Christian Love as Source, Way and Fulfillment

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Part of "Christian Love as Source, Way and Fulfillment of Christian Life"

(including discussion and questions of retreat participants)

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So, our theme is Christian love.
Pythagoras said, give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.
Because if everything is shifting and uncertain, we can't achieve very much solidly.
But our thesis then, I think it's a Christian thesis, is that agape love is that solid place
to stand where we can then truly move the earth.
St. Paul says, we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.
And we know that all things work to the good for those who love God, but for those who
are from his famous hymn to love in Romans, apart from his hymn to love in 1 Corinthians.
So we're looking at love, and specifically now, love of neighbor.
And this doesn't exclude the whole theme of our love of God.
Indeed, it's all wrapped up together.
We can't truly love our neighbor except in and through God's love of us, as we've seen.
This is worked out very rigorously by some Thomist theologians, arguing that the Holy
Spirit in the Trinity is not just enabling love between Father and Son in the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit is that love, substantially personified.
And so analogously with us, whenever there's a bond of love between two persons or more,
the Holy Spirit inspires that bond of love, enables it.
But also is that bond of love at the deepest level?
So that's something to think about.
So when we're really rejoicing in that experience of love, whether it be friendship love or
filial paternal or spousal or whatever, the deepest level of that is the Holy Spirit,
according to this great Thomist position.
Whenever we're able truly to be we, this is little image and likeness of Trinity, and
it's the Spirit that's enabling.
I'm amazed by this astonishing range of the modalities of love, the expressions of love.
We've already noted that human life begins, first of all, in conception.
Hopefully in a moment of intense love between man and woman.
And then with that love conceived, there is that maternal love communicated to the child,
perhaps in some mysterious way already in the womb, and received by the embryo already
in the womb.
So the filial love of mother enables the love, enables the child to become person.
And then our experience of paternal love of daddy, usually one of the first words.
And then as I become individuated, self-love, hopefully in the best sense.
Then getting to know brothers and sisters, if they're there, sibling love, friendship
love, romantic love, spousal love.
And then as we marry, if that's our way, then generating life, then we share paternal love,
paternal love, and the thing goes on.
And then there's community love.
There's love of all of humanity, all of creation, love of the enemy, a particular test
case, and love of God in all of this.
So this is some little brief view of this incredible range of the many dimensions of
In one way, it's like the different senses, I think, feeling, sight, taste, touch, hearing,
that give us all kinds of different ends to the one reality there.
And so I think all these different ways of experiencing human love are paths into the
one mystery.
Another image that's sometimes used is a huge, magnificent pipe organ, and all these
stops and all these registers that can bring us into all kinds of different musical tonalities,
or an orchestra with all the different instruments, or a whole palette of colors for a gifted
artist or something like that.
But if we're going to journey this way of love, walk in love as Christ loved us in St.
Paul, one way to do it is just every now and then to work on one area or another of
this multi-splendored mystery.
And it's not so much a ladder as maybe a spiral staircase, so we can come back and
recover maybe our relationship with our mother.
Maybe she's already deceased.
But for the Christian, that doesn't end at all.
And to work on that, and through prayer and quiet communion, to deepen that love.
And then relationship with a brother, with a friend of elementary school, with those
relationships that didn't quite work, etc.
What we anticipate for the future, etc.
It's an ongoing discipline and asceticism and practice that never runs out of material
if we're attentive to the thing.
The first love we perceive, maternal love, paternal love, are so, so decisive in forming
Every school of psychology, I think, insists on that.
It can go so very bad, the Oedipal complex lived out or something like that.
But it can go so very well.
And perhaps the one sure secret to guarantee that it goes well is this benevolence, this
care and love of the child, and this kind of forgiving love of the child of parents.
Gerald May, who's this psychiatrist-turned-spiritual writer and director, he says,
we really don't have a clue how to bring kids up.
And he's, again, a father and a psychiatrist.
He says, we have all these books, but they're really kind of groping in the dark.
But of this one thing I'm sure he says, if we're disposed with that heart commitment
to the child or to the parents, somehow it'll work out.
Then, of course, how both of these modalities of love are images of our relationship with
God, God as mother, Christ as mother.
We're rediscovering that whole range of imagery from Scripture and in the Mystics.
Julian of Norwich is particularly rich here, Jesus as mother, who generates us out of
his birth pangs on the cross, and then nurtures us with the milk of the sacraments, and guides
us, teaches us with the gospel, and cradles us in the bosom of his heart, etc.
It's a lovely range of images and recovering for us that whole gentle, nurturing, feminine
side of Jesus.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how many times I would have gathered you as a hen.
Mother hen gathers the chicks, etc.
And then, of course, the paternal image.
And this was obviously so decisive for Jesus, so that his unique relation with God as Abba,
as Father.
And as St. Paul insists, all paternity comes from the divine paternity.
In the biblical perspective, it's not as if we, from our experience of our fathers, project
that up into the clouds and think of God as a big daddy.
It's rather the opposite.
Somehow this primordial Father who does generate, and create, and sustain, and defend all of
creation, gives the name to all fathers on the earth.
So in faith to accept that kind of Copernican revolution of a thing, and so to rejoice in
maternal, paternal love, whichever way it's going, in this kind of fuller horizon of our
love of God and God's love of us.
Then there's brotherly, sisterly love.
And that, at least for me, it was absolutely decisive and very comforting and supportive.
And this is such a fundamental model of what the Christian relationship is about.
There's something of equality in brotherhood, or sisterhood, or should be.
Not always.
If you get there, again, into sibling rivalry and all the anger and hostility can be there.
But again, the way out is to rediscover that brotherly, sisterly love.
As it turns out, about the most frequent characterization of the Christian community
in the New Testament is that of brothers, sisters, adelphoi.
There's all kinds of images as flock, and as building, and as vine, and body,
bitty members, etc.
But the one that comes up again and again and again is brothers and sisters.
And that's very important for us here as monks to claim this and to live this.
And so again, as we work on our relation as sisters and brothers, to see that that's a
little prefiguring and image of what our relationship is with the Christian community
and what we look forward to, our relation forever in the kingdom with all the saved.
And then as we move into romantic love, that starts really to give fire and energy and
excitement to this category of love.
If we think of love just in its most austere terms of benevolence, willing the good of
the other, I think that's true theologically, and it covers the whole range from love of
enemy to love of spouse, etc.
But it's a little flat.
It's a little colorless.
But as we get into these particular expressions of love, where love is reciprocated and enjoyed,
etc., then we find the excitement of this category.
And certainly romantic love is where this happens.
And this can, as we know, go into the darkest, destructive stuff, or it can be truly the
way into heaven, Beatrice and Dante kind of thing.
And the canticle, the early Christians and the medievals saw the canticle as kind of
summing up all of scripture, because summing up, finally, our relation with Christ as spouse,
our relation with God as spouse, and the kingdom as wedding banquet.
So to enjoy that and the passion of it, John Climacus, one of the early desert saints,
says, let eros love serve as the model for your Christian love.
And in fact, the early Greek fathers, when they're talking about the most sublime Christian
love, they don't use agape, the Greek term.
They use eros, which is the Greek term for desire and passion.
That's also one way that Christian love of God can be experienced.
And then this finds its fullness, of course, in marriage and that incredible love, bond
and mutuality, that basic human unit that generates and sustains life.
And so that basic image of what the kingdom is.
So, again, this is just a quick overview of the specifically familial forms of love.
And scripture uses each one of these experiences to explore what is Christian community and
what is our relationship with God.
So we don't want to repress this human, but to fulfill it through kind of giving it its
inner life in Christian love.
Then we have the love that breaks out of the family circle and can be so liberating for
the young person.
And that's friendship love.
We choose our friends.
We don't choose mom and dad, brother and sister.
We choose our friends.
And there's a real equality there.
And there can sometimes be the most astonishing diversity, but it comes out of the mystery
of freedom.
If the mother says to the kid, go off and be friends with little Johnny over there, probably
little Johnny will be the one that the kid will not be friends with.
But for some choice, God knows why, that moment happens.
And quite a lot of the mystics and someone like St. Eared, that is the highest expression
of human and Christian love.
We can discuss and debate that later.
But you can have brotherly love or sisterly love that don't attain to the fullness of
friendship love.
Or you can have maternal love, paternal love, filial love, but they really mature when they
also become friendship love, someone like C.S.
Lewis would argue.
And so this is the way we'll be in the kingdom.
We'll all be friends, one of another.
This is Jesus's great Paschal gift to us.
I call you no longer servants, but friends.
So according to some, again, it's the most universal form of love.
It's not constricted by blood ties or anything like that.
And it's open.
I rejoice truly when my friend finds another friend and another and another.
I don't rejoice that much if my spouse finds another spouse.
But there's that startling exclusivity there.
But friendship is universal.
And so that's one of the great models.
It's an incredible value.
We were discussing about teenagers and how to speak spirituality with them.
Well, the way the early Christians did it to the Roman Greek culture, which culture
valued friendship above all.
If you read Plato, if you read Aristotle, this is when the human experience is most
fulfilling and rewarding, when it attains to friendship.
So what the early Christian community said is that if you become Christians, that experience
of friendship isn't repressed, it's fulfilled.
And this is what Luke is doing when he gives these descriptions of the early community,
early apostolic community, which are the Greek Roman definitions of friendship.
They were of one heart and one mind and one spirit, says Luke.
Well, this was the kind of in-the-air Greek definition of what friendship is.
Friendship is when there is one heart and mind and spirit between two or more.
So what Luke is saying is, your human values, yes, they're splendid, and they'll find
not their repression again, but their fulfillment up in the Christian community.
Then specific modalities of love of neighbor, love of the needy neighbor.
This has a particular urgency.
And here our theme of love, which can just seem kind of sweetness and light, can get
us in the hard area of politics.
Scripture is very emphatic that if anyone deserves our love, and if there's any test
case for the authenticity of our love, it's what we're doing for the needy, to help
them to change their situation.
So in 1 John 3, we know love by this, that Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought
to lay down our lives for one another.
So it's all the way, even unto death, this business of love.
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister
in need, and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
So we've got to walk the talk, and that gets us into preferential option for the poor
and liberation spirituality and all that.
Mother Teresa says that the Christ that we encounter in the poor is precisely the Christ
we encounter in the Eucharist.
So to open our vision to this dimension.
And then that, again, test case, love not only our friends who reciprocate, love not
only our brothers and sisters, our mommy and our daddy, et cetera, but love our enemies.
If you only love those who love you, what reward is there in that?
Even the Pharisees do the same.
So this is the challenge.
The great Anglican Isaac Watt says this is the singular glory of our religion.
It is hard to find something quite like this in Judaism.
Something like this can be found perhaps in Buddhism or Hinduism, but it's most astonishing.
Why do we love our neighbor?
Why do we love our enemy?
There's all kinds of theories that it's well to ultimately win them over so they won't
be enemy, to safeguard us so that they won't destroy us, to kind of shame them, keep burning
coals on their heads kind of thing.
But the deepest insight of scripture of the New Testament seems to be this is just the
way God loves.
God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust and the rain on everyone.
And so God loves all unconditionally and so should our love be.
And this is the love of Jesus who receives the kiss of Judas and prays for his crucifiers
on the cross.
And when the Holy Mother Church looks at a case of beatification or canonization for
martyrdom, this is a basic criterion.
Did the Christian who was killed pray for those who were doing it?
Or was it simply that the Christian was so bashing them either verbally or emotionally
or physically or something that they then respond in wrath and kill him?
Well, that's not martyrdom.
Martyrdom is that fullness of offering to the Father that's expressed in love of enemy
and then it becomes redemptive.
We see that in the first martyr in the book of Acts, Stephen, who prays for those who
stole him to death, including Saul who stands there.
Then another interesting, I think, modality of Christian love is the love of all generations.
There's that particularity, that concreteness of the love of the person next to us, and
that's very urgent.
But that doesn't exclude that we love also everyone in the little village or town and
everyone in the world, really, and everyone in the past and everyone in the future.
That really expands the horizon.
Chesterton talks about that kind of tyranny that we usually exercise in terms of our own
little group of contemporaries.
We're going to decide what we're going to do, what we want, irregardless of who has
to follow us and clean up after us or all those that collective wisdom and insight and
suffering of those who have preceded us.
But to open our hearts up in benevolence, in compassion to all who have gone before
and all who are coming after, that gives quite a different range of love.
That is catholicity of love, love in the catholicity in its best sense, and also love in the best
sense there.
And also then love of all creatures.
Is there a true Christian love of animals?
Many theologians today are saying absolutely yes.
Do animals truly love?
Some philosophers and theologians are saying truly yes.
That they can be, for us, models of fidelity through thick and thin, of an unconditional
love that can put us to shame sometimes, but just the beauty of creation.
Then perhaps you know Teilhard de Chardin, who works out a whole theology of evolution,
that there's this energy that's driving all of the universe to higher forms of complexification,
higher forms of consciousness.
What is that energy driving it all up to higher forms?
That energy he terms radial energy or love, also in its kind of most primitive forms.
And it's slowly attained to consciousness and self-awareness and mutuality in the human
But it doesn't just start with humans, as we see with the tender, apparently carrying,
nurturing of a mother dog for the puppies or something like that.
So this is an even larger, exciting horizon of this theme of love that someone like Teilhard
offers, and some of the ecological theologians today provide, that we must think of love
kind of in universal cosmic terms.
There's a lovely quote of Teilhard about all the achievements of science.
But we must keep moving forward to come to grips with that final energy source that will
transform everything.
He writes, someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall
harness for God the energies of love.
And then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.
It's wonderful.
So this, as something of the range of possibilities of love of neighbor in the most extensive
horizon, will conclude now with some thoughts about love of God, in the sense of our love
of God, but especially because God first loved us.
And it's all wrapped up in one love.
We can only love God in and through the grace of the Spirit that enables that love.
And again, the Spirit is that bondedness with God at the deepest level.
It's in Christ, through the Spirit, that we cleave to the Godhead.
So our love of God is Trinitarian.
It brings us into that inner life of God, which is love.
So we start with that first and great commandment.
We've been building up to it, but Jesus tosses it out first.
And we've got to now try to recover its priority, its primacy.
This is the first and great commandment.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
As you might know, this is the Shema.
Jesus didn't just make this up.
This is the central teaching of Israel.
This is the prayer that each Jew is to recite at least twice a day.
And it's the whole wisdom tradition of Israel.
It's the whole covenantal tradition.
It's the whole prophetic tradition.
We shall have no other gods but God in love.
And so we have to break all the other idols.
So you can really sum up all of the Judeo-Christian proclamation in this one commandment.
This exegete, Dominican-speak, who's written two magnificent volumes on agape in Scripture,
he says, this is the soul and life of all the doctrine of Scripture.
Shema, the first commandment of our Lord.
This is the one thing necessary.
Apart from all the good things we do or don't do,
this has more value, one act of love of God than anything else,
especially in the sense of God's loving us, but also of our loving God.
A sublime mystic like John of the Cross, he insists on that.
He's talking about Mary and Martha and the active and the contemplative.
And he's saying we need both certainly.
But if by contemplative you mean pure love, this is where you should abide
if and when you're called to these moments of pure love as we all are.
There's Martha and Mary in all of us.
Until the soul reaches this state of union of love,
she should practice love in both the active and contemplative life.
Yet once she arrives at moments of true love,
she should not become involved in other works and exterior exercises
that might be of the slightest hindrance of the attentiveness of love toward God,
even though those other works be of great service to God.
For a little of this pure love is more precious to God and the soul
and more beneficial to the whole church,
even though it seems one is doing nothing that all these other works put together.
So this is the claim of the mystics, which again puts love not only where we start
and the way we journey, kind of the energy and the walk involved,
but the highest of what we can achieve as human beings.
And either we believe it or not, but St. Thomas Aquinas says,
to love God freely, in this lies the fullness of human salvation.
And again, mystics like the author of the clouds say,
it's only in and through love that we possess God as God.
There's something in the movement of love,
which is the movement again of myself to the other,
embracing the other as other,
that gets me quite beyond my concepts and thoughts.
So I can't possess God as God in all my deepest thinking about God,
but I can possess God as God in this cleaving to God in love.
Our love of God is often very impure.
We know that St. Bernard says we start with loving God for us,
for what we get out of it.
But that's all right.
This is the love of the child of the mother or father.
It's very much need love.
And God in God's great benevolence accepts this.
C.S. Lewis, he has this wonderful book on the four loves.
He said when he was plotting the book,
he thought he'd start out by bashing what he calls need love and exalting gift love.
But then he realized more and more that unless you become his little children
and all these petitions of the Lord's prayer, et cetera,
and that God expects and sustains and inspires and responds to need love.
So C.S. Lewis says,
sometimes the straightest way to a place is not the safest way to journey.
But we have to do all these curves and turns as Highway 1 along the way here.
If we tried to straighten out Highway 1, we'd be in real trouble.
But if we have the humility to go in and out and up and down, we will get there.
And so that's the journey of our love with one another and in a special way in our love of God.
There's all kinds of rich theology here, and we are all called to be theologians.
And so to, by theologians, meaning simply as Saint Anselm says, faith-seeking understanding.
And so if we try to see what is this Christian faith we've got with all these different doctrines
about Eucharist and church and Mary and Saint Joseph and holy water and Holy Trinity and Jesus
and all the rest of it, how does it all hold together?
Well, one way to see that is in terms of this one central reality of a godly love.
This is why everything is.
God didn't create out of some kind of need to prove something to mommy god or something,
some kind of achievement obsession or something.
I've got to show the others.
But it's just out of the pure abundance of God's creative love.
And so it's for this that the generative act of love is creative.
It's a little image of this mysterious, intensive love within the Trinity
that generated all of creation as an expression of this love.
Saint Thomas says we can't give any other reason for creation than that the good is effusive of
It just wants to share itself.
It just wants to outpour.
That's the characteristic of the good, of benevolence, of love.
So again, all of creation is this revelation, this self-manifestation of God's compassion.
And then why?
What is sin?
Sin is when I break this arbitrary rule or that arbitrary rule.
And what the Jews came up with some 613 different commandments that you can't break or something
like that.
But it's basically some kind of betrayal of love if it's truly sin.
And then I think that makes sense.
Sin was what distanced the prodigal son from the father's house.
And then what is redemption?
It's simply turning around, coming to himself and journeying back and being embraced by the
The father always loves the son.
But the son is able to experience this embrace when the son freely returns to the father's
So the father's love is a constant, this unconditional love.
It's not that God stops loving us, just gets very, very irritated with us if we do this
sin or that sin.
No, it's just that this sin or that sin puts up that obstacle so that we can't receive
that love as we should.
So it's not a God who has his emotional ups and downs or her emotional ups and downs.
But it's that we are free.
And part of this awesome gift of freedom is our capacity to, in one way or another, in
so many ways, say no to God, say no to our neighbor.
And so that's a theology of what sin is all about that I think makes sense.
What would hell be about?
This would be a definitive no to the father, a definitive staying there in that distant
land with the pigs and the corn husks, et cetera, and yearning for the father's house,
but somehow maliciously, intentionally determining not to return out of hatred for God and hatred
for self, et cetera.
Does anyone ever do that?
We could discuss that.
But that's what hell would be, distancing oneself from the communion of love, which
is the kingdom.
So given this fallenness, given this situation that we all find ourselves in when we are
distant from the kingdom, thus the incarnation.
God cannot keep distant from the person in trouble.
Just as a parent can't just keep an indifferent distance from a child who's getting into
But it immediately draws near, establishes, again, solidarity and communion.
And that's what incarnation is all about.
That explains Jesus' coming to us.
God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son.
So this is the theology of incarnation.
And then you go all the way through the theology of Christ's suffering and death.
Again, not to pay off some kind of debt or to placate God's anger or something.
There's all kinds of ways that theologians have explained, well, how is it that this
cross saves us?
This is the area of soteriology, if you want to get fancy theologically.
Well, I think the deepest theology of how the cross saves us is it's such an emphatic
witness of God's love, of Jesus' love.
And there's nothing like love to call us back in our freedom.
If you just drag the person back or just put a guilt trip on them, that's not truly
But greater love has no one than this than to lay down one's life for one's friends.
This can indeed raise us up.
So Julian of Norwich says, Christ has joy in his passion and death because of his love
for us.
That's the narrow way that becomes redemptive for us because it's the undeniable proof
for faith of that love all the way.
As Jesus says, the false shepherd gets out of there when the wolf comes, but the good
shepherd stands and is with the sheep even unto death.
And then what is redemption?
What is resurrection for Christ and for us?
Well, Christ, who loves us all the way and loves the Father all the way, even unto death,
as some of the theologians say, this kind of challenges God.
It puts it up to God so that God then has to intervene and raise up Christ and raise
up all of us.
Otherwise, sin and death evicted in the cross, which wanted to be this definitive defeat
of Jesus and his little movement.
That's why the power is to be nailed there as this proof that power had won, that the
law had won, that the Roman Empire had won.
So Jesus gave his all.
At that point, God has to intervene to raise us up.
So there's a wonderful passage about that in Ephesians.
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when
we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, raised us up
with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
So here, love is that deepest motive in God to raise up the beloved son.
Can't be the beloved son in the tomb and in the grip of death and raises us up in Christ.
It's the force of drawing us into life as the father's love of the son sooner or later
drew the son back to the father's house.
That remembrance, already in the Old Testament, Zephaniah 3, it's written, he will renew
us with his love.
So that's how it happens.
And then what is the church then?
How are we to understand church?
It's this institution that lays down all these rules and keeps us on the straight and narrow.
No, it wants to be this, primarily this community of love, this dynamic of brothers and sisters
together and journeying together in the one love of the bridegroom, of our brother, of
our friend, of our spouse, Christ.
Then where are we going?
Where are we journeying?
Well, that's to the kingdom.
What is the kingdom?
There again, the imagery of bride and bridegroom together, of the wedding feast.
That's perhaps the most exalted imagery for what the kingdom is.
And finally, that, because that's what divine trinity is.
This is the ultimate sublime mystery and ministry.
In some ways, the trinity seems the mystery so most remote from us, and we could happily
live our life on without much change, without there even being a trinity.
But for the fully Christian life, we discover ourselves enfolded in the trinity, and everything
becomes trinitarian and is lived out in this trinitarian life.
And the different mystics and writers and texts of scripture work this out in different
ways, because it's a great mystery.
But however you work it out, it's finally this mystery of agape love, of the father
who explodes in love in such a full way that the son is generated, and then the son reciprocates
in this love with such fullness that the mutual bond is person, is spirit.
And it's in that intense dynamic that we're caught up with in any little act of love,
and especially in the deepest love of God and neighbor.
So I'll end up with a quote from Julian of Norwich that's kind of famous, but I think
You might know Julian was this wonderful English medieval mystic, and she had this whole series
of showings or revelations about suffering and sin and death and all of it.
And she wrote it in two versions, and that's the big book on the revelations or showings
of Julian.
But at the very end, she says, well, I wanted to know how the whole thing hangs together.
What's the ultimate meaning of it all?
This is the 86th chapter of the long text of the showings.
She said, I desired many times to know in what was our Lord's final meaning.
And it was said finally to me, what, do you wish to know your Lord's meaning in all this?
Know it well, love was his meaning.
Who revealed it to you?
What did he reveal to you?
Why does he reveal it to you?
For love.
Remain in this, and you will know more of the same, but you will never know different
without end.
So I was taught that love is our Lord's meaning.
And I saw very certainly in this and in everything that before God made us, God loved us.
In which love he sustained us and which love never abated and never will.
And in this love, God has done all God's works.
And in this love, God has made all things profitable to us.
And in this love, our life is everlasting.
In our creation, we had a beginning.
But the love in which we were created was in God from without beginning.
In this love, we have our beginning.
And all this shall we see in God without end.
So with this, I can end my presentation.
And now we can open up to any kind of discussion, comments, questions, objections.
You might have, but always lovingly.
It was kind of rushed towards the end.
Oh, good.
Yeah, that'll be for sale.
The more I look at Raybron's paintings, and the more I thought about your presentations
and our discussions, perhaps it's the arena I find myself in professionally.
But so often, I find the children, the child, standing in the place of the father, and the
father kneeling before their son or their daughter, asking forgiveness, understanding,
And then I see the two standing together, neither one kneeling, but each responding
to the love one-on-one.
Those are different phases of this one.
The unions have this whole thing of active imagination, specifically with a dream, but
with anything else, because the dream is ours.
We can take it the way it is, but we can also develop it and explore further potentialities.
And I think that's fully legitimate.
That's what basically all the fathers and mothers commenting Scripture do.
So I think that's absolutely true.
We were talking about friendship, and the value of friendship.
And I think when I was working with the youth, I had said, you know, who knows how God is
going to judge, but if you look in Revelations, he doesn't say, you're a Christian, you're
a Christian, but he doesn't say it as much as, you know, did you feed the poor, did your
father feed you, and had preference for the poor.
And also just kind of put it on a concrete level for them to say, you know, what is sin
and what is holiness?
A lot of times it's an abstract thought, it doesn't make a lot of sense, so I would
just say it's something like that.
Selfishness and selflessness, yet it's okay to still ask for things, but how selfless
can you be without not loving yourself, and at the same time loving others?
And you know, there's that continuum, moving towards being more selfless, but at the same
time being more loving, you know, just making it more down to earth, realm-less, you know.
I'd like to say a few words about finding God's love for us, and that is infinite,
and God cannot love anything less than his full capacity for love.
As far as the intensity of his love is concerned, he cannot love some more than others,
he loves us all equally.
That agrees with Thomas Aquinas, who also said that God does will greater good for some
than others, but it would seem to me that the reason for that is the response of people
to God, those who respond more and those who respond less.
In this respect, we're all told we're the heights of sanctity, and that's without
limit, there's no limit, and Paul even tells us in one of his letters, in a race, only
one person wins the prize, but is it the winning race?
That's shocking to a lot of us, but we're all called this way to be number one, not
to put others down so that we can be number one, but either as it's somewhere in Paul's
letters or in Luke's letter, the strength to outdo one another in love, so that the
one who becomes first is the one who loves most, and we're all just trying to encourage
each other too to be the same.
Thank you.
This thing of friendship is so universal, and that may be one of the places God is in
a hidden way, even when people aren't acknowledging that, and also romantic love, etc.
I know a priest who ministered to AIDS victims, and he would go to those dying, and some at
that time would work through it and really come to a deep abandonment to God.
With others, there was a great deal of anger there, and he was working with one man who
was close to death, and the man insisted he'd never known God, and the priest said, have
you ever known love?
And the man said, certainly, and the priest said, well then you've known God.
This was kind of a breakthrough for the man, but if there's any true love out there, again,
there God is, whatever particular limits, etc., it might have in its immediate expression,
but this being with the other and for the other, not just for what I get out of it,
but also for the other, this is where God abides.
You know, my husband and I have had the privilege of witnessing recently such a friendship between
our daughter and her close friend, Janet, another monastery here, praying for Janet
during her incredible illness this spring.
She was afflicted with leukemia, and I find it personally a great privilege to have
been able to witness this, the depth and compassion and love that these two women really had for
each other, and how it manifested itself during this critical time in Janet's life when she
nearly died, and to notice how it has deepened my daughter's spiritual life, her understanding
of God's love for her and for Janet, for people in general.
So, God, I am acutely aware of how present God was and is in this particular friendship,
which, from my daughter's end, they lived 3,000 miles apart, she put something in the
mail for this woman every single day of her illness, and that was like 7 months, 6 months,
of faithfulness.
I learned a lot about what friendship is from this particular, this particular, this particular
It was, it was a beautiful thing to see.
Now, it can be a powerful experience, it gets us through just everything, and it is universal.
I don't know how many of you saw that film, Stand By Me, but it's about friendship at
the pre-teen level.
Now, that can sometimes be the most powerful experience of a person's life, and then the
teenage friends, they can go very bad, but they can also go very good, and then the elderly,
and sometimes a deep friendship between the oldest in the community and one of the youngest,
our brother Phillip, who just died.
The person closest to him was the person who had just arrived very recently, and there
developed this tender friendship that was just astonishing, that bridged the years
and the background, etc.
So, Saint Eric, in his wonderful book on friendship, he says, God is love.
Can we also say God is friendship?
And whoever abides in friendship abides in God?
And he says, yes, we can say that, because it's the same thing.
Because friendship is this very high expression of love.
So we can say God is friendship.
The bond of love between first, second, and third person is this friendship love.
So, when we encounter friendship, we're getting some kind of little glimpse of what
ultimate reality is all about.
So, you made a comment about spousal love being exclusive.
It's exclusive only in that the man and the woman exclude from their relationship,
I guess, other sexual connections.
And so, therefore, from time immemorial, the church has not welcomed communal groups and
so on, but the love is just love.
That's inclusive.
And as it gets into friendship, then the spouses are delighted when the other spouse has many
more friends, etc.
I think one of the signs that it's not going too well is that there's lots of jealousy
and the desire of one spouse to have the other spouse exclusively for them in every respect.
But to rejoice in them, the expansion of love also.
So, spouses have to weigh and consider what's exclusive to them and when the men need to
be inclusive.
That changes with age, I think.
When you think about the commandment to love everybody the way a wife has to love the wife
and the husbands of other people, of course, she doesn't have to be a victim of this, but
she must have a real love for the other person as well.
I certainly didn't know Robert Phillip.
I just had the experience of meeting him actually, and I think it's the last few days, the last
time that he was in the hospital.
And when I stopped by, Luke was there and he introduced me to Robert Phillip and Luke
gave me his blessing and I felt absolutely elated with that.
But my point here is, I think there was another person in that friendship, relationship, which
made it very much like the Trinity and that was Mary Ellen.
And I didn't know this very long, but it really struck me how beautiful that was in
their relationship, the one another, the three of them, and the giving and all.
And I reflect on that, because it just seems to be a pouring out of each one in the way
that they were called.
I think you're absolutely right.
And Mary Ellen, for us, were just a miracle in Brother Phillip, because he came from a
tough, also somewhat angry and bitter German Catholic family.
And Catholicism was basically about rules, and you couldn't always keep the rules, and
sin and guilt and anger, etc.
And particularly women were dangerous.
And much of his early years here was to go over, when he would approach women, to kind
of chew them out, because they weren't dressed properly in this kind of way.
But he caused a great deal of...
We wouldn't have imagined, eight years ago even, that he could have been transformed
in his character as he was, basically through that incredible, generous love of Mary Ellen.
His nurse, who met him, came to love him, would come all the way every weekend from
Palo Alto, just to minister to him and to us, totally free, after having worked the
whole week as a nurse.
Some kind of a postman's...
It's really beautiful.
And when she speaks of him, it touches my heart.
And this is our theme of this weekend.
He was absolutely transformed from within, and freely, precisely through this generous,
feminine, boundless love.
And Luke also.
It's just the tenderness that he had.
Again, I only have a brief glimpse of it, but it was so clearly visible.
What most shocked me, when I came in December, is I saw this woman pushing this guy's chair
and, you see, she's his nurse, and then, as she pulled out her cane, she's there walking,
thinking, you know, crippled, helping someone else, and this lady's got to get something
She has tremendous pain and suffering, but I think one of the central joys for her, if
not the central joy, was being there with Philip, administering to him.
So, we think she's a living saint.
How wonderful that, at the end of his life, the female energy came in and transformed,
and he accepted it within himself, as well as her.
So, it's a parable.
We might even conclude with Brother Philip, and Mary Ellen, and Luke.
These three.
Thank you.