“The Lord, your God, is in your midst...He will rejoice over you
with gladness.” - Zephaniah 3:17
THERE ARE TWO WAYS OF CONSIDERING THE NATURE OF GOD. In the negative view,
God is a scowl ing, demanding taskmaster, quick to anger and slow to forgive. In the positive
view, God is a loving Father, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Your spirituality and the
quality of your prayer life is determined by the image you have of God.
A negative spirituality is generally pessimistic about human nature based on a fear of God’s punishment. A positive spirituality, on the other hand, is optimistic about human nature and more apt to imagine God smiling. A positive spirituality knows that love is not merely one of God’s attributes; Love is God’s very essence. “There is no fear in love,” says 1 John 4:18, “but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”
A Father’s Love
Every summer, 91-year-old Tom Mahon and his family would attend a neighborhood cookout in his hometown of Combermere, Ontario. Local people and summer vacationers gathered on the south bank of the Madawaska River to enjoy the get-together. Tom loved watching his great-grandchildren playing hide-and-seek as the grown-ups set the tables. Invariably, one of the children would climb on his lap and be gently tickled, a ritual which resulted in gales of laughter. As the child wiggled away, Mahon, smiling from ear to ear, said, “Yup, I’ve got 25 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and more on the way.”
A father’s delight in his children and his children’s children is something we can all understand.
That’s why Jesus taught us to think of God as our Father. He was not saying that God is just like an earthly parent. What He meant is that God is truly a parent to us. He made us, and He delights in loving us.
Terry Ann of Jackson, New Jersey, commented, “I am aware of God’s delight in men, and the best way to stay in touch with His good feelings toward me is to take time every day to communicate with Him. I pray to align myself with Him and read the Bible to be reminded of how much He loves me.” And Thomas from Philadelphia shared the following observations: “First of all, it’s beyond my comprehension that God can delight in the likes of me. But I’m sure He does. I lost my Dad as a small boy. I guess I was looking for love and attention; I
became a real hell raiser, and this went on for quite a few years. Somewhere along the line, I got the desire to be an altar boy. The Sisters were horrified at the idea. After trying for three years, I caught one of them off guard and said, ‘If I reform, could I be an altar boy?’ Well, she gave me a chance, and I reformed overnight.” Thomas continued, “My whole personality
changed. I volunteered for the 6:00 a.m. Mass every day, even during the summer months. Later, as an adult, I served Mass whenever I could, in this country and in the South Pacific. I’ve been doing it for 50 years. I am retired now and work as a volunteer with the Holy Redeemer Hospice program with terminal cancer and AIDS patients. If I lived a thousand years, I could never thank God for all He has done for me. I would say my perseverance in becoming an altar boy had to be His biggest delight.”
God Loves Every One of His Children
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” - 1 John 3:1
In ancient times, physical blindness was often thought to be a curse from God. In our own day,
there are other maladies which some people believe to be a sign of God’s disfavor. Jesus, however, taught us this is not true. John 9:1 says, “[Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.’”
Sometimes those who appear to be “the least” among us, are in fact the most favored. Jesus
insisted that God loves every one of His children, and He reached out to the most abandoned of His day. As He says in Matthew 11:5, “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear.” To accept the mystery of God’s love means that you embrace a truth hidden from the clever of this world, a truth known only to those who open their
hearts to God, a truth made clear in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Beatitudes of God’s Delight
Jesus taught us that the Father’s love for us is an intimate one, flowing from the depths of His
being. All who acknowledge their dependence on God and honestly try to do His will are under His blessing. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus gave us the Beatitudes, each of which is a variation of the same theme: the favor of God rests upon those who do what He asks. This paraphrase of the text is a more personal rendition: “You delight Me, you who are poor in spirit. You delight Me, you who are meek and humble of heart. You delight Me, you who mourn. You delight Me, you who long to be just and good. You delight Me, you who are kind and merciful. You delight Me, you who are pure of heart. You delight Me, you who strive to be peacemakers. You delight Me, you who are willing to suffer on My account. Rejoice and be glad for I am preparing a great reward for you, and you shall see God.”
Through Faith and Trust
Linda from Crowley, Louisiana, wrote, “My husband and I are immigrants from the Netherlands,
and we have 12 children. During World War II, we lived through five years without freedom and even with hunger before we were married. Then there were days of homesickness, operations, and pain: exhaustion was no stranger to us either. Through faith and trust, we know that we can survive everything.
“Today our six daughters and six sons are all married, and we have 24 grandchildren up to now! (This is family planning; the Lord did the planning.) I feel like the flower I put in a vase (a Dutch woman has to have at least one all the time). I love it into life, almost, and I am delighted every time I look at it. God made me as that flower. He looks at me and is delighted.” “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”- Psalm 37:3-4
God’s Love is Unchanging
The parable of the Prodigal Son offers Jesus’ counterpoint to people who view God the Father
through a lens of fear. The story from Luke 15 says, “A younger son got together everything he
had, and left for a distant land where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery…He came to his senses (out of hunger and selfreproach) and returned home. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.”
Jesus tells us our heavenly Father never gives up on anyone, especially those who stray. “If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray,” asks Jesus in Matthew 18, “does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”
N.B. from Seattle, Washington, used to be one of those lost souls. He wrote, “There was a time in my life when I reached the end of my rope. My wife had left me. I was a drunk. My kids didn’t want any part of me. I wanted to jump out the window and end it all, when I looked up and saw the crucifix. It brought back a flood of memories of better days. I kept looking at Christ on the cross, and I broke down and wept. That day changed my life. In fact, I haven’t had a drop for six years.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus explained His mission to the Apostles and to us. “I have told you all this that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). A loving God sent His Son to invite us into His eternal love.
Take advantage of that invitation. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness...It is He that made us, and we are His...Give thanks to Him, bless His
For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” - Psalm 100
The words of Jesus assure us of God’s love and ask us to carry that love into the world.
• “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
• “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it
will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
- Luke 6:36-38