During “contemplative time” last week, I had my students reflect on the Resurrection account from John’s Gospel. Fresh from my own ponderings, we discussed the whole “John as the one whom Jesus loved” bit.
“Doesn’t Jesus love everyone?”
Yes, of course.
“Why does John even bring it up?”
I mentioned that perhaps it was because John had encountered the particularity of Christ’s love for him.
And they brought up something that is ingrained in us from our earliest years: the sense of things being equal or the same.
“Doesn’t Jesus love us all the same, though?”
No, He actually doesn’t. They seemed skeptical, perhaps because we automatically begin to assume that Jesus might love me less if He doesn’t love us all the same.
The reality is, however, that it wouldn’t be right for God to love each of us the same. It is similar to how parents shouldn’t love their children the same. The uniqueness of personalities and preferences goes back to our earliest infancy, ask any parent. Some children like to be held as they fall asleep and others are more content to stretch out in a crib. Some babies suck their thumbs, others don’t. Some seem inquisitive from the very beginning while others don’t. As the child grows older, parents learn that certain punishments or consequences are more effective for some children but must be altered for others. It isn’t unfair that they don’t respond to their children in the exact same way. Rather, it is more just that they respond to each individual uniquely.
God the Father is the perfect father. He knows my heart intimately and intricately. This heart isn’t the same as any other heart. The Lord’s love is particular and unique for each individual person. Sometimes at parent-teacher conferences, I struggle to come up with new things to say about each student. I find myself giving similar answers for several students. The Lord is not like that. He could speak in-depth about each person who ever has been, is, or ever will be. Because He knows and understands the intricacies of my heart, He responds just as I need, which is unlike what any other heart needs.
“So I could say the same thing?” One student said, after I told them that the Lord loves us completely but differently and that John’s claim to be the one loved by Jesus doesn’t alter that He still loves us.
The love of God is one of those things that seems trite or commonplace. Doesn’t everyone already know God loves them? Many do and yet we do not fully understand the depths of His love. His love and mercy is new every morning. Each day is another chance to encounter the love of God. Parents and spouses don’t simply say I love you once and call it good. The Lord loves us even more deeply and He shouts His love through the goodness of creation, in the beauty of human relationships, in the grace of the sacraments, in the movements of the heart, and in countless other ways. There is always another layer of depth that we can uncover regarding the love of God.
So as my student asked if we could all claim this title of “the one whom Jesus loves” and I responded they could, there seemed to be a deeper comprehension of the love of God reflected in his eyes. Even if God loves everyone, it means something new to hear that God particularly loves me.
I hope this new week of Easter finds you living in the love of God in a newer and deeper way.