What do you want most out of life?

We begin our relationship with God when we reach out to him not for what we want from him, but for his sake alone. For the sake of his presence. For the sake of his name. We abandon our selves to love God for who he is.


Our relationship with God is to be so intensely loved by Jesus in our unworthiness, that his love makes us worthy.


You have counted us worthy to stand in your presence and minister to you. Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus 250 ad


Who or what do you love above all else? God is love, and for our love to be true, it must find its source ad its sustenance in God.


Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, a song in the heart. Bernard of Clairvaux


The true measure of loving God is to love him without measure. Bernard of Clairvaux


Marilyn Monroe is a tale of sadness as she repeatedly left those she loved behind to pursue her number one love of worldly fame. I do mention the tragic story of Marilyn Monroe to judge her. Surely her life of enduring an abusive step-father and being raised in an orphanage as well as a dozen foster homes left an injured soul, not knowing how to find healing. At sixteen she married a sailor during the second world war, but caught the eye of a photographer who offered fame and fortune. She divorced her husband to pursue her modeling and acting career. Her career was indeed the stuff of legend. Beginning as a pinup model she became the sex symbol of the 1950s. She starred in 29 films and became a cultural icon. During her career she married twice, first to baseball great, Joe DiMaggio and later to playwright, Arthur Miller. However, both marriages dissolved as she kept returning to fame and applause. Eventually she died alone by committing suicide.


Jesus asked the question, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” Mark 8:36

On Loving God

Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a commentary on the Song of Songs as well as the book, Loving God in which he wrote: there are four degrees of love:

  • Love of self for self’s sake.
  • Love of God for self’s sake.
  • Love of God for God’s own sake.
  • Love of self for God’s sake.


These four degrees of love are a journey through which we discover the true love of God.


The first degree is the human condition. It is where we all begin our journey. We love ourselves. We want our toys. Others exists as a means of giving us attention, affection, and a sense of significance. We use others for our own purposes. We enter relationships only for what we can get out of them not for what we can give. I have met with many married couples on their way to divorce. One common theme I hear is “He/she no longer meets my needs.” That is a sure indication they are living in the first degree of love, seeking self-satisfaction and not sacrificially giving themselves to the other.


This is not as the precept ordains but as nature directs: “No man ever yet hated his own flesh” (Ephesians 5:29). But if, as is likely, this same love should grow excessive and, refusing to be contained within the restraining banks of necessity, should overflow into the fields of voluptuousness, then a command checks the flood, as if by a dike: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Bernard of Clairvaux. On Loving God


The second degree is basic religion. We love God only for what we can get from God. We go to church and receive the sacraments so we can go to heaven. We look down on those who do not measure up to our religious standards. We are very public in our religious practice because we want others to think of us as good god-fearing people. We seek positions of control in our religious group so our authority over others can make us feel good about ourselves. Surely, God is taking notice of how good we are and how much we do for him. These were the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who did all the religious thing right but didn’t recognize God when he was at their dinner table.


His goodness once realized draws us to love Him unselfishly, yet more than our own needs impel us to love Him selfishly. Bernard of Clairvaux. On Loving God


The third degree of love is true faith. We love God for who he is, not what he can do for us. We go to church to worship, to pray, to seek fellowship with other so we can discover ways to help them. We volunteer for the jobs no one wants. We are servants as Christ was a servant. Our prayer life is characterized by worshiping God for his goodness and his character. We pray for the needs of others. We give our own needs to God as well, but always seeking God’s will in our lives, not our own. “Thy will be done.”


No longer do we love God because of our necessity, but because we have tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is. Bernard of Clairvaux. On Loving God


The fourth degree of love is empowering gratitude. We are grateful to God the good and the bad we see in ourselves. For our gifts as well as our weaknesses. For our successes as well as our failures. We are grateful to God for our relationships, even those we find difficult. We go to church to give thanks God for his limitless goodness and love, to truly participate in the Eucharist of the Mass. Our gratitude releases the power of God in our lives and the lives of others. We see miracles follow us, but few notice. That is okay because we live only to please God alone and in secret.


I would count him blessed and holy to whom such rapture has been given in this mortal life, for even an instant to lose yourself, as if you were emptied out and lost and swallowed up in God, is no human love; it is heavenly. Bernard of Clairvaux. On Loving God

God is Love

Most of us are aware that God loves us. However, that does not adequately express the truth that God is Love. Because love is not something God does. It is who he is. His entire nature is love. He always views us and all people and all things through love. He cannot see us in any other way. God cannot get mad at us or disappointed in us and stop loving us. He is love and always relates to us as love.


St. Thomas Aquinas is considered by many to be the greatest scholastic of the Middle Ages. In 1273, on the feast of St. Nicholas he was celebrating Mass when he had a spiritual experience that so affected him that he ceased all writing, leaving his Summa Theologiae unfinished. Brother Reginald was his secretary to whom he had dictated much of his work. He was troubled over Thomas’ sudden decision to quit writing. Thomas told him, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”


Thomas never described what he saw or experienced during that mass. However, we do know that afterwards he took to reading and rereading The Song of Songs. As he lay on his deathbed, his last request was to have someone read to him the Song of Songs as he passed into eternity. It seems to me that St. Thomas received a revelation of the love of God, and in the light of that revelation, nothing else mattered.

God’s love for us is sometimes compared to a father’s love, other times to a mother’s love. Christ is sometimes referred to as our elder brother. But more often, Jesus is presented as our bridegroom. No wonder a love song often aptly expresses our relationship with him.

That relationship is described in the book, Song of Songs. It opens with the bride speaking.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.

Then the groom speaks
“How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!”

The bride adores her bridegroom.
“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
and let his banner over me be love.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”

The bridegroom adores his bride.
“My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.”

“I am my Beloved’s, and You are mine.”

What a beautiful expression of our relationship with Christ. He loves us so much that the died for us. And we love him with all of the life he has given us.

We live in a society in which people are afraid to make a commitment. Especially a lifelong commitment. Who knows what the future holds? It is easier to play it safe and keep permanence at arm’s length.

We can be afraid of losing ourselves in the power of love, especially God’s love.  The truth is we find our true selves in the power of God’s love.