People in our families see us at our best and our worst. Especially our parents. If we are lucky, we have or had parents who never stopped loving us, even when we were at our worst. I was lucky. I remember one time—never mind how old I was—when I was talking to my mom on the phone and lost my temper. Vile words flew out of my mouth at high volume, most of them just angry bluster but some of them that could certainly have been hurtful to her. A lot of people, upon hearing all that, would take offense and return fire with fire. In the aftermath of my rant, however, even before I could apologize, my mom just paused a second and said “Who is this that I’m talking to?”
She was baffled more than hurt. She didn’t allow my bad behavior to stop the flow of her love. She called me back to my better self.
In the prayers I lead on Sundays, we have a penitential rite during which we ask Christ for mercy. This Lent, we have been placing incense beneath the cross at this time, and before asking for mercy, I say a prayer something like this: Lord, as we honor your death on the cross, we see your great love for us. ON that Good Friday, we gave you the very worst of ourselves, mocking you, taunting you, and calling for your death. And yet, even in our worst moments you loved us just the same. This gives us confidence today to ask for your mercy as we place our lives as they are at the foot of your cross. Forgive us, heal us, change us. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
I have found the saving power of Christ in this: No matter what I do, Christ loves me. The cross tells me this is so.
Some might say that continuing to show love in the face of the sins of their children leads parents to spoil their daughters and sons. In matters of religion, some might likewise argue that many people of faith have become too complacent, having taken for granted God’s unconditional love.
I am not willing to let go of that part of my faith, however. I think unconditional love is the only thing that heals us and changes us for the good. My hope is that after consistent exposure to a love that never stops, we will finally grow up and realize with tears that we have been loved beyond any measure of what we deserve. Taking this truth into our hearts, year after year, draws us deeper into the heart of God and changes us. And we become more like those who have loved us.