By Fr. Erik Esparza
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
- Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
I have come across this beautiful quote from a Jesuit priest throughout my life in the seminary and now priesthood. It seems to reappear from time to time and causes me to think. In a real way, everyone desires true love. In fact, at times, the desire is so strong, some individuals simply settle in order to achieve what they believe to be “true love.”
How correct it is that the love of another can seize one’s imagination and affect everything. It does indeed determine how we spend our days or what we do with our time. Think about the last time you fell in love. Did you think about the person constantly? Did you look for every moment to have contact with that person? Did you desire to do much for that special one?
As a celibate priest, I often reflect on my own love for God. So many people often wonder how a person could give up marriage and family for celibate living. Others question a person’s true motives. Yet, still others believe it is just not possible. St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Corinthians that an unmarried man is anxious about how to please the Lord while a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. He further adds the distinction between the unmarried and married woman (1 Cor 7:32-34). Jesus speaks about how some have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and cautions that not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that it is granted (Matt 19:11-12).
My purpose for writing upon this is neither to defend the celibacy of priests nor to imply that married couples are not anxious about the things of the Lord. My desire is to reflect upon God’s invitation for us to enter a relationship of love. No matter one’s state in life whether single, married, consecrated or ordained, God invites each of us into a union of profound love! It is a love that grows deeper, a love that seizes our imagination and a love that guides every step of our day.
How do you know if you are in love with God? You might ask yourself: Do I think about God often throughout the day? Do I look for the next opportunity to speak to God in prayer? Do I desire to please God through my words and actions? Scripture is clear: God has profound love for each of us! The question remains: will you return that love?
And so Joyful Witnesses I challenge you: fall in love with God and stay in love with God. It will truly decide everything in your life and will for all eternity!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.