The Psalm we read at Mass today is phrased in a very curious way. God’s faithfulness and love excel all we ever knew of him. This means that the love and faithfulness that the psalmist has experienced from God surprised the psalmist. God’s faithfulness and love proved to be more than he or she ever thought they knew of him. God’s love can be surprising! The invitation for all of us is to experience God’s love and faithfulness anew.
Discovering the love and mercy of God in our spiritual lives can be a profound and life-changing experience. To know that God loves the world and shows the world mercy is one thing. To know that God loves me… and shows me mercy, with all of my faults and failings and bad choices in my life… is another. The world is suddenly different and my life is not the same.
In the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, this experience of God’s love is the bedrock upon which a Christian life is built. Everything that the Christian does is in response to this experience. The energy to love and to reach out to others is gathered from the experience of first being loved by God. The energy to suffer the daily tasks and trials comes from a lived relationship with Christ who died for me. The trust to surrender all to God at the end of the day rests upon the knowledge that God is there for me, even when I fail him.
The knowledge that God deeply loves us, in spite of our sins and failings, has the power to surprise us. It means that even when we think we know that God loves us, his love and mercy could excel all that we ever knew of him. Can we open our hearts a little more to God this Lent than we have done previously in our lives? Is it possible that if we should do this, God will draw us ever closer to him, embracing and healing dry and lifeless areas in our souls we never even knew we had?