From time to time, I read something – a line here or there, as much as anything longer than this – which really sticks with me. This turned out to be one of those days. After reading the news this morning, I decided to catch up with what friends were posting online and I came across a brief message which sparked something inside me. It was this –
“Thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith, a gift more precious than life itself. Help me see others with the eyes of faith, to pour myself out to them with your love. Help me to love you with madness as I serve each of my brothers and sisters. Amen.”
The phrase ‘to love You with madness’ jumped right out at me – and it has stayed with me all day long. My immediate thought was ‘this is the love of the Saints’ – it is the love they experience for the Lord, a love which is whole and consuming; a love which burns away all that is extraneous, ultimately leaving only the object of that love. It is the mad love which has left some Saints being called ‘fools for Christ’ and similar. It is a love the world does not really understand for the most part, because the object of that love is someone other than self. It is a love which is both imminent and transcendent. It is a love which is the fruit of an authentic encounter with the Lord, a response to His invitation to us.
By it’s very nature as a love driven by madness of sorts, it is intriguing. It draws others to the person who experiences it; it invites them to look at it, to want it, to seek it. That takes us right back to the Saints – this is generally the effect they had on others around them. It is the same love which drew thousands to visit a remote town at the base of the Pyrenees to look upon a teenage girl who experienced that love. It is the same love which drew vast crowds to a monastery in Italy to see a friar whose very body bore the wounds of that love. It is the love which drew many to follow a former nobleman in his quest to rebuild a Church which was falling down.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken similarly of this love driven by madness, and of it’s effect upon others. He did so again today, in his message for World Communications Day. He entitled his message ‘Come And See’. His central point was that to pass on the message of the Gospel, we need to have experienced the message of the Gospel and been transformed by it; only then, when others ask about it, can we say to them ‘come and see’, with any realistic hope that they might desire to do so.
Looking at communication in the media, the Pope noted that our tendency is to comment and report on things with which we have no direct contact – this often leaves us with a ‘standard, often tendentious narrative’ as the Pope describes it; our reporting tends to become coloured by our perceptions and agendas.
Looking at the Gospels, the Pope notes that the events recorded there are the experience of the one reporting. And often, those people had been invited by the Lord to ‘come and see’. In accepting His invitation, those lives were changed forever – and the testimony they left for us is so powerful precisely because it is their own lived experience. This is vastly different to merely ‘reporting’. The Holy Father tells us – “That is how Christian faith begins, and how it is communicated: as direct knowledge, born of experience, and not of hearsay.”
Further on, the Holy Father elaborates on this thought when he writes –
“In communications, nothing can ever completely replace seeing things in person. Some things can only be learned through first-hand experience. We do not communicate merely with words, but with our eyes, the tone of our voice and our gestures. Jesus’ attractiveness to those who met Him depended on the truth of His preaching; yet the effectiveness of what He said was inseparable from how He looked at others, from how He acted towards them, and even from His silence. The disciples not only listened to His words; they watched Him speak. Indeed in Him – the incarnate Logos – the Word took on a face; the invisible God let Himself be seen, heard and touched, as John himself tells us (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-3). The word is effective only if it is ‘seen’, only if it engages us in experience, in dialogue. For this reason, the invitation to ‘come and see’ was, and continues to be, essential.”
I was struck profoundly at how the Letter of the Holy Father echoed so distinctly what I had read earlier in the morning. The former descibed the encounter and it’s essential power; the latter described the outcome of that encounter.
Considering all of this throughout today, I have found myself challenged and asking myself questions over and over. Do I live out that ‘love with madness’ which my online friend described? And if so, does the power of that witness draw others to the Lord, as the Holy Father questions? And above all else – when the Lord invites me to ‘come and see’, do I graciously and without any complaint leave all else behind and accept His invitation?