“Who is there?” I asked.
“I Am Love,” came the reply.
“Come in. Do come in,” I begged in earnest. For it had been a long time since anyone had come to call and I was intrigued that someone so esteemed should come to me.
Rattle, rattle went the doorknob as it twisted back and forth.
“You have locked your door,” came the Voice from outside.
“I shall unlock it at once,” I replied.
But I could not. I discovered that the pathway to my entrance was barricaded. In fact, my room was so filled up with things that I could not even begin to clear a passage to reach the threshold.
“Please, come back tomorrow,” I instructed. “Tomorrow I’ll have an unlocked door.”
So, Love retreated.
And I set about the task of clearing a path for His return. Engaging all of my strength, I shoved this and that aside. The enterprise was taxing, but my resolve was strengthened by the prospect that Love would come again. Then having succeeded in pushing my most cumbersome belongings to the sidelines, I turned my attention to the nests of long-forgotten treasures that were now laid bare. I cast out the obvious rubbish and stacked the seemingly useful things. I made a channel through which to pass and, reaching the doorway, I unlatched the chains.
“Who is there?” I asked in excitement as bright rays of sunlight poured through the cracks in my door.
“I Am Love,” He responded.
“Come in. Do come in,” I instructed, while unchaining the latch and pulling open the heavy door. “Sit down. Do sit down,” I petitioned, pointing to the two seats, side-by-side.
Love entered in and reclined.
I sat beside Him for a minute, but then I leapt up and set about the job of entertaining.
“Look here,” I said, motioning to the pretty adornments on my walls. “See these,” I instructed, arraying all my earthly treasures before Him. I babbled on and on for a long while. I told Love all about my accomplishments. I shared with Him my dreams. I revealed to Him my blueprints. He sat for hours in silent stillness while I flitted about the room. Before I knew it, the day had slipped by and Love stood to go.
“Do come back again tomorrow,” I invited. “Tomorrow I will have more to offer.”
Love stepped out of the door and down the lane.
“I should sleep,” I thought to myself, but I was too excited to lay my head on a pillow. Instead, I exhausted myself redecorating. I dragged a round table into the center of the room and nestled our chairs around it. I laid a starched, white cloth upon the table and displayed an antique vase on top. Then, I dug into the depths of my closet and retrieved my best frock. I worked through the night preparing my cell and myself. Having exposed all of my tales, plans and achievements during Love’s last visit, I looked for novel sources of entertainment. I fished an old vinyl record from its dusty sleeve and set it on the long-unused player. Once satisfied with all my new arrangements, tomorrow couldn’t come fast enough.
“Who is there?” I called, rushing about the room touching up the last details as morning broke anew.
“I Am Love,” came the reply.
“Come in. Do come in,” I insisted flinging the door wide open. “Come and sit at my table.”
Love entered and took His place.
“Listen to this,” I cooed, setting the needle on the vinyl grooves. The space filled with noise as the record spun and a new energy swirled. For the next hours I swayed and whirled about in my fashionable attire. I danced before Love with seemingly endless enthusiasm. I sang the parts of the songs that I knew and hummed the tune when the lyrics eluded my memory. My heart was invigorated in my role as entertainer and I let go of my inhibitions, fancying myself an impressive hostess. And again the day was too quickly spent, such that as Love stood to go, I realized that He’d had no chance for Himself. I’d filled two days with my voice: speaking and singing. And I’d failed to hear Love’s response.
“Oh, please, do come again tomorrow,” I pleaded. “Come tomorrow and tell me all about Yourself: Your delights, Your stories, Your plans. Tomorrow I’ll be prepared to listen.”
In silence, Love exited.
“Who is there?” I queried, as the warm glowing light of daybreak seeped through the entryway’s crevices.
“I Am Love,” came the now familiar answer in the dawn.
“Come in. Do come in,” I said, “today I wish to hear Your voice.” In truth, having worn myself out in the previous days, I was only too glad to be able to sit and allow Love to work.
Love came in and reclined in His chair at my table, but no sound crossed His lips. He remained in silent stillness. I sat in silence, too, though I was not altogether comfortable with it. Several times I considered drawing upon my last reserves of energy, attempting to woo Him with some new tricks or trinkets. But then I remembered my promise and I continued to wait on His voice. Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes turned into hours. The clock seemed to have stopped, or at least to have hesitated now and then, which led me to check it often. And in searching to hear Love’s voice my ears attuned to all manner of other sounds: crowing…chirping…ticking… creaking…shifting…breathing… The silence was, at times, deafening. Wearied from my works and lulled by my anxious listening, I drifted in and out of sleep in the seat beside my Guest. Then, Love finally stood to leave.
However, after this long day I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of tomorrow. Love’s silence had confused my understanding of the roles of friendship. I was losing confidence in my ability to be a good hostess. “Perhaps, He ought to find a more suitable companion,” I considered in my mind. My heart in desolation, it seemed easier to allow Love to leave on this day.
So, rather than bid Him return to me, I simply said, “Goodbye.”
I latched the door behind Him.
Thoroughly spent, I kicked my shoes under the table, dropped my dress into a heap on the floor and made ready for bed. Then, I crawled beneath the patchwork quilt on my bed and heaved a sigh. I might have devoted some time to deciphering all that had come to pass between Love and me, but I hadn’t the inclination at that moment. I was weary and dejected. Sleep beckoned and I readily submitted.
At 3:33am, a gentle sound stirred on the other side of my latched door. Though it was barely more than a whisper, it called me from the depths of my slumber. Eyes wide open, I lay paralyzed for a minute while my mind worked to arouse; seeking to make sense of the hour and the circumstance.
“Who is there? I yelled, half fearing the reply.
“I Am Love,” was the answer.
“Love?” I asked. For though Love had been the only guest Who’d come to call on me, I was surprised by His arrival at such an hour. “I am not prepared to entertain you just now,” I said. “Come again tomorrow when I have had time to plan for your arrival.”
Love spoke not another word, but instead stood waiting. For half a minute I remained buried under the patchwork quilt, wrestling between exhaustion and curiosity. The latter won the battle so I rose from my bed and fumbled in the darkness until I reached the latch. Standing inside, in the blackness, I paused. For it occurred to me that this time Love’s entrance would be different. I couldn’t understand how I knew this, but it was clear in my mind that I would never be the same if I invited Love in on His own terms. So, I drew in a long breath, unlocked the chains and pulled the door in with great care.
As His foot crossed the threshold, my cell was awash in soft Light, though He carried no lantern. The Light exposed even the remotest of corners in my room, leaving nothing unseen. Ashamed, I began to offer my apologies for my ragged appearance and ill-kept room, but He tenderly put his arm about my shoulder and absolved me of my anxieties. Then, He silently led me to my chair and I sat.
Love made no speech, yet His Words filled my ears and instructed my intellect. Unlike the previous day, the outward silence now freed me from all distractions, allowing me to rest wholly in His Presence. Unattached to my plans and devoid of power, I discovered the security and serenity of being vulnerable to Love. He made no pretense nor accepted any. Love simply wrapped me in His embrace and all that had been before fell away.
Love’s hands had appeared empty when He entered, but from unseen resources He produced Bread and Wine upon the table. These He blessed and said, “Take and eat.”
Unaccustomed to dining at such an hour, I was strangely drawn to the meal. Deep inside, I experienced a hunger like never before. This desire penetrated deep within. So, I ate and I drank. Together, the sweet Bread and velvety Wine satiated the hunger, and yet they left me with a new thirst, a thirst for which no earthly remedy could suffice.
I never wanted Love to depart from me again, so I made the decision to keep my door open and the pathway free.
Like Solomon I implored, “Set me as a seal upon Your heart.”
Love smiled, for He already had.
Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a freelance writer and speaker. She lives with her husband and 8 children in North Carolina. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on Blessings In Brelinskyville blessingsinbrelinskyville.com/ or listen to her podcast The Homeschool Educator.
A few months ago, during a conversation about a “difficult” colleague, my immediate superior remarked: “If I am not able to be a source of solace to such people in my team, then all my spirituality is in vain.” It was a wake-up-call; I had often been in the habit of judging this colleague, so this left me in shame. I realized how badly I had failed to be a true witness to my faith, at my workplace. All of us are surrounded by difficult people, maybe in the form of a nagging spouse, an envious neighbor, an irritating colleague, or a domineering boss. In fact, Jesus dealt with difficult people on a daily basis, giving us the perfect example of compassion. This Lent, let’s be thankful to God for all these difficult people in our lives. Instead of judging and avoiding them, let’s try to be like Jesus. Let’s do to them what Jesus would have done for them if He was in our place. And let’s not forget that it’s not the good people but the difficult people who purify us.
There is a regrettable interpretation of the Cross that has, unfortunately, infected the minds of many Christians. This is the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was “satisfying” to the Father, an appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity. In this reading, the crucified Jesus is like a child hurled into the fiery mouth of a pagan divinity in order to assuage its wrath. But what ultimately refutes this twisted theology is the well-known passage from John’s Gospel: “God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him might have eternal life.”(3:16) John reveals that it is not out of anger or vengeance or in a desire for retribution that the Father sends the Son, but precisely out of love. God the Father is not some pathetic divinity whose bruised personal honor needs to be restored; rather, God is a parent who burns with compassion for His children who have wandered into danger. Does the Father hate sinners? No, but he hates sin. Does God harbor indignation at the unjust? No, but God despises injustice. Thus, God sends his Son, not gleefully to see him suffer, but compassionately to set things right. Saint Anselm, the great medieval theologian who is often unfairly blamed for the cruel theology of satisfaction, was eminently clear on this score. We sinners are like diamonds that have fallen into the muck. Made in the image of God, we have soiled ourselves through violence and hatred. God, claimed Anselm, could have simply pronounced a word of forgiveness from heaven, but this would not have solved the problem. It would not have restored the diamonds to their original brilliance. Instead, in his passion to reestablish the beauty of creation, God came down into the muck of sin and death, brought the diamonds up, and then polished them off. In so doing, of course, God had to get dirty. This sinking into the dirt—this divine solidarity with the lost—is the “sacrifice” which the Son makes to the infinite pleasure of the Father. It is the sacrifice expressive, not of anger or vengeance, but of compassion. Jesus said that any disciple of His must be willing to take up his cross and follow the Master. If God is self-forgetting love even to the point of death, then we must be such love. If God is willing to break open his own heart, then we must be willing to break open our hearts for others. The cross, in short, must become the very structure of the Christian life.
Q: My Protestant friends say that Catholics believe we need to earn our salvation. They say that salvation is by faith alone and that we can’t add to anything that Jesus already did for us on the Cross. But don’t we have to do good works to make it to Heaven? A: This is a pretty big misunderstanding for both Protestants and Catholics. It may seem to be theological minutiae, but it actually has a huge consequence in our spiritual life. The truth is this: We are saved by living faith—our belief in Jesus Christ that is lived out in our words and actions. We must be clear—we do not need to earn our salvation, as if salvation was a prize if we reach a certain level of good deeds. Consider this: who was the first one to be saved? According to Jesus, it was the Good Thief. While he was being rightly crucified for his evil deeds, he cried out to Jesus for mercy, and the Lord promised him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) So, salvation consists in that radical faith, trust, and surrender to what Jesus did on the Cross to purchase mercy. Why is this important? Because many Catholics think that all we have to do to be saved is ‘be a good person’—even if the person doesn’t actually have a living relationship with the Lord. I can’t begin to tell you how many people tell me something like: “Oh, my uncle never went to Mass or prayed, but he was a nice man who did many good things in his life, so I know he’s in Heaven.” While we certainly hope that the uncle is saved by God’s mercy, it isn’t our kindness or good works that save us, but the saving death of Jesus on the Cross. What would happen if a criminal was put on trial for a crime, but he said to the judge, “Your Honor, I did commit the crime, but look at all the other good things I did in my life!” Would the judge let him off? No—he would still have to pay for the crime he committed. Likewise, our sins had a cost—and Jesus Christ had to pay for them. This payment of the debt of sin is applied to our souls through faith. But, faith is not just an intellectual exercise. It must be lived out. As Saint James writes: “Faith without works is dead” (2:24). It’s not enough just to say: “Well, I believe in Jesus, so I can now sin as much as I want.” On the contrary, precisely because we have been forgiven and become heirs to the Kingdom, we must then act like Kingdom-heirs, like sons and daughters of the King. This is very different than trying to earn our salvation. We don’t do good works because we hope to be forgiven—we do good works because we are already forgiven. Our good deeds are a sign that His forgiveness is alive and active in our lives. After all, Jesus tells us: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) If a husband loves his wife, he will seek concrete ways to bless her—giving her flowers, doing the dishes, writing her a love note. He would never say: “Well, we’re married, and she knows I love her, so I can now do whatever I want.” Likewise, a soul that has known the merciful love of Jesus will naturally want to please Him. So, to answer your question, Catholics and Protestants are actually much closer on this issue than they know! We both believe that we are saved by faith—by a living faith, which is expressed in a life of good works as a sign of thanksgiving for the lavish, free gift of salvation that Christ won for us on the Cross.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6) Do you remember hearing these words as a child? They seemed simple enough—just go to your room, close the door, and pray. I remember hearing them and being confused. Simple words, yes, but it just didn’t make sense that we could only say prayers, in our room, by ourselves. But my child-like faith told me to believe these words. As I grew, so did my faith and understanding of this Scripture. I came to realize these beautiful, profound words meant I could go into my room, turn my heart to the Lord, anytime, anywhere. My prayer life blossomed. How wonderful to spend quiet time with our Father and receive His love. Every time I hear these words from Matthew’s Gospel, I appreciate the Lenten season even more. It’s a reminder of God’s love and how much He desires our friendship. Love heals. For me, that’s the reward when I go into my room and pray.
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