What moves me, O God, to love YouAnonymous Spanish Mystic of the 16th Century
Is not the Heaven you have promised me;
It is not the awesome Hell that prompts me not to offend You.
It is You who prompt me, Lord.
It is seeing You nailed to the Cross,
Seeing Your wounded Body,
The insults You received,
And Your death.
Finally, it is Your love
So that I would love You, even if there were no Heaven.
You need give me nothing, Lord.
Even if I could not hope for what I hope,
I would love You as I love You now.
One of my high school teachers shared this prayer with our class. At the time, I wondered why focusing on Christ’s sufferings was a higher love than admitting the longing for heaven. Are His sufferings and His promise of heaven not both signs of His love?
Still, I figured an anonymous 16th century Spanish mystic knew better than I did. Something drew me to his words, and I’ve found myself praying them every day for years now. And I am beginning to understand.
The Church, in Her wisdom, sets apart (“makes holy”) the week before Easter every year. Catholics all over the world are called to have a profound sense, from Passion Sunday until Easter itself, of the Lord’s suffering and death. We reflect on the Scriptures–Old Testament prophecies and the Gospels leading up to Christ’s Resurrection–to learn the meaning of His suffering and to make it present.
What meaning does His suffering have for us? Usually, we’d rather not reflect on suffering, its powerlessness and dependency; this is true even for sufferings happening in our day, which we have some hope of alleviating. Why immerse ourselves, year after year, in suffering that happened almost two-thousand years ago?
God’s love language
Modern theorists have identified five love languages, five ways we express love or experience the love of another. They are (1) words of affirmation, (2) acts of service, (3) receiving gifts, (4) quality time, and (5) physical touch. Each person has primary, secondary, and even tertiary love languages that rank how he expresses and experiences love most profoundly. Well, God is Love; He uses ALL the love languages.
One love language is missing from this list. The love language of suffering is, perhaps, the most powerful, for it captures the essence of love most completely. Any true love is an inward, willing suffering. It might even be called the death of the lover; in his love, he loses what he was before. He is redefined, reborn, in a love that has changed his very being.
This language has been known and used for generations, but it has always remained a mystery. In modern times, it is almost lost to us. We are drawn to it, however, in stories of unrequited love. In the best cases, these stories are the exploration of a love so deep and true that it changes the world.
The story we celebrate from Lent through Easter, from the Creation of Man through the end of time, is the greatest story of unrequited love. After the Fall, Man grew farther from his God. God continued to show love, and Man continued to refuse even the smallest gifts. God’s priceless grace, through which reconciliation and forgiveness could occur, was rejected over and over again.
God was desperate to regain our love. The Word become flesh and dwelt among us. He became the Spouse of Souls, the Bridegroom of the Church. He chose to express His deep love in every way, but especially by manifesting the suffering He endured in His desire for friendship and unity with us. His is a suffering that means love and demands love.
So this week, do not turn away from Him; He has proven He will never turn from you. Be mindful of His suffering; He is always reaching out to you in yours. Comfort Him with your growing love.
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,Song of Songs 4:9
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes