Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, October 3, 2011

The Love You Had at First

The Love You Had At First

In the Book of Revelation these words are spoken to the Church in Ephesus:  “I know your works, your labor and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and have discovered that they are imposters.  Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.”
          I had read those words many times and to be honest, I thought they spoke very well of the Church in Ephesus.  They seem to have been vigilant, strict in their practice of the Faith, and full of fortitude.  Then recently, as I read these words, I realized they were speaking to me.  That’s when the next line hit me like a ton of bricks: “Realize how far you have fallen.”
          It has been said that if the devil can’t make us bad, then he’ll make us busy.  Many of us who try to be dedicated to the Church faithfully attend Sunday Mass, if not more often.  We volunteer in ministries, we serve on boards.  Then, of course, if we have a family, we dedicate ourselves to being husbands and fathers, or wives and mothers.  And of course, for many of us, that’s all just in our non-work hours.  We are busy, but we are busy with the things of the Lord and the duties of our state in life.
          Surely God will understand if we don’t have as much time for our prayers anymore.  It can’t really be bad to drop our kids in front of a movie while we do the dishes.  And, seriously, by the time the kids are in bed, it is totally unreasonable for our spouses to expect our attention.  It’s been a long day.  We need to collapse.  Don’t they understand all the important things we are doing?
          “Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.  Realize how far you have fallen.”  I had to admit a couple of months ago that I would have fit in perfectly in Ephesus.  I had seen it building in me for a while, but finally God hit me over the head with this passage and my excuses began to look as lame to me as they must have looked to Him.
          It’s very easy for us, when we are so busy, especially with important things, to turn those things that matter most into items to be checked off a list.  Rosary: done.  I got that accomplished while I was washing the dishes.  Spending time with the kids: done.  I was doing a project at the table and they were within eyeshot.  I asked what they were doing and spoke to them at least every five minutes, if only to tell them to quiet down.  Quality time with my wife: done.  We said hello over dinner and argued over who forgot to take out the trash.  See, we talk.  And anyway, you should see what I got accomplished today.
          Perhaps it hadn’t gotten quite that bad, but the truth is, sometimes we get so busy that something’s going to give.  The question is, what?  It’s true we have important responsibilities at work and if we’ve made a commitment to the parish we shouldn’t take that lightly.  And yes, our families will sometimes have to understand.
          But that should be the exception, not the rule.  Why do we volunteer at Church?  Because we love God and our fellow man.  But how can I love God if I don’t spend time with Him in prayer?  Not rushed time, quality time.  Mother Teresa was once asked why her sisters spent two hours every morning in adoration of Our Lord in the Eucharist.  Wasn’t that two more hours every day they could be spending going out and caring for the poor?  The holy nun responded, “If we didn’t spend that time in prayer, we would not go out and care for the poor at all.”  It was the love of Jesus they brought to the poor.  They had to enter into that love themselves first.
          God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and so far, three boys, all under five.  They can be a challenge, but what a joy!  God has given me many things to do, but Daddy is who I am.  And husband is my vocation. 
          The bottom line is, as Mother Teresa also said, love is my vocation.  I should never be too busy to love my family, or a friend, or a stranger, or God. 
          St. Paul tells us that the greatest spiritual gift is charity, true Christian love.  So let us do our duties and do them well.  Let us be generous with our time to the Church and our community.  But let us never forget that we must bring the love of Christ to everything we do and everyone in our lives.  So, at the end of our lives, when we may very well be exhausted, when we stand before Our Lord, may He say not that we have lost the love we had at first, but rather, “Thank you for being my hands and my feet.”