Sunday, February 14, 2010

He Loved Us, and So He Chose Us.

Several years ago, I happened upon the great, but I think under-appreciated spiritual classic, All for Jesus, by the English priest and hymn-writer Father Frederick William Faber (1814-1863).  The following passage from this treatise is one of the most powerful things I have ever read in any book:

What a wonder it is that God should love men. Intrinsically what is there in them to love?  If we compare our own natural gifts with those of an angel, how miserable we appear!  If we consider how much more faithfully the beasts answer the end of their creation than we do, of what shall we be proud?  Moreover, God has tried men over and over again, and they have always failed Him, and failed Him with every circumstance of unamiable selfishness which can be conceived.  There was first of all, Paradise and the Fall.  Every one knows what came of it.  God was matched against an apple, and the apple carried it. . .  Then here is the world since the Crucifixion.  To look at it you would say that our dearest Lord's Passion had been a simple failure.  So little is the face of the world, or the tone of the world, or the ways of the world changed. . .  Then here are we Christians, a most unsatisfactory sight indeed!  How do we treat our sacraments?  How many of us are serving our Crucified Lord generously and out of love?  

Verily, God's love of men is a simple wonder.  Yet how He must love them, seeing that He became not an angel for angels, but He did become a man for men!  There is no other account of the matter, than the Scripture account of it.  It is simply one of the mysteries of the character of God . . .  But it is a greater wonder still that He lets men love Him. Where are the words to tell the privilege which it is to love the incomprehensibly beautiful, infinitely good, and immensely holy God?  One would have thought such love as ours would be but an insolent profanation; and that were we allowed to be before God with such instinctive love as that of the patient cattle or the drinking birds, it would have been honour enough for us.  Yet if, by permission of His inexhaustible compassions we might love Him, then surely it must be by blood, and pain, and suffering, and shame, and penance, and the costly offerings of a terrific austerity and an appalling self-sacrifice.  Ah! dearest Lord God! and so, in truth, it is; but the blood and the pain, the suffering and the shame, are not ours, but His own!  He weeps that we may smile; He bleeds that we may be whole; He is put to shame, that we may be glad and joyful; He is afraid, and anxious, and heavy, and sweating blood, that we may be at ease about our past sins, drinking in the sunshine of the earth, familiar with God, and sweetly confident about eternity. 

So far does He go, that not only may we love Him most earnestly, but He has arranged all things to entice us into love.  He coins our very desires into worship; and He lets us love Him, and glorify Him, and earn glory for ourselves by what would almost provoke a smile from an unbeliever, it looks so like a mere make-believe, the artifice of a good-natured father, a very child's play of love. If all this on earth, what will He be, what will He do in heaven?  Isaias and St. Paul have both told us how useless the enquiry is.  We must have other eyes to see it with, other ears to hear it with, and a far other range of thought to compass it and take it in.  And will all this one day be ours?  By the Blood of our sweet Jesus, we trust undoubtingly it will.  And whatever have we done for it? Where is the proportion between it and our deserts?  There is none, none, none.  It is all because of Jesus.  Jesus is the secret of everything. Jesus is the interpretation of all the secrets of God. What a religion is this! and what a God!  Oh let it be told to every inhabitant of the earth that it is not as he thought it must be.  We may all love God as much as ever we please, and in as many ways as we can think of.  Would that angels might proclaim it every hour of the day and night, with the sound of the trumpet, to all the dwellings in the four quarters of the world!  If, when they hear it, they neglect their worldly interests, and become like the men of Galilee, gazers into heaven, it is only what we might expect.  Infinite permission to love!  Infinite permission to love!  There is the creature's charter.  The blood of a God bought it.  What a religion!  What a God!

Do wonders end here?  No! there is a greater still.  It was passing wonder that God should love men.  It was more marvellous that He should let men love Him.  But man can outdo God; for his is the greatest wonder of all; it is that he does not love God when he may.  This is hardly to be believed, though we see it.  Oh, if we were not hardened by custom to this fact, it would breed in us some such horror as a cruel and savage parricide would do.  It would take our breath away.  We should not know what to make of it.  Belief in it would only grow slowly into us, and would stupify us as it grew.  But to forget God is the order of things, and we hardly notice the phenomenon at all.  Alas, if we could see it altogether as faith would have us see it, we should long for tears of blood to wash away our infamy!  And what can be said to make men love God, which is one half as strong as what God has actually done for them?  His mercy is so eloquent, His bounty so touching, His indulgence so persuasive, that if He has failed to win, why need men trouble themselves to proclaim His love?  This is what St. Paul must have meant when he talked about the foolishness of preaching.  Christ crucified was Himself the sermon and the preacher, what need of more?  It was foolishness.  Only in His love again God let us do this; we are always meeting love and running against it at every turn; He allowed us to take the words of His covenant into our mouths, and show our little love of Him by telling others His great love of us.  And He showed His love again by letting the conquest of the world depend upon this foolishness of preaching. 

But you and I love Him!  Well!  and this is another wonder; for how come we to do so, when so many more around us do not?  It is simply His own gift, simply grace.  Here is Jesus again.  He taught us how to love, and seeing what unapt pupils we were, He took some of His own love out of His Sacred Heart, and put it into ours, that we might love God with it.  And all our share in the matter is that we have left the lamp untrimmed, and caused the fire to burn far duller than it did before.  It almost seems as if He purposely chose those who were least capable of loving Him.  You and I must surely feel this.  We could point to scores who do not love Him; and yet are a thousand times nobler and more generous of heart than we are, and would have made far finer characters.  How miserable we are!  Why did not God call other souls out of nothing that would have loved Him gloriously, and not been the mean things that we are?  He loved us, our souls, ourselves.  He chose us with an eternal choice, gave us an eternal preference, and loved us with an everlasting love.  Why?  There is no answering the question.  Simply, He loved us, and so He chose us.

The entire book is available for free at Google Books.  As we approach the holy season of Lent, let us meditate on the unimaginable love that God has shown -- and continues to show -- for us.

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