Season of Joy
Today's Season of Joy reflection on John 16:23b-28 is by Dr. Terry Nelson-Johnson.
Dr. Terry served on the faculty of the Loyola Academy Jesuit High School for eighteen years and is Founder of Soul-Play, LLC. He is Resident Theologian and Animator of Faith at Old St. Patrick’s Church, holds a master’s degree from Loyola University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the University of St. Mary of the Lake.
God Loves Us So Much
from John 16:23b-28
“I have told you this in figures of speech.
The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures
but I will tell you clearly about the Father.
On that day you will ask in my name,
and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me
and have come to believe that I came from God...
To read the full scripture passage, please visit: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/
So, the line that captured my imagination as I read this particular reading was, "The Father Himself loves you."
It should come as no big surprise that that's in our scriptures. But today that line was the one that captured my imagination, and it's connected to a story.
The story involves my oldest sister—I come from a clan.
I'm the youngest of seven kids. Those seven kids subsequently had 33 kids. My wife and I only contributed two, so we're like kid slackers. Those 33 kids so far have had 77 kids, so I come from a clan...
My oldest sister is 21 years my senior, and she was a nursing student when my mom was bed-ridden expecting me. There's a story there, but we won't tell it.
So, my sister at the time of the story is nine years old, and my uncle—who turned out to be a Jesuit but was not a Jesuit at the time of the story—was revered in my family: hilarious, a larger than life character, and he spent an entire day lavishing attention on my oldest sister, his first niece.
They did everything. They played four square. They went to the beach. They got ice cream. You name it, they did it; climb trees. And this was the greatest Uncle/Niece Day ever. Get home about 5 o'clock, and my sister declares to everyone how much fun she had and what a great uncle, Uncle Bob is. And Uncle Bob relishes in the attention and loves it.
And then he retires to get ready for the evening, which included going to his favorite local tavern, where he loved to sit at the bar and listen to the piano, sing songs, tell stories, have a couple of beers with his pals. That's the agenda for the evening. He could not be more excited. And my sister, his niece, comes to him when he comes out after the shower, etc., looking all ready to go.
She says, “Where are we going now?”
He says, “Well, Mary Kay, I'm going to the bar. And we had such a great day.”
And then she says, “But it's our day. You said it was our day, and it's still the day.”
“Well, actually it's becoming night, and we spent the whole day together.” He said.
Then she began to become very emotional, indicating that it was our day and that she wanted to go with him. And then she retired to a room and sobbed hysterically, which invited Uncle Bob to feel mild pangs of guilt.
So, he goes to say goodnight to her and tell her how much fun he had with her that day, etc., etc. Goes in, rubs her back a little bit—which is characteristic of our family.
And then he says, “Mary Kay, thank you so much, I loved spending the day with you,” and she says, “But Uncle Bob, I wanna go with you tonight too."
“I'm so sorry, but tonight's...this is for all my bigger friends.” He says.
Then she pauses, and she says with as much drama as she can muster—and she can muster a lot of drama—she says, “But Uncle Bob, you love me.”
Turns out, that was the ticket, because he could not leave the little girl who said, “But Uncle Bob, you love me so much,” at home.
So, there she is sitting up on like a telephone book at the bar, having a kiddy cocktail, while Uncle Bob sings songs.
I often thought, "Oh my gosh, so that's the ticket. We just have to remember that we're loved, and we'll end up spending the whole day with God."
As grace would have it, on the day that I tell the story, my 86 or 87-year-old sister is emerging from surgery. And I pray God that she knows today that she is loved, and she'll go anywhere with God.
Can I invite the Heart to Heart church to say, "Amen? Amen."
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