This Is the Love

On Wednesday I was given the book ‘American Mother’ by Colm McCann and Diane Foley and the following morning I heard an announcement that Diane Foley would be interviewed on BBC 4 Womans Hour, so I figured in the ways of Divine Providence, that I was meant to pay attention.

Diane tells the story of the kidnapping and execution of her son James between 2012 and 2014. Now that I’m paying attention I remember well the image of James kneeling in the desert wearing an orange jumpsuit, the horror of his execution, the manner of it. Brutal. Inhumane. Savage. 

It made me very angry at the time and someone said to me then in response to my anger that I would have to share heaven with the men who did this dreadful thing. I don’t believe that heaven is so easily attained. That one could commit such an act and then simply gain heaven. Different if there is a change of heart on their part. Different if there is repentance.

But this is not the point here. It’s early days in the book but from what I’ve listened to, Diane and James had a good relationship as Mother and Son. They had a good faith relationship too, as prayer seems to have been central to their lives. Faith and prayer emerge effortlessly in the conversations of Diane. James himself prayed the rosary in captivity.

The period of captivity was a very uncertain one for the family, not knowing where James actually was, not knowing how he was, how he was being treated. It emerged that he was severely tortured. And then came the news  of his execution, the way in which they received that shocking news, the images that would break their hearts.

It must have pierced Diane’s heart open, shattered, sundered it. And what I pick up from hearing  her speak is that her love for James somehow intensified following the news of his death. The strong maternal love that was already there became intensely stronger in his death. I saw it in my own Mother following the sudden death of my sister Maura.

Diane even speaks of how she began to know him more after his death because of the things others said about him. But she always knew he was a good man who had a heart for the underdog. That’s why he put himself in such dangerous situations as a journalist.

I’m thinking of this intensified love in the context of the Gospel of the Transfiguration which we listen to on the Second Sunday of Lent. God the Father’s declaration about His Son Jesus, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.”

Diane Foley’s love for her son intensefied following his suffering and death and it echoes the love of God. It is a love born out of a pierced heart. God the Father cannot love more or less and so His love could not have been intensfied as a result of the sufferings and death of Jesus, rather that intensity of love was already there in the Father’s Heart. Was there, is there and will always be there. That is the nature and quality of God’s love.

Often, God’s love is presented as something tame, lovely, nice whereas I sense that it is also passionate, sometimes even a raging torrent, a ravaging sea, a pierced heart ever before the lance was thrust into the side of Jesus on the Cross. A love that moves mountains. The strong Heart that stirs the ever beating sea.

This is the Love that the Father speaks to Jesus on the mountain, to affirm, strengthen Him and his disciples for the scandal of the Cross that was to come.

This is the Love that remained silent on Mount Calvary when Jesus cried out of the depths of His anguish. A reminder that such love abides even when it does not declare itself.

This is the love which God is communicating to us in Jesus, calling us to listen, to hear and receive into the very heart and soul of us, that we may be formed and shaped by it. The body, blood, bone and soul of us.

I invite people to close their eyes and think about one person they love with all their heart,  to feel that love, hold it and ponder it.

And then consider that God’s love for every single one of us is infinitely stronger than the love we feel. It is hard to conceive of infinity.

I love you to the moon and back, Laura once told me. And I love you like the whole universe, I said. And she asked if that was big, to which Katie replied, “Laura, there’s nothing bigger.” And of Course there is something a lot bigger than the universe, and that is God, God who is Love.