The Ludicrously Lavish Love of God

This is my word for the moment – lavish! God’s love towards us is so lavish! He lavishes his love and grace upon us. The theme which runs through this Sunday’s liturgy is one of lavish abundance. The opposite of lavish is scarcity, insignificance, and stingy.  God does not scrimp with his love and his mercy. Just read this: “The Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines” (First Reading) and then in the Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.” Then in the Second Reading, St. Paul reminds the Philippians that “My God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.” God doesn’t just love; He lavishes us with love. God dispenses His goodness not with an eyedropper but a fire hydrant.

Over the past three weeks we have seen in the Gospels how the Father continues to be abundant in His promises. The generosity of God is so amazing. This morning, as part of our monthly retreat, we listened to an audio recording of a retreat given by our Mother General, Sr. M. Regina Cesarato, entitled the ‘Love of God’. In it she spoke of the ‘exaggerated’ love of God in the life of St. Paul the Apostle which fills him with fire to preach the Gospel. She spoke of the ‘exaggerated’ gesture of Mary of Bethany who breaks open the alabaster jar to anoint the feet of the Master. God continues to extend, to invite, to call us back however He always leaves our freedom intact. He never deprives us of our sovereignty. One of the most terrifying aspects about the gift of freedom is that it leaves us the option of rejecting God. We are invited but we can refuse, just like the invited guests did in today’s Gospel. However we may be free in many ways but so is God. God will always be free to love us without condition, even when we say no.

When I was in Canada, we were very conscious of being away from the place we called home so we made special efforts to create moments of fraternity to celebrate the gift of life and of hospitality. All were always welcomed and we shared the little that we had. Sometimes people would get the famous ‘care parcels’ from home and would share in the infamous Room 500! Or friends would go home to their families for holidays and bring back foods typical of their homeplaces to share. We created our own little ‘banquets’. Some of the most memorable gatherings I have been at were in the homes and communities of friends and families who opened up their home to welcome us in. It wasn’t about the food per se but meals or ice-cream outings became a sacred and privileged space, a window into the lives of friends, an agape experience. It was the opportunity to get to know different cultures, experiences, people and solidify friendships and companionship along the pilgrim way.

Before I joined the convent, I used to work in a hotel, mostly serving at weddings, ironically so! I used to appreciate all the efforts, big and small, which went into making this day a special day for the couple. Sacrifices are made to include people and seat them in the right places, to make sure that the guests are looked after and enjoy the experience of the banquet. At the end of this day, we can ask ourselves, are we like the first batch of those people who were invited to the feast?  Here we see the excuses. Two of them have to do with possessions, one of them has to do with relationships. Or are we belonging to the second group, those on the ‘crossroads’, mixed as ‘good and bad alike’? Do we have our wedding garment ready? We do not deserve God’s unconditional and absolute love, yet He gives it to us freely. The funny thing is we didn’t do anything to deserve his love. In fact it is quite the opposite, while we have a great capacity to love, we are often demanding, selfish, we want things our way, and sometimes we test God’s boundaries and rules.

Yes, we are all invited to the banquet. What is your excuse!? Do you have more urgent things in your life than the acceptance of God’s invitation? The Lord is waiting to lavish you with His love!