I confess that you are never far from me. Last week, while on vacation, was no exception. I looked for inspiration for this blog in the stories people told about themselves, and how their stories intersected with the single greatest truth we live with during this Lenten season, namely that God’s love of us is freely given, precedes and embraces us before we even begin to love God. We heard this in last Sunday’s readings: “By grace you have been saved by faith and this is not from you; it is a gift of God”(Ephesians 4.9). And this week, that realization is given to us in Jeremiah 31.33, “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
God loves us, inspires goodness and fidelity in us long before we feel the inspiration – even before we can name it or understand it.
So here are my vacation stories that hold these truths.
A successful Rochester business man’s company outgrew its space. Victor, with its many innovative, small companies, looked like an attractive choice. But then, the man thought about his 35 workers, most of who lived in the city. It would be a hardship for them to get to Victor. The company ultimately moved to a place where the workers did not have to go far, even though the owner had to drive farther. Did this man allude to God’s love as the reason to move his plant closer to his workers? Probably not.
Another businessman from Georgia sold his company and was looking for the next investment, when someone told him about a company that was failing. The man investigated and told his wife that the company he visited was doing many things wrong. Soon, the 50 workers would be jobless. The man’s wife told him that this was the right time to buy it. He did and turned it around, increasing benefits for the workers and producing a reputable product. Did this man think of God as he went through the restoration of this company? Probably not.
After dinner one night, two other men were talking about their marriages. Each of them had been married over 50 years and one of them was a recent widower. They talked about the contributions each of them had made to their marriage, what their wives had meant to them over the years and how unaware they were that God’s grace through the sacrament of marriage really enfolded them. Was the God in their marriage part of their thinking? Probably not.
None of these people thought to name God’s love, given to them first, as the inspiration for their moral choices in business and their faithful, abiding love in marriage. Nonetheless, for each person in these life stories, the grace (a.k.a. God’s active love) was given unconditionally.
So too with us. As we live out these last weeks of Lent and move into Passiontide and Easter, let’s find in our own stories the way God’s love has inspired us to treat others with love and respect, valuing them and letting them know it. God loves us upfront, without hesitation, never making that love conditional on our own response. The proof of God’s love is in Jesus’ gift of himself.
~Sister Joan Sobala