The Mystery of Relationships
The relationship between us and God is something far beyond our comprehension. Yet, because we are made in the image and likeness of God, somehow God has given us a hint of what that relationship means. He made us so that we could experience our own human relationships. In fact, we can’t live without relationships. And it is inspiring how we describe these special relationships in our human language. Think of the love songs we’ve heard and the images they bring to mind in describing that human experience.
We say two people “fall” in love. One reason for that expression is because when people are deeply in love or are so infatuated they often can’t see anything but the person with whom they are in love. When we can’t see well, we are liable to trip and fall. It means that the person’s whole attention is on the other person and one’s balance can be lost. When people are in love, we find them smiling, happy, and changed by the relationship. Being in the presence of the beloved can push aside many other problems facing us.
What about the popular song “I Can’t Take my Eyes Off of You”? What a powerful image that is! The image says that a person is so much in love with the other that his/her eyes are little out of their head and attached to the person—like Velcro. The eyes follow them wherever he/she goes.
But think of the relationship even further. A person says, “I love you so much that I can’t get enough of you. I want to possess you, to have and to hold you.” All those are human expressions of the power and attraction of loving relationships between people.
Jesus Humbles Himself for Our Sake
We tend to assume that the stronger and more powerful person possesses the less powerful. And so we say that parents possess their infant. But, in reality, doesn’t the infant really possess the parents? Aren’t the parents overwhelmed by the precious new life in their arms? Would they not give their life for the sake of that infant? So, the question is: Who controls whom?
The same is true with God, but infinitely more so. Obviously God possesses us: the Creator possessing the creation. That makes all the sense in the world. But, at the same time, there is something about God’s weakness in that his love for us causes him to do the most outlandish things, like sending his son, Jesus, not just to teach us, but to call us, to forgive us, to die for us. The Creator dies for his creation. That makes no sense whatsoever. But it does because God is God. That is why the relationship is so strange and mysterious. It seems like our very humanness, our weakness, our vulnerability draws God to us in an intensity we can’t comprehend.
What is stunning is to realize that this is not just our theology or spirituality of relationship. Each time we receive the Eucharist—Jesus himself—he makes himself so small and vulnerable. We hold divinity in our hands. He humbled himself that he might let us possess him.
Dear Friar Jack: Your E-spriation on St. Anthony brought knowledge of a wonderful saint to me. I had been aware of St. Anthony, but never really understood his willingness to share God’s word with the public. I found a new respect for St. Anthony of Padua. Ted
Dear Friar Jack: What a beautiful picture of St. Anthony and the baby Jesus! I loved it. The story of his life was also very beautiful and heartwarming. Thank you so much for posting it. Rose
Dear Friar Jack: Thanks for always sending me words of encouragement. One thing I always ask myself is why have we lost focus, allowing worldly affairs to take over our spiritual lives, especially at these perilous times? May St. Anthony of Padua help us in this spiritual journey! Priscilla
A: Dear Ted, Rose, and Priscilla: Thanks for your meaningful responses to my E-spiration on St. Anthony of Padua. Anthony is a beloved “wonderworker” in more ways than one. It’s a good time to read more about Anthony in the new book St. Anthony of Padua: His Life, Legends, and Devotions available at Franciscan Media. If you return to my most recent Friar Jack’s E-spiration (regarding St. Anthony), you can find out how to purchase it and receive a signed copy. Meanwhile, you and all readers of Friar Jack’s E-spirations will be in my prayers! Peace and blessings to all! Friar Jack