The "Gift" of Rejected Love?!
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Matthew 21:42
Of all of the many rejections of the invitation to love and to be loved that have been experienced throughout the ages, there is one that stands out above the rest. It’s the rejection of the invitation from the Son of God to love Him and to allow ourselves to be pursued and totally won over by Him. Jesus has nothing other than pure and perfect love in His Heart for each and every one of us, and His desire for each of us is that we have life, and have it abundantly! He desires the absolute best for everyone He encounters, and He will stop at nothing in the pursuit of our true and eternal good--even when we are ready and willing to compromise ourselves short of true goodness and the virtue and sacrifice necessary for us to embrace authentic love. Knowing that He is the one and only way to true happiness, Jesus is willing to offer the gift of His Heart and His life to whoever will accept it. Though many have accepted this great gift, many also reject it or, even worse, accept it but only on their own self-centered conditions; as long as they remain in control of their lives and their hearts and do not have to sell all that is comfortable in order to follow after Him.
It has been invaluable for me to meditate on the deep pain and suffering which Jesus encounters as a result of my selfish lukewarmness, indifference, and rejection of His invitation to trust Him and to love and be totally loved by Him. I would bet that it is not only my refusal to trust and to love the Lord that brings great pain and suffering to His Heart. Certainly the actual Crucifixion when Jesus freely chose to die for me was extraordinarily painful, but I am convinced that the wound He experiences in His Heart, time and time again, brought about by my rejection and utter indifference towards His invitation to trust Him and be won over by His love for me brings Him far greater suffering. Jesus died for me--for each of us--and yet we so often view His love for us (which is the love with which He commands His followers to model and offer to others--especially those who have most deeply hurt us) with incredible skepticism. It often amazes me how stubborn and prideful I am in my willingness to treat Jesus’ all encompassing love which He desires to offer to me and, through me, to so many others, with complete and utter indifference. Jesus’ love is committed. It’s total, and it is willing to do anything including die in order for me to have abundant life, joy, happiness, and peace. And yet, I treat Him with indifference, skepticism, and rejection because I would rather do things my way and keep making the same mistakes; shooting my ability to truly become a saint in the foot so many times, because I refuse to say yes to Him and in doing so, I refuse to deny myself, pick up the Cross, and follow Him. Of all pain and sufferings He endures, surely His greatest suffering is that of our rejection and indifference towards the real love which He models (and calls us to do likewise) that will suffer anything for our good, and will pursue our hearts even in the midst of our rejection, indifference, and self-centeredness.
Jesus shows us that suffering in this sense is an act of heroic love, strength, and humility; not an act of weakness. Jesus doesn’t suffer interiorly because of pride or a poor self image. Rather, His Heart hurts because He loves so deeply and committed; especially when we do not. When this love is rejected, it fills Him with the holy sorrow spoken of in the Beatitudes (“Blessed are they who mourn…” Matthew 5:4). This sort of sorrow is not a form of despair; rather, it is a deep experience of the loss of the love of another. It is holy, and a result of His burning love for all; a love that is relentless, reckless, committed, merciful, abiding, and faithful--even when we are not.
When we experience rejection and indifference towards the love that we desire to share with others, it is often hard to sort out the pain which we feel. It’s very hard to let the hurt, humiliation, and anger we feel turn into a “holy sorrow” which has the effect of motivating us towards an ever deeper love of those whose rejection of our love we mourn over. This is difficult to do, but is precisely what our Lord does and which He commands His followers to do when He gives them the greatest of all commands; that they love Him and love like Him. The result of Jesus embracing this kind of suffering love was the salvation of the world. Just imagine if Jesus would have simply given up! What if, at the time of His arrest, Jesus decided that He had suffered enough for His beloved friends already, and He called on the myriads of angels to come to His rescue? What if He would have done this thinking, “These people are not worth it!” The result would be that we would never receive the eternal gift of salvation and life brought about by His death and Resurrection. Suffering would not have been transformed into joy. Death would have been victorious over life. Real Love would have died!
I invite you to reflect today on the deep truth that the rejection of our love by others is potentially one of the greatest gifts we have been given to fight against evil. It is potentially one of the greatest gifts because it depends, ultimately, on how we respond. Jesus responded to the rejection and indifference shown towards His love with perfect love when, hanging on the Cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” This act of perfect love in the midst of His ultimate rejection enabled Him to become the “Cornerstone” of the Church and, therefore, the Cornerstone of new life and real love, joy, happiness, and peace!
We, Jesus’ friends, are called to imitate this love and to share in His ability to not only forgive offenses willingly, but to also pursue and love the hearts of those who reject or are indifferent to us in a way that is gentle, merciful, committed, and ordered to their true and eternal good. We are commanded--not merely encouraged or recommended--by our Divine Master to offer the holy love of mercy to others--especially to those who have hurt us most--out of love for them as well as for Him. Choosing this kind of love for others who have wronged us by their choice to withhold love from us will always bring about our suffering and the crucifixion of our hearts, our desires, and all that is comfortable to us, and this is great news! The love that pierces our hearts and crucifies our selfish wants, desires, and need to control, is strong and powerful enough to empty us of ourselves. This is wonderful news, because we need this kind of love in order to embark on the Christian life; to truly leave our old selves behind, pick up the Cross, and follow Him! This kind of love is incredibly difficult, it is painful, and it is destructive to our selfishness, our pride, and our comfort, but this is also precisely the kind of love that makes us holy. This is the kind of love that produces saints. When we, with Jesus’ help are able to live and offer this kind of love to others--especially those who are most suspicious, indifferent, or rejecting towards our love for them--we also will become cornerstones of real love and grace for those who perhaps need it most.
Lord, we ask you to make us your cornerstones. Help us to not only forgive willingly every time we are hurt by indifference and rejection, but let us also offer love and mercy to those who hurt us in return. You are the divine and perfect example, and the very source of this kind of love. May we share in this same love, crying out with You, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Jesus, we trust in You.
“He who wishes to love does not truly love if he has not an ardent, constant, and willing desire to suffer countless rejections for the sake of being united to his beloved.” -St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.
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