In Jesus, God saves us by becoming so vulnerable that we are able to kill him in a vile and humiliating way. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus assure us that God’s offer of friendship will never be withdrawn, no matter what we do. If the cross did not result in a withdrawal of the offer, then nothing we do will lead to a change of God’s heart. We can, however, refuse the offer. Friendship is a mutual relationship, and a person has to accept the offer; he or she cannot be coerced or tricked into it. And any human being’s final refusal of God’s friendship breaks God’s heart. Still, God does not turn away from such a person in anger and rage. God lives eternally with a broken heart. That’s how vulnerable God wants to be.
Loving God, I pray for the wisdom to never turn away from your friendship or take advantage of your love for me.
—William A. Barry, SJ, in Lenten Meditations: Growing in Friendship with God
As parents, we can relate to God’s vulnerability as described in this meditation. There is a saying that having a child is like putting limbs on your heart and setting it free in the world. We have this intense love for our children—no matter what—that indeed makes us vulnerable.
In my family’s experience, we have had many a talk with our teenaged daughter about the extent of our love for her. Afraid that in these delicate years ahead she might lose her way at some point, make some mistake she thinks is unforgivable, or something awful might happen that tears her away from us, we have tried to make it perfectly clear that we will ALWAYS love her, and that she is welcome home under absolutely any circumstances. We probably give her that speech more often than necessary, but we’re doing all we can to drill it deep into her psyche. You are always loved, you are always welcome, and nothing will ever change that. There is a lot that can happen in this world—sometimes by one’s own choices and sometimes by force—and nothing terrifies us more than losing our daughter. Indeed, if she ever turns her back on us we would be completely heartbroken, but we wouldn’t give up on her. Ever.
Imagine that love we have as parents is merely a small reflection of the vulnerable, all-invested love that God has for us all. God’s heart walks this earth by the billions. He carries a perfect love, even greater than that of a parent for a child, for each and every one of us. For me, that’s unfathomable. Jesus tries to give us a sense of it in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but as we know, Jesus used parables to give people a glimpse of understanding into something far greater than they could possibly comprehend. Thus, that parable shows us that the love of the forgiving father is just the beginning.
Now here’s the challenge. The all-invested, life-changing love that a parent has for a child is also just the beginning. We are called to be disciples on this earth, to serve others and to treat others as Jesus would. Does that not mean that the intense love between a parent and child should be the same love we offer every child of God?
Father of us all, teach us to love all of your children as we love our own, so that everyone of this earth may glimpse the unfathomable love you have for us. Amen.
This is part four of a seven-part series. Read the rest at Growing in Friendship with God This Lent.
Beautiful connection between God’s Vulnerability and the role of a parent in sharing that!
How wonderful to know we are loved so much by God and that we can share that love especially with our children and grandchildren. Holy Week is certainly the time to reflect on the gift of love which is Jesus Christ.Thank you God for the gift of love.
With all due respect, you have omitted the most important message to your child: That while your door is always open and you avow you will never stop loving her, that love is human and thus imperfect. Your child knows that she can challenge that love. Only God’s love is perfect. Only God can and will provide universal acceptance, repetitive forgiveness and unending love. Turn to God always and in all things. Maintaining that relationship is paramount, a relationship that is best maintained through regular prayer and reception of the sacraments.
That hit me in the solar plexus! Lord give me your love – that love that is even greater than the love I have for my child, for all of those you put in my path.
Years ago, I went to Confession, and my penance was to go home and pray for the grace to know how much God loved me. How unconventional, but wonderful! That night there was a terrible thunderstorm and my three year old son came running into my bedroom and jumped into bed between my husband and me. He laid there with his eyes closed and said, “God, I love you, and I know you love me.” And he drifted back to sleep. I had this overwhelming feeling of love come over me at that moment. It is impossible to even describe. It was as if my heart was bursting out of my body. I will never forget that feeling. Then the thought came over me…this is how God feels about ME, as His child, at every moment. Such a vivid memory, 10 years later. One of the highlights of my life.
Beautiful, Kristen! What a confirmation that God loves you!! What a wise priest!
Thank you so much for this beautiful reflection. I have two teenage daughters and your analogy of our love for them to God’s love for us was so very helpful.
The most precious gift we carry into each day, and moment is the all consuming love of our God. I long to feel that intensity always but fall short. I also think if I could I would be on fire with this consuming love as well as everyone else the world would be different, since love transforms everything. Sounds like heaven to me. Good and gracious God thanks for this Holy season of Lent. Namaste!
The doors have always been left open for our three teenagers, now in their fifties. It has been frustrating at times when they were younger. My wife and I are in our eighties now and we still welcome them…doors always open.
Cara’s Reflection along with Veronica and Mike’s replies were forwarded to the parents of my grandchildren.
They are parents of three young adults, each testing their “wings”. Mistakes in judgement, common at this age, are made. So far they come back for the familial love they know, and count on. We pray they grow to know God’s unending love for them.
This is truly beautiful. Thank you so much. As a mother, and now a grandmother this is how I feel about my beloved family, and try always to be there when needed. God bless you..
Cara, what a challenge you have thrown our way – to love everyone with the same love that we love our own children. Yet that is what God does and we are called to do the same. Thank you for wording the prayer so intentionally. Blessings.
A beautiful reflection today!!
We did just thus and after a long time she came back. Thank God.
Wow. Teach us Loving Father to love like You love. We find it hard to love especially when it hurts. We want to give up when it becomes so difficult to love. Please help me and everyone of us to love rightly. Grant us Grace to be Faithful, hopeful and loving no matter what.