"How much does Mommy love you?" I would ask. Oh, how I loved it when a little one threw chubby arms out as far as he could reach, trying to baby-chant along with my joyful proclamation of "Thiiiiis much!!"
I wanted my children to realize how much I loved them. I just wanted them to know.
Such knowledge could provide, I knew, a hedge around those days when these little ones would be tempted to doubt their parents' love, especially when they got old enough to need guidance through discipline. And what about when peers, long in the future, pushed my teens to join in activities of which Mommy and Daddy wouldn't approve? ("mean old parents, only out to keep us from having fun; everything we want to do they say NO to. They must not care about us at ALL"). As a parent, I wanted them to be well grounded in the security that, even when Mom and Dad said "no," they were loved.
Sometimes I've doubted the love of my own Parent. I've allowed myself dark moments of wondering if my heavenly Father could really love a sinner like me. When such doubts come, I'm vulnerable to a particular kind of peer pressure - the kind that whispers (generally not in words) that my heavenly Father is distant from my little life, that He doesn't really care.
If that happens, I know where to turn. To (of course) the grillwork. To what God Himself assures me in Scripture and Church teaching. He loves me, and He loves you: that is the truth.
How much does He love us?
"Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins." (1 John 4:10)
"It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us: that while we were still sinners. Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
"He who obeys the commandments he has from Me is the man who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I too will love him and reveal Myself to him." (John 14:21)
"By embracing in His human heart the Father's love for men, Jesus 'loved them to the end,' for 'greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' In suffering and death, his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted His Passion and death." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 609)
"St. John goes even further when he affirms that 'God is love.' God's very being is love. By sending His only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange." (Catechism no. 221)
"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us." (St. Augustine)
"Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly." (St. Pio)
Painting at top: Sir William Quiller Orchardson, Master Baby (detail)
Crucifix photo from Pixabay