For as long as I can remember, I have known that God loves me. However, I have misunderstood why for almost as long.
I have thought, “God loves me because I am Catholic. Because I go to Mass. Because I’m trying to be ‘good’. Because I follow the rules.” But this kind of thinking eventually led me to get confused when lots of sin entered my daily life. Face to face with habitual sin, I started to doubt that God loved me, because now, I didn’t feel like the “good” girl anymore. How could God forgive me for the same things, over and over again? How could I possibly believe God loved me, when all I saw in myself was unworthiness of His love? I started to feel that after all the wrong things I did, God must be sick of me coming for forgiveness, again. Terrible thoughts, I know, but that’s where I was a year ago.
By the grace and inspiration of God, last year my dear husband suggested to me that I go on a retreat. He had vacation time already scheduled, and I wondered how it was going to be possible to find anything in that one-week time frame. I was excited when I found a retreat only 3 hours away that was to be given by the Sisters of Life, and the theme for the retreat was “The Greatest of the These is Love.”
I did not know what to expect when I arrived, but I left knowing that my life had been put back on the right path. I say this because the Sisters and the priests there helped me to finally realize that God loves me because He created me; I am His creation and He loves me.
I think my confusion came from mis-reading the catechism question “Why did God make me?” to be the the same as “Why does God love me?” So when I read the answer, “To know Him, love Him, and serve Him,” I misunderstood it to mean that God loves me because I know Him, love Him and serve Him. I can’t explain why or how I could think this for so long; I can only thank God that some of the confusion is over!
Yes, God made me to know Him, love Him, and serve Him. But, He loved me before I could even do any of those things, because He loved me before I was even conceived!! Here are words spoken by Jesus Himself, to Sr. Mary of the Trinity (1901-1942):
It is not on account of your qualities that I love you, or on account of your virtues, if you had any. If you had any virtue, you would owe it to Me. Your own part would consist merely in having received My gift…It is not because of your defects or sins that I love you. It is because I have given you life, and because I continue to give it to you each day. And it is because I have redeemed you at the price of so much suffering. Because I am Love, I cannot cease communicating to My creatures the joy of loving! The joy of sharing My happiness!
God is Love.
But what happens when I sin? Does God not love me anymore? Will God ever tire of forgiving me? I found the following quote that puts my mind at ease every time I read it. It is Jesus speaking to Sr. Josefa Menendez (1890-1923):
I love those who after a first fall come to Me for pardon…I love them still more when they beg pardon for their second sin, and should this happen again, I do not say a million times, but a million million times, I still love them and pardon them, and I will wash in My Blood their last as fully as their first sin.
Another discovery made on this retreat was that each of us has an amazing potential to have a personal relationship with God. I will never forget one of the Sisters saying, “Our sins are not unique, but the love we give to God is. The priests in the confessionals have heard the same sins confessed over and over. Nothing new there! There are no unique sins, but there can be unique love. Your love, the way you love God, is your love to give, and He will never receive it from anyone else in the exact way that you could give it.”
I wish every soul to understand that she has her special place in My Heart which awaits her; that her love is necessary to Me, and her cooperation necessary – that I need to see her happy and perfect – because I have loved her even to dying on the Cross for her – yes, each soul.
-Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity
In honor of St. Valentine, I invite you to be receptive to the infinite love of God. Trust that He loves you unselfishly because Jesus died for you, and return His love in a way that only you can.
There are many Christians who do not even know why they are in the world. “Oh my God, why have You sent me into the world?” “To save your soul.” “And why do You wish me to be saved?” “Because I love you.” The good God has created us and sent us into the world because He loves us; He wishes to save us because He loves us…. To be saved, we must know, love and serve God. Oh, what a beautiful life!
– from the Little Catechism of St. John Vianney