“In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Act 1:1-2).
Theophilus, who Luke addresses at the beginning of the Book of Acts, is a name in Greek that can either mean, friend of God, loved of God, loved by God, as well as other similar translations. The key take away is that it is a name of relationship between a human being and God. And the highest form of relationship is to love and to be loved. This is who God has created us to be.
Yet, how do we know this?
We know because Jesus taught his disciples the truth and that message has been spread to the four corners of the earth generation after generation. This truth is that God sent his divine Son to be one with us in our humanity so that we can become one with him in his divinity such that we share the same infinite love that is shared between the Father and the Son who is the Holy Spirit. This is possible for us because Jesus was willing to experience not only death, but conquer death, rise again, and ascend to the right hand of the Father, still fully human and fully divine. Which means, we who participate in the life of Jesus participate in his divine relationship now and into eternity.
God loves us so much that he wanted to dwell among us in the person of his Son, to experience all that we experience and to invite us time and again to participate in the fullness of relationship with him, now and forever. In the Ascension, Jesus did not leave us orphans. He did not fly up, up, up, and away to leave us to fend for ourselves.
Jesus continues to experience the fullness of his humanity such that it transcends space and time as we know it. This is how he can be present to us at each Mass. Not only in the Eucharist, the bread and wine that becomes his Body and Blood, but in the word that is preached, in each of us gathered in his name, and in the priest who celebrates the Mass. This Mass that we celebrate here on earth is at the same time being celebrated in heaven!
Jesus came to us in our humanity to restore us to our original purpose, to be one with God and one another. These are beautiful truths, but we, like the Apostles at the end of our Gospel reading of Matthew, may not only believe and worship Jesus, as they did, but we also may doubt, as they did. How can they and how can we worship and yet doubt at the same time? How can we say we believe, and yet doubt?
We are finite beings seeking understanding of an infinite reality we call God. We are called into the fullness of an intimate relationship with the God of all creation, yet we hesitate to give him all our heart, mind, and soul. There is a part of us that holds back; maybe because we don’t fully trust, we don’t fully believe, and so there is some doubt. We have limitations, we have experienced our own wounds, traumas, temptations, and diversions that promise, we believe, something better than what God offers. Thus, we remain at a certain distance and thus experience a restlessness.
And yet, God continues to love us. He continues to be faithful. He quietly, gently, and lovingly, invites us to close this gap. He invites us to come closer, encouraging each one of us to take a step toward him, deeper into trust, deeper into truth, deeper into greater intimacy, and deeper into love with him so that we may become whole.
We are loved by God, we are his beloved sons and daughters. Yes, we may doubt at times, we are not perfect, we sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yet we are infinitely loved by God and invited each day to begin again.
I invite you now and to continue this week to open your hearts and minds to receive and ponder the love God wants to share, to respond to the invitation that he offers, so that you may experience a deeper relationship with him and live life to the full as he intended us to live. One thing we need never doubt is God’s love for each and every one of us.
Photo: Praying my holy hour on the St. John’s river during my silent retreat January 11. “God speaks in the silence of the heart.” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta