By and large, it is commonly accepted that artists leave their peculiar imprint on each of their creations. When such uniqueness is not found we speak of counterfeits, imitations, fakes.
With this in mind, let us go over again the reading from the prophet Jeremiah (1:4-5, 17-19): It is God speaking to each one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. I appointed you a prophet, […] I am with you to deliver you.
True masterpieces are loved from the time they are just a lump of clay or a blank canvas. The artist’s love shapes the formless matter into an object of pride and love.
Artists love their works of art as if they were their children. It should not surprise us that, as the supreme artist that He is, God has fallen in love with us from before our birth; and His fondness for us will never fade.
What should surprise us is the fact that God has left in each one of us—trillions of people over the millennia—with the same trademark, the same distinct style: LOVE, yet without making duplicates! Each one of us will bear for the rest of his/her life the imprint of God’s love but will express it in his/her unique way!
After awhile, even the best artists repeat themselves: but God will never make replicas or imitation of us, because He is creative, boundless Love!
The apostle Paul (1 Cor 12:31-13:13) describes for us the imprint that God has left in our hearts: Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is never rude, never self-seeking, it is not quick-tempered. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The Gospel of Luke (4:21-30), instead, displays the ugliness of the picture when God’s imprint is tarnished or covered up. Jesus’ townsfolk had lost God’s imprint of love through arrogance, complacency, pretensions, a sense of superiority and elitism. Hence, when Jesus points out to them that his life’s mission is to love all peoples, all nations, all walks of life, friends and foes alike, fellow citizens as well as strangers: their indignation flares up, and, in their anger, they even try to kill him. His presence, his voice, his attitude becomes an unbearable reproach for their loveless lives.
Today, we come here bearing within the divine imprint of love.
Perhaps it is not shining, it is not impressive, but it is there. Maybe we need just a little polishing; and, thankfully, we are here to learn how to love.
We begin Holy Mass with the sign of the cross. No greater love has anyone than to lie down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13). We listen to God’s love letters in the readings; we profess that we are all brothers and sisters in His family. We eat the flesh of the Lamb who takes away the sins of hatred, discord, division, indifference, apathy, vengeance. And we remember that his blood inspires us to be bold in our loving and serving. Then, we leave this banquet to exercise our willingness to love and to serve everyone in which the Lord Jesus is silently present.
We do this every Sunday because there is nothing more important for us than to make quite visible, with concrete actions, the imprint of God’s love in our lives. We do this every Sunday so that we may feel the joy that inevitably fills our hearts every time we truly love. We do this every Sunday lest we might wind up like the people of Nazareth: presumptuous, self-absorbed and arrogant.
Hence, today too, we learn how we all bear God’s imprint, yet we are mindful that no two of us express His love in the same way.
Let me tell you about the person from whom I learned best how to love. You can tell me the way you are learning.
Mothers are by definition the most eloquent examples of genuine love. Mine was no exception. 60 years later I still remember her lesson: My youngest sister was but a few weeks old. My Mom could take care of all the house chores, attend to my Dad’s needs, the ones of all of us kids and, at the same time, be in a state of constant alertness over my little baby sister. From time to time she would halt and say: “Wait, she just woke up, she needs me.” So, she would drop whatever she was doing and rush upstairs to care for her.
Her love was attentive, tireless, prompt, joyous and with no strings attached. Eventually, I realized that my little sister needed Mom more than I did, at least in a different, more immediate way. I also learned that true love does not expect anything in return; nor does it wait for us to become lovable. Genuinely loving persons simply love, period.
In recent years, I find that the best remedy for God’s love trademark tarnished in me is a humble reflection on Paul’s hymn on love. Whenever I feel arrogant; whenever I tend to compare myself favorably with somebody; whenever I feel frustrated by my inability to reach someone; whenever somebody lets me down; whenever my ego is bruised by what has been said or done to me I read: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is never rude, never self-seeking, it is not quick-tempered. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
If I do an honest job with my reflection, I cannot go past the first three words: Love is patient…I have enough right there.
My dear Brothers and Sisters no matter how we feel about anything; no matter the extent of our hurts; no matter how justified we might be in our indignation: love is always the answer. Actually, for us, marked by God’s imprint, there cannot be any other solution except for the one of loving.
If I failed to convince you about this: no problem. Be convinced by this: God is love. Our destiny in heaven, John assures us, is to be like God: to be love, i.e. unconditional, boundless, joyous, endless love. We will not be doing anything else. And we will be directing our love also to those whom we failed to love on this earth.
So, what is it going to be? Shouldn’t we start polishing God’s love trademark, today, right now, without hesitations or delays? God’s love conquers everything. May it conquer our minds and hearts, today and forever!
REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.