In a recent post on the topic of radical and inclusive love, entitled “Who has a problem with inclusiveness?”, I introduced my friend, Fr. Joel Fortier, whose experience of the overwhelming abundance of God’s love has been the driving force behind his 46 years as a priest. Earlier this week Fr. Joel sent me his reflection on the nature of receiving love and has generously given me permission to publish it on thegooddisciple.me. The timing of Fr. Joel’s email could not have been better; it just so happens that I am reading Elizabeth A. Johnson’s book “Quest for the Living God” in which Karl Rahner’s treatise on the incomprehensible Holy Mystery of God is explored. As mind-bending as theological studies can be, there is just one thing we really need to get our head around. And that is that God gives love in dizzying abundance. Our response is to receive, and to give, to receive, and to give. Fr. Joel’s reflection is a beautiful expression of this truth:
“There is a kind of love we can call “Receiving Love”. It is a little bit different than “Giving Love”. It is the kind of love of God that is wide open to receiving God’s love. It is a wonderful, expectant, exuberant, almost intoxicating love where we experience, and are filled to overflowing of God’s love for us. It is a wonderful joyous reciprocal love of God, which arises out of being so abundantly loved by God. It is an unending overflowing love which makes us not only joyous but profoundly grateful and generously loving.
So often we are focused on “getting”, or “needing” love that we are not open to the abundance of God’s overflowing love already for us and within us. We don’t feel it or know it because we are focused on praying, wishing, hoping, out of our parvity and pain, or what we think is a scarcity of love.
Rather “Receiving Love” is focused on and arises out of a radical openness to God’s love which is already there and constantly available. It is an openness of faith and trust such as Mary had in her acceptance of the favor and grace of God that became incarnate and pregnant in her when she said “Yes” to love; she gave birth to Love!
Such openness of faith and trust is exhilarating and releases in us the love of God that is already there waiting to be tapped. It is as the description Jesus gives us of his life and Spirit, “It shall become a wellspring and fountain of life and love that wells up from within a person as springs and fountains of living water!” The kind of love out of which sprang the Magnificat! And the kind of love we will be drawn into at the hour of our death for all eternity.
An image of it would be to imagine, as in a dream, of the Lord appearing to you, taking your hand and asking if he could fill you up with love and take away all your hurts and pain, and wounds from the lack of love in your life, and you saying “Yes!”, and the Lord doing it, filling you up! And then your love wells up back to the Lord, your divine lover.
Because that is exactly what is already happening and is the reality of our lives. We just have to be WIDE open to and accepting of it, saying yes to it! That is “Receiving Love”; love of the One who loves you. Being in Love with Love..Love following upon Love..a waterwheel of love, a giving and taking of the One Love; what we call the Holy Trinity, the dynamic progression of love into which we are drawn, share, and participate.
It is the posture that is presumed and necessary for us to hear, receive, and understand God’s Word: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us…” And the words of Jesus, “I have called you friends…it was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you…to go and bear fruit.” And…”What you have received as a gift, give as a gift.”
And so “Receiving Love” becomes “Giving Love” because it flows from the One divine source of love which is already within us, always Present to us, always with us, always beyond us, God, Emmanuel, the One in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Such is Receiving Love, drink of it deeply today! Let it fill you up and take away all that is not of you or of God, become Love! Be One with and in Love!”
Born in1942 to French Canadian parents, Fr. Joel Fortier, along with his three siblings grew up in an environment steeped in Catholic spirituality and practice. He entered the University of Illinois before seminary to study Psychology, Education, and Philosophy. In 1969, Joel was ordained with a Master of Divinity from St. Meinrad Seminary for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois with extensive work and training in inner city parishes, and peace and justice movements. Joel received his Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He has worked with Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, and Charismatic movements integrating with parish pastoral ministry. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Family Ministry for the Diocese of Joliet. Fr. Joel was the Pastor and founder of The Lisieux Pastoral Center of St. Theresa Parish in Kankakee, IL,the Pastor of St Isidore Parish, Bloomingdale IL, and most recently the Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL. Now retired from full-time parish ministry since 2013, Fr. Joel continues to live out his core statement: “To help make love happen, anywhere and any way possible.”