How is God's love expressed?

At a recent retreat, one of the participants said that "[S]ervice is nothing other than love in work clothes." My imagination pictured Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, the mystery of God-Love serving his creatures. The mission of Jesus—to serve and not be served—is the task of the Church, the community of disciples. The image of God sitting upon a throne looking for homage from a subservient people clashes with the revelation given us in the person of Jesus. God's royal garments are coarse work clothes.

The love that explains Bethlehem and Calvary also explains the great love moments of our sacramental life. Love wants to visit, love wants to be present as a sign of concern. So this Christian God keeps breaking into our lives when a baby is baptized, when children receive first Communion and Reconciliation, when the Spirit comes in Confirmation, when commitments for life are made, when sickness and death need divine strength and courage. Love "goes where the suffering is" and, yes, where joy is, too. God is love, present and manifest in signs and symbols and nature and community.

God's love is not coercive. Gifted with freedom, we can turn away from the divine mystery. When choices are made that alienate and divide, we enter the realm of darkness and death. At this juncture God's love "seems" like wrath or anger. In reality, God, who is love, is always compassionate and filled with light and life. We need but "turn around" (repent), to experience once again, in freedom, the source of all peace and joy.

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