Jennifer Hartline, as readers know is a Catholic writer I greatly respect for her way with words, but more so for her deep faith, and wisdom. Here again is one of her Catholic Online pieces.
She opens by reminding us of one of St. Augustine's famous statements: "To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement."
St. Augustine, was born in 354 AD, and was the son of a pagan father, and a Christian mother, St. Monica. He was a rounder in his younger days, living in sin with a mistress for 10 years. His mother was very patient, probably not as patient as God, but patient none the less. She prayed fervently for Augustine's and her own husband's conversion to the Faith. She was not above a little skulduggery in her desire for her son's conversion, enlisting a bishop to talk him in to the faith, unsuccessfully I might add. I don't think she prayed for him to get hit over the head with a baseball bat like my dear mother did. But she was fervent in her prayers and those prayers were answered for both her husband and her son.
The city of Santa Monica California is named after her, and of course, St. Augustine Florida is named after her son. Presumably the father commutes between the two.
Why I pay attention to Augustine here is that he is a good example of how the prayers of a parent are answered in and for the children, which reminds me that I must pray for my children and stepchildren fervently for a growth in the seed of faith that resides in them. But, it is also and even more so a sign of how God can bring a sinner to himself, when the sinner chooses God over the sin. His writing on his battle with sexual sin and lust is powerful for all of us who have left behind such sin, and battle with it regularly because of its pull on our minds and bodies. It is a wonderful example of good triumphing over evil by the power of prayer.
Anyway, here is what the good Mrs. Hartline wrote back in June of 2009 about Falling in Love with God:
There are days when I do battle with a deadly spiritual malady, a form of spiritual heart disease. It comes in two forms, both rather sneaky in how they creep up on me and worm their way into my heart. They are cynicism and indifference. It’s not so much that I choose them; it’s that I make no effort to refuse them.
Clearly, many of us are suffering this malady. This is the disease that zaps our energy and steals our excitement. It leaves us weary and lazy and full of handy excuses. It eats away at devotion and leaves our souls empty. Christendom in America is deeply infected with this life-sapping sickness. It is why so many Christians have been enticed and beguiled by power and popularity and persuaded to compromise. Without passion, without zeal, without fervor, we are lifeless and faith is so easily cast aside.
St. Augustine prescribes the cure: We need a new romance. "To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances, to seek Him the greatest adventure, to find Him the greatest human achievement." What the cynical and indifferent heart needs is a healthy dose of romance.
We have every reason to be enthralled in romance! The greatest gesture of love known to the universe was made toward each of us by the Author of True Love. We are not simply liked and enjoyed; we are passionately, deeply, obsessively loved!
How does it go again?
“God so understood the world…”
“God so cared for the world…”
“God so respected the world…”
“God so accepted the world…”
“God so disdained the world…”
“God so rejected the world…”
No…God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. God made a bold and unflinching proclamation of abiding, endless love to all mankind, and Jesus came to be made a fool of, all in the hope that He would win the hearts of His beloved ones. Only a passionate lover is willing to look foolish for his beloved.
People, we desperately need a new romance. We need to take a good, long look with fresh eyes at the Lover of our souls and internalize the high price He paid for the chance to be reunited with us. I hope we have not stared at our painted images of God for so long that we are no longer impressed by what we see, for it’s not the typical picture of enchantment. Unadulterated passion and pure, ambitious love are not presented to us in flowers and sunsets, but in straw, wood, nails and blood.
I wonder in our day if we can even comprehend the nature of real love. Do we spend much time anymore contemplating a love that isn’t sexual or pleasure-oriented? Are we even inclined to pursue an endeavor that demands self-sacrifice?
“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2 Tim 3:1-5
We have lost the fervor of our affection for God because we have become deadened to the meaning of real love. Love gives. Love is not self-seeking. Love cannot keep anything for itself. This kind of love is increasingly foreign to us. Like some kind of Dead Sea that only receives and never gives of itself to anyone else, we die inside because we don’t love. We must make a concerted effort to dwell on this crazy, extravagant love of God until it captures us again in the flush of romance. We need to fall in love with Jesus. It is the only cure for the cynical and indifferent heart.
We need that love to make us fearless in our devotion. We need the kind of passion that turns us into willing fools, people who couldn’t care less what the world thinks of us. I want the kind of passion and love for Christ that is oblivious to everything but Him. If He holds my heart, I need nothing else. The sound of His voice makes my heart pound, and there’s no room in my ears for any scorn or insult. I say I want this kind of passion and love because I’m not quite there yet. But I’m being wooed, and the more I attend to His affection, the more this romance grows, and the more my heart longs only for Jesus. I want the love described in the Song of Solomon: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.”
This is the love that turns ordinary people into saints! This is the love that turns you and me into the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. This is the love that softens the most hardened of hearts, the love the world simply cannot ignore. It is this love that gives us courage and compels us to be faithful no matter the cost.
The heart in love with Jesus has no room for compromise or deception, since it only desires more of Jesus. The moral courage and conviction we lack, the absence of zeal and fervor in our faith is easily cured, if we will purposely incline ourselves toward Him. It is a sweet romance that beckons to us…let us fall in love again!
Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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Fall in love with God. He is already in love with you, and will meet you wherever you want.