Have you ever been pursued by love? I’m not talking about infatuation where someone is inspired with an intense and unrealistic admiration for another person. Let me tell you about how I was pursued by True Love. One cold night near Christmas in Austin, Texas when I was a Freshman at UT, I got a knock on my apartment door. It was three Baptist men who wanted to speak with me about Jesus. I didn’t know Jesus at that time, nor did I care to know about him (remember that I was a baptized and confirmed Catholic at that time). Just for fun, I asked them if I could be baptized in the cold pool outside. They believed I was sincere; I was far from that. I was simply looking for amusement. I got into the pool with all my clothes on, shivering, and was immersed in the pool and baptized. They gave me genuine hugs. After they left, I laughed out loud; I was delighting in how I manipulated them. (That was the kind of person I was). Two weeks later, on the streets of UT, I met the guy who got into the pool and immersed me. He asked me, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” “No,” I replied. He asked me three times, and I denied him three times.
Every year around Christmas I remind myself of that experience. What did God see in me that was worth pursuing me with His Love? I was an arrogant, prideful, self-absorbed young man. For many of us, when we get insulted or manipulated by a person, we simply walk away. Why bother with such immaturity and self-centeredness? Think of the many times in our lives when we caused grief for another person by our behavior. Some, who were deeply hurt by us, left us. Yet, some still stayed, bearing with our faults. Why? That’s the great mystery of Christmas. We learn from the scriptures, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” What kind of love would overlook all the insults, all the coldness, all the self-centeredness, and still come closely and intimately to us? As one of the scripture readings for Christmas says, “the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy.”
It is hard for us to fathom what that kindness and generous love of God feels like when we have not experienced it for ourselves. It is hard for us to fathom the love that radiates from the tiny infant lying in the manger. A few days ago, I visited a lady to give her the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, and I began to tell her about near-death experiences. I was describing to her how the soul departs the body and enters a dark tunnel and emerges out into a beautiful paradise. As I began to tell her how Jesus appears to the soul and embraces her with profound love, she began to nod and cry. She was speechless. Then she said, “How could anyone describe the love that Jesus has for us? We will never know how much Jesus loves us.” She told me that when she had a heart attack several weeks ago, she had her second near-death experience. She went through the tunnel, emerged into a bright light, and saw her deceased family members waiting for her. They shook their heads as if to tell her that it was not her time to be there. And then she saw Jesus and became speechless as she felt the love He had for her.
Is it possible to experience that love that everyone else seems to be experiencing except for me? Is it too much to ask Jesus for a personal Christmas gift just for me? Jesus does give us today a very special Christmas gift. Just as He rested on the manger in Bethlehem, Jesus in the Eucharist will rest in our hearts, finding His comfort and joy by snuggling up to our heart. Listen now to what Jesus has to say to you.
“Dearest one, be assured of My good will toward you. At times, I see that you forget that you have a beloved and constant friend. I am a friend who never finds you tiresome or difficult. I am with you during your calm periods and during your storms. I find you a precious companion regardless of your disposition in any moment. Think of someone whose companionship you crave or whose companionship you craved in the past. Just the thought of spending time with that person could bring you consolation. With that person, you felt comfortable, safe and there was joy. You could be yourself and felt that you fit well with this other. For you, I am that other. For Me, you are that other. We fit together. When you are with Me, you are with the one who completely understands you and completely loves you. My love for you is sympathetic, understanding and unchangeable. My love for you will weather any strain or pain, any mistake or any emotional storm you experience. I will never leave you. I will always love you and welcome you in My heart.”