I have the face of a saint—a Saint Bernard!
When I was an infant, my mother held me in her arms as she boarded a streetcar in New Orleans. While she paid the token, the driver exclaimed, “Lady, that’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.” After she took her seat, she grumbled to the man sitting next to her, “I’m stunned by what the driver just told me! I’ve never been so insulted.” The man advised her, “If I were you, I’d march right up there and give him a piece of your mind,” adding, “And I’ll hold your pet monkey while you go.”
The story is anecdotal, but the ugly fact is not: I have a face only a mother can love.
Here’s the gospel truth: All of our faces are saintly in God’s loving eyes! Who knows? Maybe it’s the glare of our halos that causes God to cast a blind eye at our bark and bite. Regardless, let us consider the God who mercifully loves us as only our heavenly Father can.
God loves us like mothers and fathers who love their children equally. However, “equally” doesn’t mean “undifferentiated.” God’s love is not a generic, one-size-fits-all kind of love. He loves each of us personally!
God is in the details. From the number of hairs on our head to the delicacies of a spider web or a snowflake, God’s level of attention in all things is indicative of his love.
God loves us so much that he allows us to assist in the miraculous creation of new life. But after giving life, God—like all loving parents—can’t live it for us.
God’s abiding love is so great that he delights in showering us with gifts. Moreover, it pleases our divine gift giver immensely when we, as recipients, show appreciation for his handiwork.
God gives us love, but he doesn’t force it on us. Yet, even when we have difficulty believing in his love, he never stops believing in us.
God’s love is incarnational. He longed to be with those he loved in the world, so he came down from the heavens through his only Son (John 3:16). He’ll come down again at the end of time; until then, he emerges from within—thanks to the Holy Spirit in us. He’s also present to us in the sacraments.
God loves us, not because our actions are always good, but because God is always good. Whether “love is blind,” as the saying goes, or just nearsighted, God’s love is so merciful that he’s willing to overlook any imperfections and weaknesses that make us feel ugly and unlovable to him and to ourselves.
Since we traditionally celebrate love in February, consider writing a passionate love letter to God. Could your prayer be like that of St. Ignatius of Loyola?
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.