Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Fear In Love: 1-6-10

Again let us sit by a fire for a few minutes. In the first letter of St. John, verse 18, begins "There is no fear in love." So many times, listening to troubled souls, most priests will recognize how sinfulness can encase the heart and mind in the hardened concrete of fear. Let's examine what the apostle means.

Let's begin with this assumption: an individual has sinned to the extent that the sinful action weighs heavily on the person. First, we should recognize that peace cannot rule a heart where there is sin. There is the experience of guilt which builds a barrier around the heart and mind ... not so much the fear of punishment but the fear of embarrassment and humiliation. Fear of the encounter with one's parish priest is no insignificant reality. Why else would the penitent not want to receive the forgiveness of the Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation? What confessor is there today who would impose an embarrassing penance, a painful penance? Very few, indeed! Years of hearing the struggles of people who have not been graced by the Sacrament of Reconciliation have led me to believe this is the real reason for the fear that has captured the hurting heart.

Does this fear, this embarrassment that would keep someone from receiving absolution of one's sins, does it not speak of a true lack of a genuine love of God? The story of the prodigal son comes to mind. After some years of failure and obvious shame, he returns to his father. He realizes that reconciliation with the man who brought him into the world, the man who loves him with a love beyond description, will not result in either punishment or humiliation.

If there is genuine love of God in one's life, even though their are events of failure and sin, there will not be a fear of consequences from a God who is, as St. John, like St. Paul, says is love. Such a love in our hearts cannot exist if we do not share that feeling, that emotion with God himself ... not just every so often but every day ... every morning, (noon time??) and night.

Our lives would be very different were we to be frequent in speaking that love to God. Imagine how different lives would be, how different family life would be, even how different our communities would be if each day every person would take just three or four minutes to speak to God from the heart with heartfelt words of love! If this would happen, then the words of St. John would have much more meaning for each of us. Professing our love of God, we will be gifted with an abundance of divine love.