As a man who grew up as a boy with a father whose love I often doubted, I realized that God was more of an idea, a concept, a phantom whose love was more or less, again, on the conceptual plane-- a heady idea, but not very moving, not terribly present. Better than my earthly father? Absolutely. Present in the Eucharist? Sure.
Admittedly, I had this "phantom focus" of God even through my first year of seminary-- the kind that some peaceful people who meditate in open parks claim to have. And that might sound weird, since the obvious question is: shouldn't a seminarian know the personal love of God-- especially since they are giving their life to Him in service? Of course. I was just simply content knowing that He was the Truth. That was enough for me.
Don't get me wrong, there were moments that I had encountered the Father in the past. But these moments were like rainbows. Nice for a moment, but not easily remembered. Thankfully, over time, these moments did begin the accumulate, like virtues that grow with repeated preparation and practice. Only, it wasn't me that was doing the preparation. God was preparing me.
What he was preparing me for was what I would read this week six years ago. It was a small biblical passage from an obscure prophet in ancient Israel. The prophet was speaking to the nation on a personal level-- speaking, in fact, for God.
What I heard in my heart as I read with my eyes was something different. I was hearing the Father speak to me. Personally, really, truly... speak. To me.
I am going to share that passage with you now. It is one of the most intimate expressions of God's love for you. Read it as though God were speaking it to you-- personally. To you.
Having encountered Him, I can say with certainty that He wants you to know this, to hear this, to hear it with your heart. It is more than a rainbow. It is true love. It is our Father.
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Ba'als, and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught E'phraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one, who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.
Over the weekend, the high school teens at St. Joseph's went to the Steubenville conference. During one of the talks, they sung an amazing song. It's been in my heart since-- and especially today (since, today, the same scripture passage above was read at holy Mass).