He Loves Us Wherever We Are
By Mike VanVranken
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying: He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner Luke 19:7. This passage from the familiar story of Zacchaeus the tax collector and Jesus having dinner at Zach’s place might lead us to assume that Jesus is not doing his Jewish duty (keeping the more than 600 Mosaic Laws) which forbid him to dine with sinners. To them, this was both a physical and spiritual betrayal or separation from other law-abiding, righteous Jews. Why wouldn’t Jesus just do his duty and abide by the law and keep his distance from these sinners?
A single mother raised her three daughters teaching them from early childhood the importance of family relationships. Sunday meals became such a tradition that once the daughters were grown and married, the mother still prepared Sunday dinner for everyone. After many years, during one such Sunday meal, the mother asked her three daughters why they had been so faithful to bringing their husbands and children to these dinners each week.
The youngest began: “Mom, you know we are so busy with school-work, soccer games, our own jobs and many other responsibilities. But we know you would be very upset if we didn’t show up on Sundays, and we would never want to make you mad at us. We feel it is our duty to be here.” The middle daughter followed with: “Well, our family is just as busy as our baby sister’s family is. But you’ve always been there for us, so we feel like we owe it to you to at least be here on Sundays for you.”
The oldest smiled, walked over and hugged her mother and responded: “Yes, mom, we are all very busy, and we know how important these meals are to you and how wonderful you have always been to us. But, for me, over the years I have fallen in love with you and all who you are. I bring my family to Sunday dinners because I love you so much that I want what you want. I find joy wherever you find joy. Sunday dinner with you is an expression of my love for you, not because you might get upset if we don’t come, nor is it some duty I owe you. I’m here solely because I love you and love being with you.”
The mother beamed with joy and love as she walked over and hugged and kissed each of her daughters. She said: “I love all three of you so much, and you have all filled me with joy and consolation today.”
Which one of the daughters do you think the mother loved the most? She loved them all three equally. That’s what mothers do. They each have a relationship with their mother that inspired them to be present each Sunday. It brought her joy and happiness.
This story can somewhat mirror our own relationship with God. In our youth, it is necessary to learn discipline in our prayer practices, acts of charity, and our attendance at Sunday Liturgy. It begins as our duty. I believe this is good and holy to be trained this way.
As we grow in our relationship with God, sometimes we look back and realize all of the continuous and many graces God has blessed us with over the years and is still blessing us with today. At this point of our journey, we might feel so loved by God that we want to be with him from a perspective of “we owe it to him.” After all, how can we ever repay him? Again, I believe this is a good and holy approach to our being with God in prayer, loving others, as well as worship.
And then sometimes, we find ourselves so madly, intimately and totally in love with God that we want only what he wants. We’ve grown from receiving the sacraments and going to Mass as a result of duty or even a debt, and find we experience the sacraments, Mass, and works of mercy because they are part of our love relationship with God. In Jesus’ case, he loved the Father so much, having dinner with Zacchaeus and his friends was his way of loving God as his neighbor.
Which of these is better? They are all good and holy. The beauty is, wherever we are on this continuum with God, he loves us unconditionally and infinitely. We don’t compare ourselves to or judge each other. We are here to serve God by loving him and loving all of his creation, including all people. Each day, we just try to do it, with God’s grace, the best we can.
In your daily prayer time this month, remember to thank and praise God for loving you no matter where you have been, or are now in your journey with him. He loves you no matter what inspires you to serve him.