John prepared the way for the One who embodied the graciousness of God, the goodness and generosity of God.  John pointed to Jesus, the Incarnation of God's graciousness. 

You and I were also given a name by God.  It wasn't the name our parents chose for us but the name that we received when we were baptized and joined to the Body of Christ.  We were named "Christian."  We became "other Christs."  The name "Christ" means "Anointed One."  At baptism we were anointed with the Sacred Chrism which is used to consecrate the altar and four walls of new churches, setting that space apart for the sacred purpose of worship.  When I was ordained, the bishop anointed my hands with Sacred Chrism, consecrating them for the sacred purpose of offering worship to God.  And when we were baptized and then confirmed, our foreheads were anointed with that same Sacred Chrism, consecrating each of us for the sacred purpose of offering worship to God.

We do that when we celebrate Mass and offer the perfect worship, joining ourselves to the perfect offering of Jesus as he renews his greatest act of love for the Father and for us.  But our worship doesn't end there.  We go forth and continue our worship in our daily lives, offering every thought, word, and deed, every prayer, work, joy, and suffering to God as an act of love and for the salvation of souls.  Our Daily Offering prayer helps us remember to offer the worship of daily life for which we have been anointed.

Like John, we are now called to live up to our name--Christian.  We are called to be true to the anointing and name that we received at baptism.  We are called not to make a name for ourselves but to make the Name of Jesus known and glorified.  For it is in this Name alone that the world has come to know salvation. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Planting Seeds of Faith, Hope, and Love

At our grade school--Sapa Un Catholic Academy
It's over a year since my last post and 10 and a half months since I left the Apostleship of Prayer (the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network) to become director of St. Francis Mission Among the Lakota (www.sfmission.org).  It feels as though I actually have three jobs--chief administrator, fund-raiser, pastor of the reservation--and as a result I haven't taken the time to blog.  Plus, I wondered whether it was appropriate to use this blog which was so closely connected to the Apostleship of Prayer.  However, those who make a daily offering and strive to live the spirituality of the AoP are always members.  And I've had a lot to "offer up" this past year.  That being said, I want to return to blogging and to begin with my homily for this weekend, the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

Last week I was in Omaha and I sure found Google Maps on my cell phone to be very helpful for getting around to see various people.  But this app would have been no help at all if I didn't know the destinations.  Without a destination there would be no directions on how to get there.

Each of us has an internal GPS that tells us something about our destination.  It's called "conscience."  It's an innate sense of right and wrong that doesn't need to be taught.  Just think of the following situation: A teacher tells his or her first graders that at the end of the day all the boys will get a chocolate bar and all the girls will have to stay after school.  There would be an outcry: "That's not fair!"  Who told them that it wasn't fair?  Children have an innate sense of "fairness" that doesn't need to be taught.  Of course, as time goes by this moral GPS or conscience needs further development, updates as it were, that help it grow and stay on track.

This is where knowing our destination is essential.  What's our goal or destination in life?  In our second reading (2 Corinthians 5: 6-10), St. Paul writes about his and our "home," our true home.  Earth is not our true home.  Life on earth is a journey.  Our true home or "haven" is heaven.  We are here on earth to learn how to breathe the atmosphere of heaven, to get ready to go to our true home.

But we don't go there alone.  A good friend of mine, Deacon Pat Coy of Custer, South Dakota, says that when we enter the pearly gates Jesus will be there to ask us "How many did you bring with you?"

In our Gospel (Mark 4: 26-34) Jesus presents another way of looking at this.  He uses the image of farming.  We are here on earth to scatter seeds--seeds of faith, hope, and love.  We can till the soil and get rid of the weeds, but we cannot make those seeds grow.  Only God can.  Thus we do the best we can but leave the results to God.  This is where faith and trust come into play.

Pope Francis put it well in his Apostolic Exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel."  He wrote in sections 278 and 279:

Let us believe the Gospel when it tells us that the kingdom of God is already present in this world and is growing, here and there, and in different ways: like the small seed which grows into a great tree....  Because we do not always see these seeds growing, we need an interior certainty, a conviction that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks.... This certainty ... involves knowing with certitude that all those who entrust themselves to God in love will bear good fruit, without claiming to know how, or where, or when.  We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others.  ... The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results.  We know only that our commitment is necessary.  Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the arms of the Father amid our creative and generous commitment. Let us keep marching forward; let us give him everything, allowing him to make our efforts bear fruit in his good time. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Transition


On the second Tuesday of every month, a group of volunteers come to the national offices of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network to stuff envelopes with our monthly leaflets.  Today a larger group than gathered.  It was a chance to say farewell.  

On July 17 Fr. William Blazek, S.J. will become the new director of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network in the U.S. and on July 29 I'll be moving to begin a new assignment.  The last fourteen years have been filled with many blessings, one of which is the group of volunteers who came once a month to pray together, to get the monthly leaflets ready to send out around the country and even across the English-speaking world, and to have fun together.

Everyone brought treats which we enjoyed after we celebrated Mass and before the work began.  One person brought a beautiful farewell cake and seven year old Quinn entertained us with his violin.

My blogging has been so sporadic lately because I find myself living in three worlds: current commitments, getting things ready for the new director, and getting ready to move and take over my new mission.  What is it?

Starting July 31 I will be the next director of St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation in western South Dakota.  Though I've never lived and worked there, this is a ministry with which I am familiar.  From 1977-80 I taught at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation, just west of the Rosebud.  From 1989-95 I worked at the Sioux Spiritual Center, a retreat house for Native people that served the five reservations that are part of the Rapid City Diocese.  With Fr. John Hatcher, S.J., whose place I will be taking at St. Francis, we coordinated the deacon and lay ministry formation program of the diocese.  And from 1995-9 I was the Wisconsin Province Assistant to the Provincial for Native Ministry.

In 1886, shortly after the Lakota people were forced to live on reservations, Jesuits founded St. Francis Mission and began serving their pastoral, social, and educational needs.  Here is the website for St. Francis--an old mission that has become a new mission with its innovative programs.  

I hope to continue blogging and working with Catholic radio stations around the country.  I'll also always continue to offer up each day, returning love for the great love Jesus has shown us and praying with and for the intentions of the Holy Father and of all Apostles of Prayer.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Doing Greater Works as We Climb

In the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A (John 14: 1-12), we see Jesus at the Last Supper getting impatient with his apostles.  He has been with them for several years.  He is giving them his final discourse and they clearly do not know him.  In response to Philip who asks Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus says: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”

Right before this Jesus had declared: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus, fully divine, is the truth about who God is.  God is love, a love that is willing to give all for the good of humanity.  Jesus, fully human, is also the truth about what humanity is meant to be.  Jesus is the way to live.  Following Jesus and the trail to heaven that he has blazed, we will come to the eternal life for which we were made.

In his Ascension Day homily in 2013, Pope Francis compared Jesus to a mountain-climbing guide: “In Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. He is like a roped guide climbing a mountain who, on reaching the summit, pulls us up to him and leads us to God. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior, of our Advocate.”

Jesus is not only ahead of us on our journey through life, having arrived at life’s goal, he is with us.  He is present in the Eucharist.  He is present in his Body, in our brothers and sisters.

This latter presence is what some of the early Christians missed.  The first reading (Acts 6: 1-7) shows that the early Church wasn’t always the idyllic picture of harmony that is painted in earlier chapters of Acts (see 2: 42-47 and 4: 32-35).  There was racism and division.  The Greek-speaking Christians were being neglected by the Jewish Christians.  In response, a new ministry developed to care for the poor. 

But without a change of heart that leads one to see in every person a brother or sister in Christ, new ministries are not enough.  A deeper vision of unity is required.

The second reading (1 Peter 2: 4-9) provides that.  The Church is a “spiritual house” that has Jesus as its cornerstone.  Members of the Body of Christ are “living stones.”  We are “a holy priesthood,” “a royal priesthood.”  Through baptism we share in the priesthood of Jesus who replaced the old animal and grain sacrifices before him with his one perfect offering of himself on the cross.  This offering is made present every time we celebrate Mass.  There we offer the “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.”  We offer ourselves with Christ for the salvation of the world.  Then we go forth from Mass to live the “spiritual sacrifices” in our daily lives.  

This is the spirituality of offering that is at the heart of the Apostleship of Prayer.  We begin each day offering ourselves—all our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings; all our thoughts, words, and deeds; every breath and every heartbeat.  This offering of our day to God with Jesus is very important and can work wonders.

Jesus promised this when he said in the Gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones that these, because I am going to the Father.” 

Really?  Do I believe that we can do greater works than the ones Jesus did during his earthly life?

Three events of the last one hundred years should convince us that our faith-filled prayers can work wonders.  All three are connected with the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearances at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

First, there is the story of Jesuit Father Hubert Schiffer about whom I wrote August6, 2016.  He and several other Jesuits, living near the epicenter of the first atomic bomb, survived and lived for several more decades.  A Defense Department expert could not find any physical reason for their survival.  He concluded that a power greater than that of an atomic bomb protected them from harm.  According to Father Schiffer, “we believe that we survived because we were living the Message of Fatima. We lived and prayed the Rosary daily in that home.”

In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and I’m convinced that prayer was behind its destruction.  See my blog post of October 3, 2016 for a photo of a section of the wall that can be seen at Fatima.

Lastly, on October 13, 1991, a movie about Fatima was shown on Soviet television.  The movie was repeated on November 7, the anniversary of the Russian Revolution.  On Christmas Day, the flag of the U.S.S.R. at the Kremlin was lowered for the last time.  The Soviet Union broke apart and Communism ended its stranglehold on that part of the world.  Since then, 29,000 churches have been built or reopened, the number of monasteries has grown from 15 to 788, the 500 theological seminaries are full, and the Russian government spends over $100 million a year for the restoration of churches. 

I believe these are miracles wrought by prayer. 

But wars and conflicts continue.  The threat of nuclear war remains and has perhaps intensified.  The Message of Fatima is as essential as ever—prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners.  When he visited Fatima a year after the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II said: “In the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fatima. The greatest obstacle to man’s journey towards God is sin, perseverance in sin, and, finally denial of God.  The deliberate blotting out of God from the world of human thought. The detachment from him of the whole of man’s earthly activity. The rejection of God by man.  Can the Mother, who with all the power of her love nurtured in the Holy Spirit, who desires everyone’s salvation, keep silence about what undermines the very basis of their salvation?  No, she cannot.”

Nor can we keep silence.  We pray and we offer our lives, one day at a time, for peace in the world and the salvation of all.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Role in Divine Mercy

In the Gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday (John 20: 19-31), Jesus tells the apostles gathered in the upper room: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  What did the Father send Jesus to do?  To take away the sins of the world.  To reconcile humanity to God and with one another.

But Jesus does not only commission them to carry on his work. He empowers them to do so.  He breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 

How are sins retained?  If God’s love and mercy are infinite, how is it that some sins are not forgiven?

In his 1980 encyclical “Rich in Mercy,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote: “Mercy, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son.  No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it (#13).”

There is no limit that any human being can place on God’s mercy.  Except for one.  It’s the limit that arises from human freedom and divine love.  God cannot force his merciful love upon anyone.  He cannot force anyone to love him, for this would not be love but violence.  Thus, John Paul continues: “On the part of man, only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.”

Reconciliation is a two-way street.  God is always ready to forgive, but his mercy must be received and to receive it one must first recognize the need for mercy, ask for it, and then receive it. God cannot force his love and mercy upon anyone who does not want it.

The Church forgives sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But the Holy Spirit, given to the entire Church, is at work in the lives of each baptized Christian.  We all play an essential role in helping people receive mercy, in softening hard hearts. How?

First, we are to be holy, merciful, and loving.  As children of God, we are to be holy as God, who is Love and Mercy itself, is holy.

On one occasion when Jesus met St. Faustina, he revealed to her the greatest obstacles to holiness.  He said: #1488: “My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety. These will deprive you of the ability to practice virtue.  All temptations united together ought not disturb your interior peace, not even momentarily (Diary #1488).”

How do discouragement and anxiety prevent us from being virtuous?  When we become discouraged—with ourselves, others, or the world—we give up.  We think things will never get better and so we stop trying to be better.  Change in the world begins with each one of us and discouragement only encourages us to continue moving away from God.  And anxiety leads us to focus on ourselves, our own worries and problems, rather than keeping our focus on God.

The antidote to discouragement and anxiety?  TRUST.  This is the great message that Jesus wanted us to know when he revealed that the greatest divine attribute is mercy.

When we place all our trust in Jesus, in his love and mercy, then we find an inner peace which flows through us into the world.  Jesus told St. Faustina: “When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls (Diary #1074).”

We grow in holiness as we grow in union with Jesus, a union that is especially fostered in the Holy Eucharist.  One with Jesus, we see other people as he sees them and we respond as he would respond.  This is why St. Faustina, in words that echo St. Paul (Galatians 2: 20), made the following prayer:  “Most sweet Jesus, set on fire my love for You and transform me into Yourself.  Divinize me that my deeds may be pleasing to You. May this be accomplished by the power of the Holy Communion which I receive daily. Oh, how greatly I desire to be wholly transformed into You, O Lord! (Diary #1288).”

In his homily for the canonization of St. Faustina, the first saint of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II said: “Looking at him, being one with His Heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness. All this is mercy! The message of divine mercy is also implicitly a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God’s eyes; Christ gave His life for each one.”

Without exclusion, Jesus, the Son of God, suffered and died for every human person.  He told St. Faustina: “My daughter, write that the greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy; urge all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all. On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls—no one have I excluded! (Diary #1182).”

When we grow in union with Jesus, we share more and more the desires and concerns of his Merciful and Sacred Heart.  Moved as his Heart is moved by sinful and suffering humanity, we pray and work for the conversion of sinners.  This is the work of reconciliation that the Holy Spirit empowers all the baptized to do. 

Praying for the conversion of sinners gives great joy to the Heart of Jesus.  He said: “Pray for souls that they be not afraid to approach the tribunal of My Mercy. Do not grow weary of praying for sinners (Diary #975).” And, “You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners.  Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered (Diary #1397).”

This is so important to Jesus that he sent his own Mother with the same message.  At both Lourdes and Fatima she came asking us to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners.

Do you believe that your prayers and sacrifices make a difference?  So often we are like St. Thomas who says he won’t believe unless he sees.  We don’t believe that our prayers and sacrifices, our very lives, make much difference unless we SEE results.  We give up praying because we do not SEE change in others and the world, or even in ourselves.

Jesus told St. Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Celebrating Divine Mercy as we do, we declare: “Yes, Lord, I believe. I believe my life, with its prayers, works, joys, and sufferings, offered daily to you for the salvation of souls does make a difference.  Jesus, I trust in you!  Jesus, I trust in your Holy Spirit at work in and through me, bringing your mercy into the world.”    

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Sunday Homily

The Gospel for Easter Sunday (John 20: 1-9) offers a contrast between Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved,” traditionally identified as John.  Both ran to the tomb of Jesus, peered into it, and saw “the burial cloths there,” but no sign of Jesus.  Or rather, they did not see Jesus but they did see a sign that pointed to his resurrection.  One saw the sign and that was all while the other saw the sign with the eyes of faith and believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Peter saw the cloths and believed what Mary of Magdala had told him—“they have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”  But why would anyone remove the corpse and leave the burial cloths behind?  Peter saw but did not connect the dots.

John, on the other hand, “saw and believed.”  The cloths pointed to the fact that the dead body of Jesus had not been removed but that Jesus had risen from the dead as he had promised. 

Peter sees from a purely physical perspective, without faith.  John sees with the eyes of faith. 

We too walk by faith and not by sight.  We see signs of the resurrection, but do we believe?  Really believe that Jesus is alive and is present and at work among us and through us? 

Paul wrote that our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (second reading, Colossians 3: 1-4).  Just as Christ, who at this point in the Gospel who has not yet appeared to the apostles in his risen glory, so the full glory of the new life we have in baptism is hidden.  Yet there are signs of this new life already present in us.  What are they?

In the first reading (Acts 10: 34a, 37-43), Peter says that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  The Holy Spirit and the power to do good and heal those burdened by evil in our world—these are the signs.

In baptism we were anointed with the Holy Spirit and empowered to continue the work of Jesus.  We do good in our lives and bring healing to those wounded by sin.  In the renewal of our baptismal promises we reject the devil and his works and profess our faith in God and the new life we were given when we were joined to the Body of Christ.  But we need faith to believe, really believe, that we, joined to the Risen Christ, have the power to do good and avoid evil.  We need faith to believe that in the midst of the world’s darkness, the light of Christ shines through us. 

In “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis wrote about faith in Christ’s resurrection:

Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history (#276).

Do I really believe this?  How can I believe this when the daily news presents a picture of death rather than new life and beauty?  This is where faith enters.  Faith does not remove the struggle.  It requires surrender—to see the signs of death, like the burial cloths, and to believe that this death is not the end. 

Pope Francis continues:

Faith also means believing in God, believing that he truly loves us, that he is alive, that he is mysteriously capable of intervening, that he does not abandon us and that he brings good out of evil by his power and his infinite creativity.

“Good out of evil!?”  Yes.  We can believe this because God took the worst thing that humanity could do—nailing the Son of God to a cross—and brought about the greatest good—forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the world.  If God can do that, God can do anything.  And so Pope Francis challenges us:

Let us believe the Gospel when it tells us that the kingdom of God is already present in this world and is growing, here and there, and in different ways: like the small seed which grows into a great tree. Christ’s resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of that new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain (#278). 

We do not want to simply see, as Peter did, and hold fast to faithless theories. We want to see and believe as John did.  This faith in the power of Christ’s resurrection at work in the world through me and through you leads us to live the new life we’ve been given.  It empowers us to be light in the darkness, to reject evil and to do good.  In that way we answer the challenge that Pope Francis presents at the end of this particular section of his exhortation:

May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

God's Thirst

In the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman (John 4: 4-42), Jesus is thirsty and says to the woman who has come to fetch water from a well, “Give me a drink.”  As their conversation progresses it becomes clear that Jesus wants more than a drink of water to quench his physical thirst.  He has a deeper thirst.

He talks to her about “living water,” which she mistakes for “running water,” an aqueduct, perhaps, that she thinks Jesus can make in order to provide her with water at home so she won’t have to carry water every day from the well. But the “living water” that Jesus is talking about is the water of Baptism which will give her the Holy Spirit and eternal life.  The deepest desire of Jesus is for her to know him and his love which will open her up to receiving the Spirit who gives true and eternal life. 

In his 2007 Message for Lent, Pope Benedict reflected upon the thirst of Jesus.  He wrote:  “On the cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. … The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him.” 

The Son of God loved us so much that he died to save us.  This love is not conditional.  He did not die for those who deserved or had earned his love.  As St. Paul put it: “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8).  In fact, he even died praying that the Father’s mercy would come upon those who were killing them: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).  In the words of the contemporary Christian song “To Ever Live Without Me” by Jody McBrayer: “You would rather die than to ever live without me.” 

This is God’s thirst: to give each of us his infinite love and to receive us and our love so that we might be one with him forever.