“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” - 1John4:8
God and love are inseparable. One cannot be eliminated from a person’s life without losing the other also. Oh, you may still have friendships and some concern for others, but that isn’t love in its truest sense. It is more likely centered in self-preservation. Some very loving families without a conscious faith in God exist, but God is still there despite their lack of awareness. So, what happens when someone who was raised in a God-centered loving family decides to reject God?
The first question that comes to mind is why would anyone do such a thing? That is one I struggle with. Did a certain event take place that traumatized the person, or was it an evolutionary series of experiences that changed the course of a life? It’s one thing to never have known God. Many wander through life that way, and they are not all bad people. I know some very good people who have never been in a church except for an occasional wedding or funeral. What happens then when a baptized man, raised in the Church, has received the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, God Himself, eventually turns his back?
Generally speaking, people who enter into the Catholic Church from another denomination are exuberant and not angry toward the community from which they have come. On the other hand, people leaving the Catholic Church tend to spew some venom on their way out. This is not difficult to understand when viewed in the context of marriage and divorce, for if Christ truly established the Catholic Church (which can be historically shown), then coming into union with that Body is cause for joy whereas a separation oozes bitterness.
A rejection of God is a rejection of love. One cannot reject God without rejecting love. That would be a contradiction. While one can quit praying, going to Mass and receiving the sacraments in an all-out statement of Godly rejection, the love still tries to come in from family members and others who see Christ in everyone. Does there come a point where the rejection of God manifests itself, either consciously or sub-consciously, in the rejection of the love of others, and if so, how does one accomplish this?
One way would be to minimize communication with family members and others who truly love and care for the person – in effect, build an imaginary wall around oneself and fend off anyone who tries to penetrate. This may work quite well in families where faith in God is minimal. Showing disrespect for family members can create divisions that go on for years. The problem comes when some family members have enough love not to give up so easily. What happens when those being rejected turn the other cheek, apologize for wrongs never likely committed, and keep trying to penetrate the invisible wall?
We occasionally hear stories of a young person committing violent acts against his entire family and wonder how could anyone do such a thing. When all efforts to reinforce the invisible wall fail, prison walls may become an option. I wonder how many of those victims were family members who refused to stop loving. When God’s love is spurned, the evil one if free to move in.
Those living in self-imposed isolation cannot possibly enjoy life in the fullest sense. Like a sugar-substitute, they may involve themselves in other worldly diversions seeking the sweetness only true love can bring. They may try to find fulfillment in expensive toys, activities, or even drugs and alcohol, but all fall short. Nothing can fill the void left when love is missing from one’s life. Yet, one does not necessarily need a spouse, family or friends to feel loved. As John reminds us, God is love, and God’s love is available to everyone. All we have to do is open our hearts and let Him in.
Have mercy on those who are lonely not by their own choosing. Be a channel of God’s love with a smile and kind words. We are all members of Christ’s body. A simple invitation to Mass or a church function might open a window that might otherwise forever remain closed. And pray for those isolated by choice that the Holy Spirit might penetrate that cold exterior to allow the warm light of Christ to enter.