In a recent homily, my parish priest related a story about his life that particularly resonated with me. He stated that in his home country of Ghana, he grew up in a large family and sometimes felt lost and unimportant. He made the decision to become a Catholic, a brave decision it itself – his mother was Catholic, but his father and other family members were not. Then he felt that if he could somehow get a college degree that would make him more worthy somehow, maybe more important or at least less insignificant. He went to university and received his degree, but noticed he didn’t feel differently about himself. He then decided God was calling him to the priesthood and he thought, “if I become a priest, then I will feel more important.” He was glad he had answered God’s call to be a priest, but he still felt little. He came to America and learned about the culture and parish life here and continued to struggle with his feelings of self-worth. One day he finally internalized his worth in God’s eyes and knew until he recognized and accepted God’s love for him, he would still feel unworthy. God’s love – that was the true measure of worthiness.
I so understood what he was saying. I have long heard it said over and over that God loves us, God loves us so much, God loves us so very much that he gave his only begotten son for us. My ears heard, my mind understood, my heart did not. I began thinking maybe to be able to understand His love for me, I had to understand love. And then I realized:
He loved me into being like a mother loves her unborn baby, my free will his testament to my loving Him and His ultimate love for me. He cries when I stumble hoping I will take His outstretched hand to pull me up. He waits patiently for me while I think I am waiting patiently for Him.
In solitude she lived,
And in solitude built her nest;
And in solitude, alone
Has the Beloved guided her,
In solitude also wounded with love
~ John of the Cross,
Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ, XXXV