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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - God Is Crazy in Love with You

Robert Barron - God Is Crazy in Love with You

Robert Barron - God Is Crazy in Love with You
TOPICS: God's Love

Peace be with you. Friends, the last several weeks, we've been reading from this section of Luke that talks about the demands of discipleship, the radicality of what it means to follow Jesus. But let me tell you something now. Here's a hint, it's a clue. We are called to be so radical. Why? Because we're meant to imitate the even more dramatically radical way that God loves us. "Be perfect," Jesus says, "as your heavenly Father is perfect". In other words, in your moral and spiritual life, you're meant to mirror, to echo, the infinite, extravagant love of God.

See, it's never just awful moral demand to try to placate this overbearing deity. No, no. No, no. It's a radical love on our part that's meant to respond to the evermore radical love on God's part. So with the Gospel today, we're shifting focus from what we're obliged to do, really, to who God is. Jesus paints for us, in these three parables, a portrait of God. Now again, let me just remind you of something. All of us sinners, we tend to fall into this kind of logic when it comes to God. So there's God, kind of difficult, a bit tyrannical, difficult, hard to placate. And if I do enough right things, I might satisfy him sufficiently to get him to love me. Maybe in our kind of official theological position we wouldn't say that, but a lot of us feel that way when it comes to God. God's kind of difficult, demanding, and so if I can reach a certain moral height, then God will love me.

Can I suggest to you, the New Testament blows that logic out of the water. Page after page after page, story after story after story, the New Testament blows out of the water that way of thinking about God. What the New Testament gives us, and see, Jesus is nothing but the icon of his Father; Jesus is the Godman; he's God now manifesting his godliness in this human form, what does Jesus show us? That God is, if I can borrow that lovely phrase from Catherine of Siena, God is "pazzo d'amore". That means he's crazy in love with us, "pazzo d'amore". He's crazy, he's irrational. He doesn't correspond to this neat logic that we propose. "If I do enough good things, then maybe I'll get him to love me". No, God is crazy in love with his creation. And I'll look at that principle as it's displayed in these three parables.

So we know this familiar story. Jesus says, "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it"? Well, I mean, one way to answer that question is, nobody would do that. No shepherd would be so stupid as to do that. You've got your ninety-nine sheep, and if you leave them, well, they'll all go wandering off. They'll be susceptible to attacks from animals and so on. So, okay, I got a hundred, one has wandered away. Well now I better make a calculation. Is it better to cut my losses and let the one go and keep the ninety-nine? I think most sensible shepherds would say, yeah, that's what I'm going to do. But I'm going to leave the ninety-nine and go chasing after this one whom I might never find?

And then I come back, having not found him only to discover that the ninety-nine have now wandered away? It's crazy, crazy to behave that way. But that's exactly how God behaves. This sinner, this idiot, this jerk, this loser has wandered off into some dysfunctional life. And God's got all these people, these good people, these saints who are following his laws, and he loves them. And all right, all right, this one guy's wandered away. I am not going to bother chasing after the likes of him. Well, yeah, that's our logic. That's the way we think. It's not the way God thinks. No, God, like a crazy shepherd, pazzo d'amore, like a crazy shepherd, goes running after the one lost sheep.

In my pastoral ministry, everybody, over the years, how often I've heard something like, "Oh, I mean, father, God would never forgive me. I mean, I'm such a loser and I've done so many bad things. I mean, God has no time for somebody like me". Not the God Jesus reveals. Goes after the lost sheep, goes after the one who's wandered far away. He's crazy in love. How about the second parable, which, if anything, is even goofier. So he imagines this woman who's lost a coin, and the coin in question is something so small, it's like a penny, like a penny. So she's lost this coin and what does she do?

Well, she turns the whole house upside down searching for it. All day long, hours and hours. And then she finds it and she runs to her friends and says, "Hey, we got to have a party. I found this penny". What are you nuts? Put that in our situation. "Oh my goodness, I've lost a penny". Wait, you lost a penny? Who cares? Who cares? "No, no, I'm going to turn the whole house upside down, I'm going to turn the furniture upside down. I'm going to spend hours to find the penny. And then when I find it, I'm going to go across the street to my neighbors and say, hey, hey, everybody, let's celebrate. I found a lost penny". What, are you out of your mind? Are you "pazzo"? Are you crazy?

See, that's the point here, everybody. That's the point. Jesus is saying, that's what God is like. So there's this one poor loser, this poor sinner, a nobody. God's got all these people that are following his laws, all these good saints who are doing what he wants. And there's this one nobody who's wandered far, far away, this little penny of a person. Who cares? No, no. But God is going to turn the whole room upside down to find that one little nobody. And when he does, he wants everybody involved in the party. That's what God is like. That's what God is like. What does Jesus say? That he makes his sun to shine on the good and bad alike.

It's not like, "I'll make a calculus here. If you're good, I'll give you some sunshine. If you're not, you don't get any sunshine". No. He is love straight through. That's all he is. So he doesn't know how to do anything else but love those who are righteous and those who are unrighteous. He makes his refreshing rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. These are desert people, now, they love the rain. And so, the logic would be, yeah, if you're good and you're holy and you're righteous, then he'll send you his refreshing rain. If you're not, you're stuck in the desert. But that's not the way God operates. He makes his rain to fall on the good and the bad alike. He'll turn the whole darn house upside down to find one penny. He'll go traipsing around, leaving the ninety-nine to find that one lost sheep.

Okay, those two stories in mind, I'll briefly look at maybe the greatest story ever told and the most famous of Jesus' parables. And you see now why it fits right in this context, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I'll just say a few things about it. How it begins: "A man had two sons, and the younger says, 'Father give me my share of the estate that should come to me.'" Well, I mean, as everyone points out, this is hugely insulting to the father. What he's saying basically is, look, I'm too impatient to wait for you to die. Give me my inheritance now. I mean, it was supremely insulting to the father. I love how in one sentence he says a version of "me" three times: give me my share that's coming to me.

I mean, this is like the ultimate slap in the face of the father. This is all of us, right? All of us sinners when it comes to God. And then so the father gives him, he respects his freedom, he gives him his share, which he squanders, of course, immediately. That's the way it goes in the spiritual order, isn't it? When you cling to the divine life, you try to make it your own, you lose it, because you only have the divine life on the fly, because the divine life is love. That means as you receive it, you give it, and then you get more. If you try to hang onto it, you will lose it. That's the basic spiritual principle.

So he squanders all the inheritance and then finds himself feeding the pigs. In other words, for a Jew, it's about as low as you could get, that you're feeding these unclean animals. He's hit bottom, right? Comes back to the father. "Father, I've sinned against God, against you. I don't deserve to be called your son". But the father, here's what we're meant to see: the father, who's been looking for him, because he sees him while he's still a long way away, that means probably every day he sat waiting for him, and then beautifully, he comes running down the hill to meet him.

There was an adage in Jesus' time that the robes of an elder should never flow. That meant that people came to the elder, the elder didn't come to them; that they came to him out of respect. But this father throws caution and respectability to the winds. He comes racing down the hill. This son who had insulted him in the most grievous way possible and then had squandered all his hard-earned inheritance. I mean the father had every right to be indignant. But instead, he embraces the son, puts the ring on his finger, kills the fatted calf. Pazzo d'amore. Are you kidding? I mean crazy in love. Irrational.

Of course, over the top. Yes, ridiculous. Yes, just like the shepherd, just like the crazy woman looking for the coin. That's how God loves. And then of course, beautifully, the older son who's out on the hillside hears about all this, and he's someone who's caught right in that logic I described earlier. Right? What's the logic. Well, if I'm good, if I'm obedient, then God will love me. And by implication, someone that's not obedient, someone that doesn't follow the law like that no good brother of mine, he does not deserve the divine love. And what, he's getting the ring and the embrace and the fatted calf? Are you joking? It's a complete violation of the right logic. What does the father say to him? He comes out to him too. Beautiful.

"My son, everything I have is yours". The older brother is just caught in this awful logic of tit-for-tat, I do enough, I'll get the love that I merit. God doesn't operate that way. "My son, don't you get it? After all these years, don't you get it that everything I have is yours"? You don't have to earn it. You don't have to slave for me. That's how he puts it. It's yours as a gift. See, the older brother doesn't understand the nature of his father's love. Like a lot of us. A lot of us are like the older brother, caught in this dead-end spiritual logic. If it could just sink into our hearts, everybody, that God is pazzo d'amore, he's crazy in love with us, then we'd be willing and able to respond with an equally extravagant gift of love. And God bless you.
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