We live faith, not as a hypothesis, but as the certainty upon which our life is based. If two people regard their love as merely a hypothesis that is constantly in need of new verification, they destroy love in that way.
Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, 20
Reflection – ‘Do you love me?’, Tevye asked his wife Golda in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. While the song eventually comes to a happy conclusion (‘I suppose I do!’), she initially finds it hard to answer the question. For twenty-five years they have lived together and she has done all for him that a good wife should do… but (cue the music)… ‘do you love me?’ Love, while present, proves to be an elusive, hard to verify element in their married life.
So… does God love us? Can we base our life on that love? And what does that look like? What does it mean to base our life on the certainty that God loves us? What does it mean that He loves us—what difference does it make to us?
These are deep questions, but it is the Year of Faith, and a good time to ask such deep questions. The dynamic Ratzinger describes in this short passage of the couple in love who constantly require ‘proof’ of the other’s love and so destroy the relationship is a familiar one. To have so little trust in the other person, to constantly insist on demonstrations of love, shows an insecurity that eventually erodes any hope of real communion. If we wish to be in a stable relationship with another person, we must choose to trust his or her word to us.
And so it is with God. God could say, in the theme of the song from Fiddler, that for 25 (billion) years he has given us life and provided our needs, made the sun rise, the rain fall, and the crops grow. For 25 (billion) years He has ordered the universe in such a way that life, and then rational life, and hence all other good things (love, peace, joy, truth) are not only possible but actual realities.
But fundamentally we have to decide to trust His word to us. Do you love me? ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’ Do you love me? ‘The love of the Lord is eternal, abiding forever.’ Do you love me? ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’
And this faith, this choice to base our life on the certainty of God’s love, means that we accept and build our life on all the other words he has spoken—the Decalogue, the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commandment of love of God and neighbor.
It also means believing in His steadfast presence and constant care of us, which admittedly takes a lot of believing in the tough times and hard twists and turns of life. But His word tells us He is with us always and that He is providing just what we need—certainly not what we want, but what we need right now. And so our whole attitude towards life becomes one of response, of accepting what is and meeting it with love and fidelity to God’s word.
To demand God prove His love generally means demanding God conform the universe to our desires and plans. While this is an understandable attitude (who of us has not begged God that some painful circumstance change, or that some terrible turn of events not be averted?), it is not faith. God’s love is the certain base of our life, even if everything else in our life falls apart, even if (or especially if) He seems to take away every other possible certain base for our life.