Our 3-year-old granddaughter, Merete, loves to “love on” her 6-month-old baby sister, Genevieve — all the while sneaking in a pinch or two. Her parents spend more than a little time guarding Genevieve from all that loving. However, it’s likely Genevieve will grow in faith and love, top to bottom, from the loving she receives. It’s beautiful to witness people loving one another. As Jesus says, we must love ourselves, our neighbors and even our enemies. Sounds like Jesus demands a lot of “lovin’ on” others for the kingdom of God.
The first time I ever heard “lovin’ on” was from an evangelical preacher. Though the phrase “lovin’ on” may seem strange, people will know Jesus Christ through our love for them. It can’t be fake, and it’s not dependent on how much a person “deserves” love. Many of those who need loving are exactly the ones who attempt to reject love. Jesus Christ calls us to be “lovin’ on” the drug addict as much as the counselor, on the prisoner and the police officer, the hardened teen and the sweetest old lady. Jesus Christ came for all — and as Christians we are to love all — especially those we may not like, for it’s the only way they will come to know and love Jesus.
A woman in my parish, known for “lovin’ on” everyone she meets, can’t help herself. Seriously, she’s “lovin’ on” every baby, toddler and child — and they all love her! She lovingly approaches each newcomer to church or stranger on the street; “lovin’ on” him or her by introducing herself and asking about the other person. She prays with the hospice patient as well as the — well, with anyone and everyone. She’s constantly “lovin’ on” others because God’s love flows through her.
But “lovin’ on” others can be hard and messy. Like my friend who “loved on” a young mom released from prison by spending hours upon hours mentoring and helping her — only to receive the disappointing call that the woman had reoffended. Another friend was “lovin’ on” a disabled man by delivering meals on wheels — plus special treats — to his apartment, though it smelled so bad she could barely breathe. She eventually took cleaning products and scrubbed while he ate. “Lovin’ on” another can break your heart, your back and your piggy bank. But it’s worth it, for we are being Christ to another.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in “Christian” outreach, we forget to be “lovin’ on” the members of our domestic churches. As Mother Teresa charged, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” “Lovin’ on” our family members can be the most challenging: “lovin’ on” our toddler by responding with patience when asked the same question for the 487th time; “lovin’ on” our spouse by listening to his day when we’re bone weary; “lovin’ on” our elderly parent by visiting after a long day’s work. Love can be hard, difficult and demanding, but love is worth it because God is love.
God demands we love even our enemies — the ones who offend us, scare us, differ from us or repulse us — because love, and only love, changes the human heart. We too were once enemies, but through his death and resurrection, Jesus now calls us friends. Jesus invites us to the eucharistic table to receive him, who is always “lovin’ on” us. Now, that’s good news!
Who do you need to be “lovin’ on” today?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent.