By Father Glenn Evers
I remember when I was a child that anytime my parents left me, I would become extremely upset. No matter if it was dropping me off for school, them going out grocery shopping, or my parents departing for a wedding or vacation together, every time was the same for me — I wanted to be with them. I did not want them to go away and to leave me alone with someone else. And so every time they left me, always for good reason of course, nonetheless, the waterworks show would begin as I would cry and moan longing to be with my parents once more. So what really was all this about? Why is it as little kids and even as big “kids” when we are away from and separated from those we love it causes so much distress and pain?
A psychologist might classify our plight as separation anxiety. A “macho-man” would tell us to, “Grow up and get over it!” But as opposed to just labeling it or ignoring it, the Christian looks deeper into the pain of separation and by the grace of God searches for an answer, finds it, and understands exactly what is going on there. In short, being separated from those we love hurts so bad, because it is a direct violation of our very human nature.
What do I mean by this? As human beings we are created in God’s image and likeness and St. John the Beloved would remind us in his First Letter in the Bible that, “God is love.” And so very simply put, “I am love. You are love. We are love. Human beings are love.” Our human nature is to love. We as human beings have love written and inscribed upon our hearts. And so you and I who are created in God’s image are called to love and to be loved.
Well what exactly is love then, if that is what we are supposed to be? Our Catholic Faith teaches us, that love is not just a mere feeling, but it is doing something good for another person, for the sake of that person. It is being good to someone else, just because… just because they are… just because I can… When we live this type of love, it is truly a Godly love, because I seek to gain nothing out of being nice, but solely do a good deed to benefit someone else other than myself for the purpose of being nice. We hear about this type of merciful love that God displayed for us in our Gospel reading today. Jesus shared with us, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life … that the world might be saved through him.” God the Father did not have to save us, but desired to save us and give us eternal life through giving us the gift of His Son, Jesus, just because… just because, He loves us that much!
However, to truly love as God loves, always requires somebody else, someone to love. Love demands a recipient. For example, if God did not exist and nobody else existed and I was the only human being that existed in the universe, I could not love. I could not love, because there would be no one to receive the good act of kindness that I would want to do for someone else. I would be isolated and frustrated. But thankfully, that is not the world in which you or I live. We have a tremendous potential every single day to love, to love God and to love all of the people around us.
That said, however, it is not simply just about love in and of itself. Being like God and the reason why separation from others hurts so much is actually, because of one of the direct effects of love. When someone legitimately loves another person, it forms a new relationship creating a communion of persons between the two individuals, the lovers and the beloved. It brings two people together and into union with one another. This happens all of the time without us even realizing what is going on. Whenever someone does something nice for us, for example, getting us a cup of coffee or fixing lunch, helping to resolve a problem, or giving us insight or guidance, what happens is that we begin to gravitate towards that person. We want to be around them, we want to see them again, and we want to reciprocate and return the love we had first received. A communion of persons takes place and what happens is, is that love being creative, love begins to form a good and holy friendship; one that is mutually desired by both parties and one that longs to endure and last.
In fact, it is this very mystery and reality that we celebrate this Holy Trinity Sunday. As Catholics we believe that God is a Holy Trinity, meaning that we believe in one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. At face value this would seem like it contradicts reason, to believe 3 are 1, but it is actually a story of love. The Holy Trinity is the fact that God the Father loves God the Son, Who both love God the Holy Spirit, so fully and so perfectly, that the three are one. They are holy and wholly united in love to such a point that it is impossible for them to be separated. The consequence of their love means that to see one person of the Holy Trinity is to see simultaneously the other two as well all perfectly united together. This will be one of the first and awesome mysteries we will experience when we go to heaven — to see three Divine Persons as one God in complete and utter unified love.
That might have been a bit confusing, but the point is this: God is love and the Holy Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are so in love with each other, that this love they share creates a perfect unity one with the other. And so being made in God’s image and likeness we are called to live similarly, we are made to be in perfect union with the other, in love, and to experience this love as God experiences it — for eternity, forever as an eternal love. This is one of the reasons why the Sacrament of Marriage as the permanent loving union between a man and woman as husband and wife is so important. Their lasting free, total, faithful, and fruitful love for one another reflects the love of God itself, a perfect union of persons.
This then helps us now to understand why we get upset even at the earliest of ages when the people we love leave us even for a short while, like I once experienced. It helps us to understand why the isolation and loneliness of sheltering at home during this pandemic is so depressing and uncomfortable and why it bothers us so much to be away from others. It is all because we are meant to be with those people we love and to be with them forever. We suffer a broken Trinitarian heart; a heart that was created to love and to possess the beloved fully and forever.
And so the best way to heal our hearts that long and yearn for love when those people we love are absent, is to… you guessed it… to love! We have to fulfill our nature and not look inward at what is missing, but rather to look outward and find somebody to love. And so if you want “to feel complete” and to be happy, you need to be like God, because it is like Him and Him alone, that you and I have been created to be. Love and you will be like the Trinity. Be like the Trinity and you will experience the joy and mystery of being in communion. So make sure you go forth today and always following St. Paul’s advice, “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace…” in a word “Love!” And when that happens, he tells us, “…the God of love and peace will be with you.” And we will truly have happy and full hearts like His!
(Father Glenn Evers is associate pastor at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine parish and associate moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Wilmington).