Falling in Love Changes Everything – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterDeuteronomy 30: 11-14
Psalm 19: 1-6
Romans 10: 8b-18
Matthew 4: 18-22 (John 1: 35-42)

I hope it has happened to you at some point. Or, if it hasn’t, it will soon. Or if it happened a long time ago and you have forgotten what it is like I hope it will happen again and you will remember that wonderful experience of falling in love.

Falling in love is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a person. And it is even more amazing when the other person falls in love with you. As corny as it is, it really is like the movies when fireworks go off, when two people share their first kiss.

As you may know, when a man expresses an interest in our life, we invite him to come and spend some time with us so that he can get to know us, and we him. We do that in a number of ways. We invite him to join us in our worship and prayer. We ask him to help with various chores and some of the work around the house. (I remember helping Frank our handyman install the plywood ceiling boards in the passageway behind the chapel.) Depending on the weather he is either invited on endless walks around the river, or he drowns in gallons of tea in the cloister.

Some years ago it was my turn to have a conversation with an inquirer. I think we sat in one of the conference rooms in the guesthouse. I had read his application so I knew where he lived and worked. I had read something about his sense of call and interest in monasticism and his current involvement in his parish. I saw where he went to school and his educational background. So I didn’t need to ask those questions. Instead I asked him about his experience of falling in love.

Now I wasn’t interested in the details: who, what, when, where, why. I wanted to know about his experience of falling in love. I could tell he was taken aback by my question so I went on to explain that my experience of this life was that it was about falling in love. We come here not to escape the costs and challenges of being in love, of falling in love, of finding ourselves loved. We come here to be in love, to fall in love, to find ourselves loved. Father Pedro Arrupe, one time Father General of the Society of Jesus is reputed to have said:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in 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 morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom 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[1]

Or as Father Benson put it: our coming to Christ changes everything.[2]

I think Andrew fell in love that day when he first encountered Jesus. I think he fell in love passionately, irrevocably and eternally. He and everything and everyone around him changed that day. He was never the same again. He fell hard and he fell long.

But isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? If you are going to give your life to someone or something, you can’t just be a little committed; a little in love. It can’t just be an infatuation. It has to be whole, total and complete. If you are going to give your life away, your world has to be turned upside down by love, so that you can truly see things right way around. And for Andrew that is what happened. His world was so turned upside down by this encounter with Jesus that tradition tells us that he was crucified upside down. His love for Jesus turned everything on its head.

Matthew, in his account of the call of Andrew tells us that he and his brother Simon Peter let everything, and immediately followed Jesus.[3] John tells us that after his encounter with Jesus, Andrew first rushed home, found his brother Simon Peter and brought him to Jesus, having proclaimed and exclaimed, “We have found the Messiah!”[4] However it happened, Andrew’s response was not lukewarm. It was not half-hearted. It was not ambivalent. It was passionate. It was irrevocable. It was eternal. Andrew had fallen in love with Jesus and suddenly everything had changed.

There are many things we look for in a man who comes to test his vocation with us. We look for someone who “has a love for the gospel, a desire for prayer, an attraction to ministry, and signs of personal adaptability.”[5] We look for someone who has fallen in love with God.

That inquirer was taken aback when I asked him to speak of his experience of love, yet it is love that draws us here, holds us here and sends us out from here.

But you don’t need to be a monk to fall in love. (But you do need to fall in love to be a monk!) Nor do you need to be a monk to fall in love with God. All you need is to be prepared for your world to be turned upside down.

Andrew’s world was figuratively (and literally) turned upside down when he fell in love with Jesus. And for the rest of his life it was his love for Jesus that compelled and propelled him to proclaim “We have found the Messiah!”

So what about you? Have you fallen in love with God? If you have, be careful, because falling in love with God will decide everything, and everything will be changed.

[1] www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/prayers-by-st-ignatius-and-others/fall-in-love/#sthash.95gPxCZv.dpuf

[2] R. M. Benson SSJE; Spiritual Readings – Christmas, 1880, page 260

[3] Matthew 4: 20

[4] John 2: 41

[5] SSJE Rule, Cowley Publications, 1997, Chapter 36: New Members, page 72

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  1. Pam on December 12, 2014 at 09:56

    You describe so well how falling in love with God can transform a life. It’s why Paul was able to do a 180 after having his experience on the Damascus Road. Falling in love with God changes you in the most fundamental way; you’re not the same person anymore. It’s absolutely a rebirth. It’s why I wish the Episcopal church would adopt something like the Methodist quadrilateral instead of sticking with the three-legged stool; lived experience is crucial and life-changing. Reason, Scripture, and tradition aren’t enough. Falling in love is key. Paul even says that his suffering was well worth it, because through it he was led to God. He’s right. To find God and fall in love with him is the only treasure worth having.

  2. Jack Zamboni on December 11, 2014 at 19:42

    Thank you, James. In the early stages of grief after my Judith’s death (with whom I fell deeply in love) I’ve no idea with whom or how I might fall in love in the future. But you’ve helped me see that is the question I will need to be open to whenever in God’s time I might begin to discern the next steps in my life. Thank you.

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