First let me tell you a story. A man went to see a “sex worker” as some call them today. As it happened, he fell in love with her. Of course, she didn’t. He kept going to see her, not for sex, but because he fell deeply in love with her. She failed to reciprocate this love. Finally, he shared what was happening to him with some of his male friends. Their explanation and advice were very plain and blunt: she is in it only for the money. He was hitting a dead end! No solution. His love for her wasn’t reciprocated. It would not happen: no hope. It is true that, going on appearances, he was just seeing her for “sex”, but he discovered progressively that in fact he wasn’t really seeing her for physical gratification. He had a need to love; indeed, he had fallen in love.
You might be disgusted by the whole story. You might be harsh on him or her or on both. This is fine. It is your take on the story. The point I wish to make goes in a completely different direction. I find this story very revealing of something very deep about Christianity.
Don’t we often read in the Old Testament (see below) about God talking to us through the Prophets, saying that each time we turn toward an idol and worship it, or become attached to it, this is the equivalent of spiritual adultery? Why so? Because God is the real Groom, our personal and unique Groom. This is why “worshiping” another god or idol is considered spiritual adultery. The following examples taken from the Old Testament will bear out the truth of this assertion:
“for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2)
“You prostituted yourself with your lustful neighbours, the Egyptians, and increased your promiscuity to provoke Me to anger.” (Ezekiel 16:26)
“Then you prostituted yourself with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied. Even after that, you were still not satisfied.” (Ezekiel 16:28) (It is good to read the entire beautiful Chapter 16 in Ezekiel)
“and they played in Egypt, prostituting themselves from their youth.” (Ezekiel 23:3)
“‘you have played the harlot with many lovers — and you would return to Me?’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 3:1)
Now here is how the story told above sheds an incredible light on our relationship with God. Let us try to understand in a little more depth what happened between the man and the woman. He ended up by needing her heart, and all that he was able to get was her body. She was perfectly capable of splitting love (matters of the heart) and physical demands. He wasn’t. He needed her heart; she didn’t involve her heart at all in the acts she was performing with him! He reached a point where he was going to see her again and again, not for the physical side of the relationship but for something deeper: he was hoping to touch her heart, while she on the other hand kept it away from him. She was happy merely to continue to offer her services.
This story could be a real story, but surprisingly it sheds an incredible albeit crude light on our relationship with God, with Jesus.
We could put blame on this lady from the start, because of her type of “work”. We would be totally right in doing so. We could totally and radically condemn what she does. But, if we look at our relationship with God in greater depth, it will be easily found that in this story, the man who is in love with this woman is God, and it is we who are in her place. God wants to reach our heart and we are there “just for the money”, that is, an exterior worship, just to get something out of it: either calm our conscience, or ask for some help from God. However, crucially, our heart remains elsewhere and we don’t give it to God. We are unreachable! It is as if God is begging for our love, for our heart, and all that we can give Him is our body, our exterior worship, prayers, words, deeds. But our heart is kept well away, kept safe and inviolate.
This state of affairs could exist because of ignorance (we fail to realise that God needs our heart, a love that comes from the depths of our heart, the entire surrender of our being), or just because our heart is busy with other things, or persons.
In fact, we do not consider that God is the Groom. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament God presents himself as the true Groom. Jesus himself uses this expression various times! (see Matthew 9:15; 25:6; Luke 5:34) However, we tend to take it in a symbolic way, and it never crosses our minds that He has a Heart and that He is thirsty for us and that He needs some attention, love, some loving entrustment. It doesn’t cross our minds that He has created us in His Image and His Likeness. We ourselves, by contrast, are not created in the image and likeness of our partners or future wife or husband. We are created in His Image. In this sense, when we find Adam searching for a helper who is like him, we can see in Adam (see Genesis 2) the New Adam, that is, Jesus, looking for this unique partner, that is, us – created in His Image and Likeness – or in other words flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones! Only God can fill a heart such as ours totally. Incredibly it is we who are called to fill God’s heart with Joy, be His! What a Great Mystery!!
We are, indeed, very good at fulfilling all our Christian duties … the Commandments! Oh yes! We do. But, if we take a closer look, we are “in it for the money” – meaning our heart is not given to Jesus. We might have done everything we could, just as the woman above did – she offered all her services, perfectly – but our heart is not being given to Him, our loving attention, all our being is not being focused on Him and surrendered to Him.
The question we should ask ourselves here is: “Aren’t we entering more deeply here into the first commandment, namely, ‘You shall love God (your only Groom) with all your heart!’”? Are we in it with all our heart? Are we ready to surrender completely? Are we ready to discover the beauties of the Groom? Are we available to “fall in love” with Jesus?
And real love needs time! We can’t say to a lover that we love him or her and not spend time with him/her! It doesn’t make sense, because Loves finds its food in itself, in Love, in Loving, in exercising Love. Do we give Jesus this kind of attention? Do we spend time with Him without looking at our watch? Are we allowing ourselves to fall in love with Him?
Hmmm… these are the real questions that matter!
What have we done with our faith? Our understanding of our faith? Of the Gospel Teaching?
Aren’t we sometimes “perfect” fulfillers of the commandments, like this woman, so perfect in the services she offers? But where is our heart?
It is so very easy to condemn people and their behaviour as “bad”. However, sometimes aren’t we in God’s eyes a little bit like them?
It is worthwhile pondering on these words of the Evangelist: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)