Here I am, Lord. - John Michael Talbot, SFO

Jesus Christ, the man - King of kings and Lord of lords!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The mystical ecstasy of God's love!

Francis yearns for God with his whole being (to the point of death), wants to know God completely and love Him fully, in the same way that God loves him.

What is more beautiful than the love between a lover and his beloved? Nothing else can compare to knowing, having or sharing love with our beloved. Our music and literature are filled with the desire to express the wonder that love generates in the hearts of those touched by it. We celebrate our love and also celebrate that of others. This is because there is nothing greater a human being can experience in life than love!

Francis prays to his Divine Lover, Jesus. God is, after all, Love personified. We were made, first and foremost, to love and be loved, by Him. Man finds his greatest fulfillment in God - the ultimate affirmation of his being and the full flowering of his person.

Francis prayed, "Please, O Lord, let the fiery, honeyed force of Your love lap up my spirit from everything there is under Heaven; so that I may die for love of love for You, who delighted to die for love of love for me."

Francis begins by talking about the 'force' of God's love - how powerful it is! Out of His love all things came to be. The same love sustains and makes everything in it prosper. Finally, because of the death that our choice to sin brought into the world, He has provided a remedy to save everyone: His own dear Son who gave His life on the cross . . . for love of us.

He describes God's love as being 'honeyed'. Honey was the sweetest thing one could taste during Francis' time. This sweetness can be so powerful it will overwhelm our taste buds. Francis did "taste and see that God is good". Francis enjoyed the sweet goodness of God and sought for it with his whole being. (He had a 'spiritual' sweet tooth!)

However, Francis also says that God's love is 'fiery'. Fire is truly a gift from God. (Francis often praised God for the beauty, power and usefulness of fire!) It warms, gives us light, makes certain foods edible and purifies. Francis meant that God's 'firery' love shared two attributes with fire: it destroyed the evil within (purifying our hearts from sin) but also His love could totally consume us (take us over completely) - for God, in the same way that a fire can totally consume the wood from a massive tree, leaving only a small pile of ash.

Francis referred to his spirit as being like a liquid (like water) and asked God to drink him up - 'lapping' him in - not with the idea of being destroyed, but of being relieved from the sensual (sinful) drive to put himself (or some other thing) on the throne of his heart. Francis wanted God to fill his own heart to overflowing with Himself.

What a very strange and wonderful prayer this is! Francis speaks like a lover head over heals in love with his beloved. Love being like honey and fire!? His spirit being drunk like water by a thirsty God!? It is all so extreme and strange in a way but, of course, it gets even stranger!

Francis prays to die! That which all living creatures treasure the most, their life, is something Francis WANTS to give up. But, Francis wasn't suicidal. Rather than running away FROM something he actually wants to run TO something, plunge himself into . . . LOVE. He wants to die "for love of love of" God.

He doesn't mean he wants to die to earn God's love since He knows he already has it (God loves us all fully and freely). The love he wants to die for is the power to love God in return - to be able to love God in the same way and to the same degree as God loves him (Francis). Francis, as a sinner (like us all) knows he cannot love like he has been loved. Our love, no matter how powerful and deep, is shallow and weak in comparison to God's love. Only God can love with infinite power and depth. This is why Francis says 'please' as he prays to God - the only source of this power to love.

Francis had witnessed the magnitude of God's love during prayer and meditation and revealed in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This love, the power of it, left him stunned and overwhelmed. When Jesus cried out, "I thirst", Francis knew that Jesus' thirst more spiritual than physical. Jesus thirsted for love - the love of His Father (who had seemingly 'forsaken' Him) but also for humanity's love. Francis wanted to quench Jesus' thirst by having God's love 'lap' him up. It is only right that we give Jesus the same love that He gives to us, right? Francis' would often lament to those around him that "Love is not loved." It broke Francis heart that God's thirst wasn't satisfied and broke it even more as he realized that he couldn't love as he should - as God needed him to.

Francis knew, however, by dieing to self (emptying himself of concerns and desires for himself as well as love of all earthly temporal things) that God could 'resurrect' him (transform him) into a person like Christ - remade "in the image of Christ" - and thereby empower him to love God, even as God loved him. If Francis had a heart like Jesus then he could love like Jesus.

Francis finished his prayer by saying something as strange as everything else he had said: God 'delighted to die for love of love of me '. St. Paul said about Jesus, "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross . . ." But . . . who 'delights to die'? Well, Jesus teaches us that a true lover takes the greatest satisfaction in giving everything to enrich (do good and make happy) His beloved.

The Love that God delighted in dieing for was His own power to Love - not to get it (since He already had it) but to activate or actualize it (revealing it fully in the process of giving up His life on the cross). By dieing for us, God affirmed Love as being the greatest of all things. And, in doing so, He indicated to us that, in His own eyes, we are more important to Him than His own Self! When we buy something we are saying that the thing we are purchasing is worth, in our own minds, what we are paying for it, right? Christ redeemed us (bought us) with . . . His own life on the cross! Jesus felt we were 'worth' the price He paid!

We all know St. Paul's statement that "God is love". True love is ultimately selfless - where one thinks, feels and acts with thought only of the one who is loved. By 'dieing' Jesus revealed the depths of His humility (His self-lessness) - seeking nothing for self but to give all to us. This humility and His loving sacrifice of Himself revealed to us how very important (of the utmost importance!) we are to Him.

Francis once said, "The subject of God's love is so profound and holy it should be spoken of rarely and only with the most urgent necessity." I want to ask all of you to please pray for me for I fear I may have dirtied with my thoughts and words something too sublime for me to try to discuss!

Brothers and sisters, let us join Francis in his prayer since it can carry us into the very depths of God's love. Do you pray in fervor and sincerity with the single-hearted goal of knowing God with all of Your heart, like Francis did? Do you want to know the heights of spiritual ecstasy and gaze forever into the loving eyes of Jesus? God wants you to know the depths of His infinite love for you and experience the joy that arrises from the love of God. Jesus is inviting you, with stretched out hand and yearning eyes, to say YES to Love - His love for you. Take His hand for He is waits . . . for you.

2 comments:

John said...

As it is stated here; "Francis wanted to quench Jesus' thirst by having God's love 'lap' him up. It is only right that we give Jesus the same love that He gives to us, right?" This is true, yet it is also stated here that; "It broke Francis heart that God's thirst wasn't satisfied and broke it even more as he realized that he couldn't love as he should - as God needed him to."

Jesus is capable, able, and is loving each and every person on earth. Jesus said, that we should love one another as we love ourselves. By loving our brethren as we love ourselves or as Jesus loves us, we are loving Jesus in the spiritual realm as well as loving through an act of our will. And still, not as we should. Jesus, right now, this very second, loves every single person on earth. Do we love each and every person when we meet them or pass them on the path? Are we even capable of such a great love? How insignificant we are, yet so great that Jesus our Lord loves us and gave his life for us.
John

St. Joseph's Secular Franciscan Fraternity said...

Peace brother John. You are exactly right. Remember when Paul was persecuting the disciples and Jesus appeared to him and said "Why are you persecuting Me?" Also the last judgment, "When you did it to them, you did it to me . . ." The only difference I would say is that if we focus on the spiritual life - allow Christ to ravish our heart in prayer - then we will be empowered to satisfy His thirst - most often through others. We can't do it ourselves - can't even love Him as we should - but, through faith, humility and constant prayer, it can and will happen. We are nothing - should see ourselves as nothing but, as you point out, God Himself elevates and affirms us as being, to Him, the most important of all. God bless you for sharing brother!

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