Can you feel the love? I sure can. But until a few weeks ago, I had never felt it so clearly and so dramatically.
“God is Love” and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 733)
Last month I attended the Healing the Whole Person retreat at St. Helen Catholic Church in Georgetown, presented by the Florida-based John Paul II Healing Center. The word I kept hearing over and over throughout the weekend was love.
Never was the love of God more evident for me than during Adoration and Benediction on Saturday during the retreat. Time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament is always remarkable. But I experienced something much different this time. And it forever changed the way I look at the Host during Mass or Adoration.
Earlier in the day, this quote that was discussed at the retreat caught my attention:
The avoidance, rejection or deprivation of love is the source of all functional (physical, psychological, and spiritual) illness. Love heals. Healing is an integral part of human love. Where love is, healing is constantly occurring. – Authentic Love by J. Brennan Mullaney.
As I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and reflected on this quote and other topics from the retreat, suddenly I could “feel” God’s love pouring out of the circle in the center of the monstrance. It reminded me of water flowing through a porthole on a ship.
The feeling escalated until God’s love was pouring through that hole with such a strong force that it was filling up the room. I could practically see the love quickly rising up toward the ceiling just as if a boat were rapidly taking on water.
Of course, if I had actually been on a ship with water gushing through the porthole I probably would have panicked and felt a sense of impending doom. But in this case I felt an overwhelming sense of calm, peace, grace and healing.
When I explained this “love pouring” experience to my nine-year-old daughter after the retreat, she grabbed a pencil and did a quick sketch:
This was a great reminder that God’s love is always available, not just at Mass, Adoration or when we feel like we need something from the Lord. The problem is, even though the love is there, we are not always open to receiving it; or sometimes we forget that it is there.
It’s not a surprise that the monstrance is designed to look like the sun’s rays. Much like the sun, God’s love is always out there shining down on us, but we don’t always see it or feel it. Sin is a layer of clouds – sometimes a very thick layer – that impedes our access or openness to the love and healing of the Lord. On a cloudy day we say that the sun isn’t out. But it is. It never really goes away. Nor does God’s love. And a great way to clear those clouds of sin is to go to confession and re-open ourselves to His love.
“God is love”: God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 221)
As we spend Advent preparing for the second coming of Christ and waiting to celebrate the anniversary of his birth on Christmas, remember that we never have to wait to receive God’s love. Keep your porthole open.