But this is not what I wanted to talk about. Linguistics are awesome and lead us deeper into the contemplation of divine mysteries, but love is worthy of more. Frequently, we are called to love our neighbors. When a tragedy strikes or we encounter someone having a hard time of it, we feel sympathy. It has become the custom to offer up our "thoughts and prayers" or to say, I'll be praying for you. But how often do we? When did it become enough to love our neighbor by offering expressions of care and sympathy without a tangible helping hand?
If we offer a prayer for someone, pray with them. Pray fervently for them. That in itself is an act of love. But Christ didn't just offer his prayers - he offered his whole self - body, blood, soul, and divinity. He didn't say "send thoughts and prayers to the needy" but commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves: To clothe the poor and feed the hungry, to comfort the grieving and the sick and yes - to turn the tables of the temple and rise up against injustice. Our God is not a tame God, nor should our love be weak and meager offerings of empty words.
So pray - pray fervently and whole heartedly for those in need and for the strength of heart to do what God calls you to do - and then become yourself the answer to someone's prayers.
Something I love to do is cook. I didn't inherit a love of drawing or the ability to do so (my students will attest to this). I have a love of music, singing, and playing instruments, but never liked to perform. When I grew up, I struggled to find my place with really any art (I didn't think of myself as much of a writer then). I found that place with cooking. It is my art, and it is the art that I love to share with everyone. Cooking is a joy to me, especially when I can make something entirely from scratch - even better with ingredients I grew, caught, hunted, or gathered. The more challenging the better.
A great example of this happened a few weeks ago. My tomato crop had finally come in and came in fast. I had more tomatoes that I could handle, so I made enough sauce to feed an army - or my family for a few weeks. I took the tomatoes, combined them with basil, garlic, and onions from my garden as well as a few other proprietary ingredients. The thought occurred to me that this was a beautiful sauce, and it would be wasted on a less than beautiful pasta! So I took some semolina flour, some eggs, and salt and started to work some dough together. My son Declan helped me through the process. I told him the best pasta is made with love, and asked him if he could put some love into the pasta. Without skipping a beat he put his hand over his heart and scooped out some love, putting it right into the dough as he kneaded it. It was the best pasta I've ever had.
This is how it is with God. You see, I didn't make those ingredients. The tomatoes were sown with my labor, but I didn't make them grow. It was God, not I that spoke life into the wheat that made our flour. God's act of love is what gives birth to all good, but in the same breath that God creates, he invites us to be creators with him. It was God's love that gave me that moment with my son, when we together took the wheat made into flour and worked into it a new life as pasta. It was our love poured into our work that made the pasta, and the sauce, and all good things. What God has gifted us, we took with our hands and worked into something beautiful, and made it even more so by offering it up to be shared.
God invites you to create. You were not born to pay bills and die, you were born to be a co-creator, a participant in the work of Christ - what being a Saint really means. But here's the thing - what this means is giving yourself completely over to God. It means taking every gift you receive - and every burden - and bringing it to the altar to be transformed. Bishop Barron reminds us that this is exactly what happens during Mass: "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life."
The gifts we bring to the altar are returned to us as the very source and summit not only of our lives - but of everything.
It's in these small things. These small acts of creation where we take the gifts God gives us and offer them back - to the poor, to the hungry, to those who are marginalized, to those whose dignity is most denied by society - to our neighbor - that we receive the gift of becoming who God made us forever to be.