Today’s readings emphasize a point that continually blows me away: The God of all the universe, the infinite everlasting God, the One who put the stars in the place, loves me. God promises to open rivers and plant trees, to turn my wastelands into oases and satisfy my thirst. Though I may be the least in the Kingdom, yet in God’s eyes I am greater than John the Baptist.
Yet I have lived long enough to know that even God’s overwhelming and totally undeserved love does not guarantee an easy life. Jesus reminds us that this world is far too violent, and he himself faced injustice, betrayal, torture, and death. It is not the case that God’s love means I will avoid suffering; instead, God’s love gives me all that I need to endure and to bring resurrection out of it. It is my job to not just accept that love but to cooperate with it, to share it, and to return it as a gift to God.
And so today, as I celebrate my 54th birthday, I pray:
When I notice ways in which I can no longer physically function as I’d like, may I have the courage to bear my hardships well, and continue to reach out in compassion rather than insulate myself in pity.
May I have the wisdom and grace to imitate God’s love with my sons, letting go of them so they can find their own way in the world, yet always providing safe harbor when they need it.
May I remember to nurture those relationships that are important, not allowing the busyness of my life to distract me from the people I love.
May I hold my possessions loosely, knowing they are given to me to share and use for others.
May I never lose gratitude for the privilege of being well-loved by another human being, and may I remain steadfast in offering unconditional love to others.
May I have the courage to work with tireless compassion for more even distribution of the world’s resources, for justice and inclusivity, and for peace.
May I be a visible instrument of God and use my talents well, especially in ways that help others heal and that deepen their relationship to the Source of all life.
Finally, as a precious child, I thank God for loving me, for staying constantly by my side even in my darkest hours, and for promising me through the example of the passion of Jesus that death will never have the final word. May I always trust in this God of life, handing myself over into those loving hands and desiring nothing more than to do God’s will. Amen.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.amyflorian.com/.