Posted On December 20, 2003

If God Is God

For many years a poster was attached to the bookshelf in my room that displayed the sentence: “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3, 20). When I saw this sentence for the first time in the central insert of a newspaper I thought that those words were written just for me! Perhaps because I belong to that category of persons that doesn’t like to make mistakes, or perhaps because in my life (even though short) I have already accumulated my own good store of errors and incoherencies, or perhaps because I thought that every time I made a mistake God saw me like I saw myself.

Whatever our heart might blame us for, “God is greater”. And discovering this fact has opened my eyes to the most extraordinary truth of our faith (yet also extremely difficult to understand in its full profundity): God is LOVE! These blunders (silly or not so silly, sometimes even big) have probably also happened to you. But don’t think that you are the only one to experience your own limits and non-performances: you, me, all of us are infected with it! We are all the radically poor, the traitors, the unfaithful; capable of bartering the love of God for miserable satisfactions, able to find compromises, to fit the Gospel to our needs, ready to retreat when the Lord asks too much.

We certainly wouldn’t want all of this, yet we do it. And so we find ourselves living the contradiction that Saint Paul speaks of: “I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Rm 7, 15). The consequence is usually discouragement: tell the truth, haven’t you ever thought that holiness isn’t for you? Maybe you also have handed over the duty to someone else (someone must be better), have put aside as impossible the goal to which Jesus calls everyone. Perhaps you also have fallen back on the holiness “type B”, in which it’s okay to mess up, in which God is happy with less. But thinking a little more, it isn’t like this: the real drama is that in these situations the true face of God escapes you! Perhaps you see in front of you a God that doesn’t forgive, or at least only forgives until a certain point; a God that is disappointed and angry, that judges you and weighs your sins. A God that has a reason not to love you because you, in your depths, have no merit: how can God love someone like you? Why should He love you, seeing that the first one not to love you and not to accept you is you yourself? See, this is the moment to rediscover the power and the truth of the Word: “Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rm 5, 6-8)

Here is the truth, not in the contorted reasoning that constrains the heart of God to your measurements! There is no situation in which God has better demonstrated His being (God and not man) than when He welcomes us in the embrace of this forgiveness. God doesn’t love you because you deserve it, but because He is God. And you don’t need to “buy” yourself His love, like you are constrained to do with many other people in your life: He loves you for free! God isn’t good because you repent and change your life, but you can repent and convert because He is good. Because when the awareness of sin is born in you, the desire to ask pardon and to begin again, He has already looked at you, already forgiven you. And this simply because there isn’t ever a moment in which God has stopped loving you: because if God is love and is faithful to Himself, it means that HE LOVES ALWAYS!

Now things change! Your sins aren’t obstacles anymore, but a way, although tortuous, to arrive and meet Him. It will seem strange, but to be a sinner, to be poor, is a “fortune”; it is your salvation! It is the fortune to know God, the true God, the extreme possibility to see what point His infinite love can reach. For too much time it has been believed that in order to know God, in order to be “worthy to go to Paradise” you must be without sin. But the Gospel reveals to us exactly the contrary! Think of Zacchaeus, of the weeping sinner at Jesus’ feet, of the good criminal beside Jesus on the Cross… He who is not a sinner doesn’t need Christ and will never come to know God. He will never be able to love Him completely, because the Love of the Father is revealed in its fullness only through forgiveness. It is in this light that you can understand that your sin can be your fortune or you destruction: fortune if you turn yourself towards the Lord to welcome His mercy, destruction if you close yourself in your heart in the conviction that God can’t forgive always. The heart of God will never cease to beat for you. It certainly isn’t your sin that can close your heart! It is more your hardness and discouragement that refuses the tenderness of His pardon, that condemns itself. For this reason, don’t be afraid, don’t hit yourself: “God is greater than our hearts”, no matter what it is that we rebuke ourselves for. Christ didn’t come in order to condemn, but in order to save. Now cry out! Don’t let yourself be turned off by mistrust, but open your heart to Him with the confidence and the simplicity of a child and say to him: “Lord, I need you!…Lord, save me!”. You will see, He won’t make you wait… But even you don’t have to “wait too much” to celebrate this encounter, not only in your heart, but also in a “solemn” way in the sacrament of forgiveness, the sacrament of joy: Reconciliation. Go to Jesus; He is waiting. Go to Him not so much to “empty the sack of trash”, but to contemplate what He is capable of doing even with those who are poor like you. Go to Him to cry with joy before His infinite and inexhaustible love, to proclaim your faith with the words of the psalmist: “Praise the Lord who is so good, God’s love endures forever!” (Ps 136). Don’t worry about talking: just let yourself be re-embraced, like the son lost and re-found.

Allow God to throw a feast for you this Christmas. He comes again in the smallness of a child to remind you that grand things are not expected of you: He wants only your heart. Remember: to enter into the Kingdom, to be included in the embrace, “it is sufficient” to be children. On the holy night raise your voice and lift your song: Jesus is born especially for you! Look at him, contemplate him in silence and pray with these ancient words: “His love for me has humbled his grandeur. He was made similar to me so that I might receive Him, made similar to me so that I might redress myself with Him. I was not afraid to see Him because He is mercy for me. He took on my nature so that I might understand Him, my face, so that I may not be taken from Him.”
(Odes of Solomon, 7)

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