We have come to the final personal reflection I wrote for the book Taken by Love: From a Rebellious Youth to a Missionary in China, but the journey is far from over. In bringing this book to a close, I embrace the wonderful mystery of life. What lies ahead is totally unknown, but it is enough for me to know Who holds my future. All I have seen has taught me to trust God for all I have not yet seen. Life is a mystery! We do not need to know all the answers or all the details of the journey that lies ahead of us – the twists, the turns, the dark corners.
However, we do know Who accompanies us on our journey, and that is enough. God is faithful and He who has begun the good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). I rest in this knowledge. Faith is not 100 percent certainty, but 100 percent commitment to this journey.
If there is one thing life has taught me, it is that everything is grace. Everything is a gift to be received from God. Even our desire to do good and our aspirations to please God are a grace to be received. Holiness is not a life project to be worked on based on our own efforts. It is not a goal to be achieved. It, too, is a gift to be received. Prayer itself is a gift that we must dispose ourselves to receive. If our lives have produced any fruit, that too is a gift. Everything is pure gift from the hands of a loving God who brought us into existence out of pure love – to share His divine life and love with us.
Fr. Robert Barron stressed what he considered an important truth in the spiritual life: God does not need us. We exist because we have been loved into existence. Our life begins with God loving us and it is our hope that it will end with an endless celebration of His love in His very presence. Our life journey is meaningful only because it has been touched by the love of God. Otherwise, life would be empty, a life lived in exile. But with the presence of God-Emmanuel, life explodes with meaning, with color, with fullness, with everything good.
Pope Francis in his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (June 2013) captures what it means to be touched by God’s love, a love that precedes us.
“Becoming open to a love that precedes us … by this love their lives are transformed and expanded… the self-awareness of the believer now expands because of the presence of another, it now lives in this other and thus, in love, life takes on a whole new breadth … the love which attracts our hearts to Christ and which enables us to become a part of the Church’s great pilgrimage through history until the end of the world.”#20-21
Saint Augustine in his Confessions beautifully describes how the touch of God’s love seeks us even if we are preoccupied with other loves and what a difference this encounter with love makes.
“Too late have I loved you, 0 Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you – things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath – and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”Confessions, Book X
Ultimately, love is all that matters. Not the emotional sentimental love that we chance upon at times in social media, but the love that is willing to lay down one’s life for the other. Jesus is the face of this love, and we see His face in the love that we have for one another.
St. Paul beautifully describes the power of this transcendent love in 1 Corinthians 13:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbaL If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if l have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If l give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I have been blessed to know the love of God that burst into my life as a young teenager. I have also been blessed to experience a “life of love” in Ligaya ng Panginoon community for 40 years of my life. I have begun to catch a glimpse of the joyful realization of St. Therese of Lisieux when she said, “At last I have found my calling! My calling is to love.” It is my heartfelt desire that in the end I can join St. Therese in saying: “Oh, how I love Him. My God, I love You!”
How wonderful it is to ride on the wings of the saints; to make their prayers our prayers. We can rest on the shoulders of these spiritual giants, we who could not have reached such heights on our own. They cheer us on toward the finish line. “It is not that I have reached it yet, or have already finished my course, but I am racing to grasp the prize if possible, since I have been grasped by Christ Jesus … My entire attention is on the finish line as I run toward the prize to which God calls me – life on high in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12, 14).
Life is a pilgrimage and we are on our way home. What awaits us our minds cannot begin to comprehend. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). So let us run the race and see each other at the finish line.
I began my race “taken by love.” At the finish line, love will take me home. Love is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. And when our race is done on earth, we will rest forever in the eternal embrace of love. Amen. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
My Prayer for You:
ln closing, my prayer for you is from St. Paul’s timeless prayer for the Ephesians:
I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in in heaven and on earth takes its name; and I pray that he will bestow on you gifts in keeping with the riches of his glory. May he strengthen you inwardly through the working of his Spirit. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may love be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, together with all the Lord’s holy people, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:14-21
This article was excerpted from the book, Taken by Love: From a Rebellious Youth to a Missionary in China, by © 2015 Beth Melchor, published through Shepherd’s Voice Publications, Inc., under its self-publishing arm: lifedreams books, Quezon City, Phlippines. Top photo image from the book cover design by Jap Tarectecan, and layout by Rey de Guzman.
See other articles by Beth Melchor in previous issues of Living Bulwark:
- Made for Community – No One Is an Island
- China – A Missionary’s Tale
- A Bride of Christ
- An Invitation to Joyful Witness of the Gospel
- Embracing the Present
- Celebrating Life’s Blessings
- A Tribute to Beth Melchor – “Taken By Love”
Dr. Beth Melchor (1956 – 2018) was a senior woman leader of the Ligaya ng Paginoon Community in Manila, Philippines, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Far Eastern University in Manila. She was active in youth ministry work for more than 40 years. She helped found the Philippine Foundation for Christ’s Youth in Action and was responsible for the training of women leaders and youth workers. She was also a founding member of Bethany Association.