A theology teacher at a University used an exercise to uncover students’ attitudes about God. His method was to hand out a page of cartoon faces whose expressions ranged from a loving smile at one end through increasingly blank expressions in the middle to a steely frown at the other. In the privacy of their rooms they were to answer this question: “Down in your heart of hearts, which expression best matches the way you sense God looking at you?” Given the many declarations and affirmations that God loves us, you would expect most of the responses to cluster around the loving end of the spectrum. In fact, the reactions were spread across the board.
Among other lessons was the revelation that not everyone who professes God to be love thinks and feels she is loved by God. For many there are blocks to the instinctive confidence that we are God’s favored ones. The psychologists teach us about the kinds of subterranean messages that interfere with Paul’s assertion that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans, 5:5)
That’s why for many people the truth of this belief must (in the words of the prophet) be “drilled in.” Jesus’ metaphors for God as the Good Shepherd and the Searcher of lost coins aim at this. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is also a time-tested practice for this as it images the divine love pouring out from the heart of the Lord Jesus.
It’s a challenge to absorb this truth that God’s love penetrates to the tip of our hearts and minds. For many it takes a lifetime to sink in. This is the reason for so many parallel counsels in the Hebrew Bible to “inject this into your children’s hearts” that God is love itself. Is it not the Vincentian undertaking to flesh out that proclamation with deeds of concern and charity?
In a Christmas card, a friend transcribed a quote from Pope Francis about joy which grabs the heart of the matter.
“Joy is … a flicker of light born of our personal certainty, that when all is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”
It would be hard to think of a finer way to underline this oftentimes hard to digest truth that comes to us from The Lord’s own Sacred heart… We are loved, until the end.