We love because He first loved us. - 1 John 4:19Can I just say completely without bias that my four-year-old is too adorable for words?
This morning he came stumbling into my room. I was sitting on the edge of the bed. My husband and I both said hello to him but like his mommy who needs her coffee before she can function, this boy couldn't say a word. He came right over to me, planted his head on my lap and wrapped his arms around my legs and hugged them fiercely. "Thanks for that hug!" I tell my boy.
Now wide awake he looks up at me with the widest smile and announces warmly: "I love you too!"
He often does that- saying "I love you too" to my husband or I when we haven't said "I love you" first. Sometimes he says it in response to kindnesses, compliments, but it's often just when he is happy.
I find it so wonderfully bold, so full of his child-like confidence that he knows his mom and dad love him, without us saying so. Our presence assures him we love him, our hugs and our smiles say the same thing. He knows his relationship to us is rooted in our love for him. So he responds to our affections just the same as if we had said the words "I love you." I am enchanted by this. I realize it's probably partly due to the fact that he is delayed with his speech and he's still trying to figure out the rules or conventions of language, but it is so refreshing and it makes my heart burst every time.
It's gotten me thinking about how we approach Our Father. Saint Thérèse spoke so much of child-like faith; she knew that God loved her without question, much like my boy takes it for granted that we love him. I can imagine the Little Flower whispering ''I love you too!'' to her heavenly Father in response to a beautiful sunrise, a sweet-smelling rose, or any heart-stirring grace.
The words ''I love you'' are so heavily charged. It's more than just factually acknowledging that I will your good, but it is confessing that you have a place in my heart; that I delight in you; that you are a part of me; that you have some power over me.It says, I want to give you the gift of myself. Your acceptance or rejection of me can build me up or tear me down. It's saying I am vulnerable to you. It says ''I will forgive whatever wrong you cause me, because for you I am willing to be wounded, I am willing to suffer.'' It begs to hear back acceptance, affirmation: ''yes, I love you too!''
God made us to love us, to delight in us, desiring for us to freely choose to love Him in return. (And I know it in my depths because I can feel it in front of the Monstrance, those wordless 'I love yous' bouncing back and forth between my soul and Him, feeling pulled towards Him as if by a magnet. And it's jaw-dropping and so humbling to discover this. It changed me.) And He made us to love Him through those around us, and to love those around us through Him, and to let ourselves be loved by Him through them and by them through Him. It's crazy relational! And it's everything! Today's Gospel reading is from Mark 12: 28-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,“Which is the first of all the commandments?”Jesus replied, “The first is this:Hear, O Israel!The Lord our God is Lord alone!You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.The second is this:You shall love your neighbor as yourself.There is no other commandment greater than these.”The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.You are right in saying,He is One and there is no other than he.And to love him with all your heart,Every grace is God shouting ''I love you'' and it's all grace. Let's tell Him boldly that we love him too.
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourselfwith all your understanding, with all your strength,and to love your neighbor as yourselfis worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,he said to him,“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
A bit later this morning, that same adorable son of mine was showing off his new-found ability to wink and was seeing if I could also wink (spoiler alert: I can.) So he pushed my hair out of my eyes to get a better look and said ''Mommy! You're so pretty... just like (his sister) Grace!'' I include this story just as additional proof of his adorableness and because it made his sister break out into the biggest smile when I told her about it later. I suppose I should have answered ''I love you too.''