I Choose Love

I was talking with a friend the other day and he was reciting an endless litany of all of the bad things going on in the world right now: terrorism, horrible refugee situations, the plunging stock market, eroding race relations, the selling of baby body parts, unstable international affairs, etc. He concluded, “Things just aren’t looking good.”

I had to disagree. Yes, there absolutely are a lot of horrible situations in the world right now – situations that we cannot ignore and that we are called to address. We must respect the dignity of human life in every way we possible and this includes helping those experiencing poverty and those without home or nation. We must be living witnesses of respect for people everywhere of all races, nationalities, and creeds, young and old, born and unborn. We must see the reflection of the God who made us in the face of each of our brothers and sisters. We must recognize that we are all one human family and do all we can to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters.

Sometimes, however, we are far away and we don’t feel we have the power to change such situations. We can fall into hopelessness.  We can despair that “the world is falling apart.”

The problem is that hopelessness and despair deny the reality of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.  Jesus said, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

Jesus offers Hope when everything around us seems to be falling apart. Jesus offers the warmth of his Love when the world seems barren and destitute.

In his August 16, 1967 speech, “Where Do We Go From Here,” the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of Love in elegant words of timeless import:

“And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate. I’ve seen too much hate on the faces …to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.”

Love is the way.

An ocean away, at nearly the same time in history, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina said, “Don’t spend your energies on things that generate worry, anxiety and anguish. Only one thing is necessary: Lift up your spirit and love God.” Likewise, St. Mary McKillop said, “Do what you can with the means at your disposal and leave all the rest calmly to God.”

Suffering in life is inevitable. There have always been and will always be atrocities and strife. How we react to these difficulties is our choice. We can turn away from our suffering brothers and sisters or we can live in love, encountering, respecting, and serving others compassionately. We can be crippled by fear and worry or we can lift up our hearts in prayer and trust that the God of Love hears us.

Myself?  I choose Hope. I choose Love.

“Set A Fire” – Will Regan & United Pursuit Band


“They will know you by your love”

The other day, I was driving to work when I came upon an accident. One car had rear-ended another car. It’s a common occurrence in our region – too many cars, too little space, too many distractions. What was unique about this accident though was the response of the police officer at the scene. He gently touched the arm of the woman who had rear-ended the other car and asked, “Are you okay?” His eyes were full of compassion for this woman. It was an unusually gentle and caring and response.

It reminded me of the parable of the rich young man in the Gospel. The young man tells Jesus that he has followed all of his commandments and wants to know what else he has to do to get into heaven. Jesus, being able to see into his heart, knows the man’s fatal flaw – his attachment to money. So what does Jesus do? Before instructing him about the action he needs to take (go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor), Jesus “looked steadily at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21, JB). Or, in another translation, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (NAB).

There is so much to be learned from this one line.

Instead of looking at him and judging him or berating him, Jesus looked at the man and loved him. He didn’t glance down his glasses at him with a disapproving look.  He didn’t wag his finger at him.  He just “looked steadily at him and loved him.”

How beautiful is this? God knows everything about us – whether we tell Him or not. He knows the secrets we hold in the depths of our hearts and he loves us steadily – despite all of our flaws.

Every person has flaws, imperfections. He knew it, we know it. But in this one passage he shows us how to react to the flaws of our brothers and sisters. Love them. Be compassionate with them. Let go of snap judgments. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, says “When we stand before Christ crucified, we see the depth of his love which exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all people. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people. He takes us from the midst of his people and send us out to his people… How good it is for us to contemplate the closeness he shows to everyone! If he speaks to someone he looks into their eyes with deep love and concern… (268-269).

I was in a meeting recently where the topic of discussion was “evangelization.” There were many heady and academic responses to the question of how one can introduce others to Jesus. The most profound response, however, came from an Afghan refugee who had converted to Christianity from Islam – the price for this conversion being a sentence of death. He rose from his seat and said, “The answer is simple. They will know you by your love.”

Yes, the answer is simple.  Let them know us by our love.

A Good Man

Today my uncle David passed away.

My uncle was addicted to alcohol and drugs. He spent years drinking and taking all kinds of drugs. He became homeless. People would shun him on the streets. He was arrested countless times for public intoxication. He was in and out of prison many times for this – but never hurt anyone except himself.

He was also a really good man.

Most of you know that I’m pro-life. Some of you might think that means I’m judgmental. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Let me tell you how I first became pro-life. It wasn’t in biology class when I read about life beginning when the sperm and egg meet. I don’t understand how anyone can dispute scientifically that life begins at that moment, but that’s actually not how I became pro-life. I became pro-life in eighth grade when my mother first told me the story of how my uncle became an addict.

When my uncle was twenty, he was deeply in love with a woman. He proposed to her. She said “yes.” Shortly after, she learned she was expecting. She was embarrassed. He was embarrassed. She said it wasn’t the right time. He said “it’ll be OK, we love each other, we’ll love this baby.”

She decided she still didn’t want to have a baby yet. He asked her to reconsider. She scheduled an abortion. The clinic said she would be asleep and that she wouldn’t feel anything.

She asked my uncle, her fiance, to go to the clinic with her. Even though he didn’t want her to go he said, “of course, you’re my fiance, I will support you and I am part of this.”

He went into the room with her to hold her hand. He didn’t really expect to see anything. She was only a few months along. They told him it was “just a blob of tissue.”

Later that day, he hysterically recounted to my mother how it felt seeing his tiny daughter being dismembered piece by piece and the expression on her tiny face. He asked her how a father could stand by and let that happen to his child. He asked her why he let it happen. He said he felt like a monster.

What my uncle never intended to happen, what he had witnessed that day, changed his life forever.

From that day on, he drowned his guilt in whatever intoxicating substances he could get. He didn’t feel worthy of life. His fiance also became an addict. They didn’t marry.

For the next forty-six years, his brothers and sisters were always looking for him on the streets, bringing him home to get “cleaned up.” He would shower, eat, and go back to the streets. He worked so hard at becoming sober many times and maintained sobriety for years, but he still never felt worthy of life. He hated himself and thought God did too.

He was a good, good man with a beautiful heart and conscience but his life was, in the fullest sense, a tragedy.

There is so much to learned about loving people without judging –Mother Teresa was great at teaching about this. She used to say, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Pope Francis is doing a great job today teaching about this also. He exemplifies, each day how to be humble and loving – how to see with the eyes of Christ and love with the heart of Christ. One can never know the burdens a person is carrying around with them. If we did, I believe we would all be more gentle with their hearts. What we can know for certain, is that everyone is carrying something, everyone is wounded, because it’s human nature to be wounded.

Some people hear that I’m pro-life and judge me to be “anti-woman” and “judgmental” – this couldn’t be farther than the truth. When I know people in these situations, I accompany them in their pain and think of them with love and compassion because I know that, no matter what anyone claims, there is always pain and death involved when it comes to abortion.

I am PRO-life. That is, I am for life. I am for the life of the woman, who’s life ended that day. I am for the little girl, my cousin, who’s life ended that day. And, I am for the man, my uncle, who’s life ended that day.

But that’s not the end of the story.

At 10 am last Friday, my uncle was received into the Catholic Church and received absolution. When my mother asked if he would like to see a priest, he said, “he would actually come and see me?” Can you imagine what it must feel like to drop all of those burdens of guilt and self-hatred and know that you are loved? As he lay dying the next nine days, his face would fill with joy only one time a day – the time when the priest would come and visit him.

On this day, I pray that as my uncle enters his new life, he will finally fully experience God’s tender and loving embrace.



“The Embrace” by Chris Hopkins