How do I love Thee, My God? Let me count the ways.

I recently attended a Theresian Day of Prayer where Father Mark Thibodeaux, a Jesuit priest talked about loving God.  He explained that some people are “guilted into loving God”.  Upon looking at the crucified Christ and realizing that it is our sin that brought about his Passion enduring for our sake, we are filled with remorse and guilt.  We love him because we should, because we caused his suffering.  Thereby, we are “guilted into loving”.

However, the true and authentic love we are called to comes from a “compunction of heart”, as Father Mark put it.  At first, I was puzzled by this.  Don’t we feel a sort of compunction of heart when we look at the cross and feel remorse for our sin.  I brought this matter to prayer, and to my Spiritual Director this week.  I wanted to examine how I love God and to be sure of its origin and motive.

I do realize my sin and how I cause Jesus’ suffering.  I am a repentant sinner, for sure.  But I want to love my Father in heaven because it is my free well’s desire to be in union with him and to grow in relationship with him.   My first question for my Director was about “compunction of heart” and what it meant.  Compunction describes puncturing something, which in turn makes it vulnerable.  For me, this compunction of heart means I am presenting myself before God, my  Father in heaven, a repentant sinner, who is allowing myself to be vulnerable  and give myself to his will over my life and every detail of it.   I am trusting him with my life and most of all my heart and will take care of it.  I have had issues with trust in my life, so this is a big step, even though it means trusting God.

My journal prayer this week is:   “Jesus, teach me, touch me, reach into you dwelling place deep in  my heart and rise up with all your might and create in me a brand new heart that is so real no doubt dare come near; so full of love that no pride, no laziness can interfere with  my service to your kingdom.  Lord, help me  to feel this love, let it move me in such a way that I cannot resist it.  Let my tears come when I feel it as evidence of my love-filled heart. “

The response my heart received from God was:   “Joannie, if you want to love me with compunction of heart, love others – then you will be loving me.  The way to love me is to love my children.  You are already doing this my beloved daughter.”

How are you loving God?   Is it “guilted love” or is it a love that comes from a “compunction of heart”?


Father Mark Thibodeaux is a Jesuit priest and has written 3 wonderful books that I high recommend, Armchair Mystic, God-I have Issues, and God’s Voice Within.


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