Receiving the Love of the Father – Lent 2024


God continually invites us back to Him and works for our good, even when we don’t understand what He is doing in our lives. He longs to walk with us as a loving Father even when we stumble and fall.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Jn. 3:17.

1. God wants our life, not our death. He is always working to help us return to Him and is continually inviting us closer to Him. How has God called you back to Him or closer to Him in the past?

2. Though we can experience many painful things in our lives, God is always working for our good. It can be remarkable to look back and see how God has been working for our good. How has God worked for your good in the past, even when it was difficult for you to see it at the time?

3. All people are flawed, and we are powerfully influenced by our relationships with other fallen people. We often have a tendency to project our experiences with our parents or others close to us onto our relationship with God. What might you tend to project onto God from your relationships with others?

4.  God knows what we are capable of and incapable of. He longs for us to bring our imperfections to Him and allow Him to walk with us. What are your greatest weaknesses that you can bring to God?

Text: Receiving the Love of the Father

Hi, I am Katie Sciba.  I’m glad you’re continuing to pray during Lent, I’m praying  for you and with you  that will both receive the grace in the desert,  a driving force. The driving force of Lent is the love of the Father. 

Passages from John

First John chapter three, verse one says, see  what love the Father has given us.  That we should be called children of God.  And so we are. In my life, in the lives of family  and the lives of friends,  and the entirety of the scriptures,  the father’s message is a loving, beckoning message.  Come back to me. Come back to me.  We were made from Him. We were made for Him.  So living according to that union,  putting ourselves in a place where we are drawing closer  and closer to God, that is the abundant life.  I love John 10:10  . That’s one of my very favorite verses in scripture.  “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.” 

We Are Made for The Father’s Love

All right? God wants us to live the abundant life  and the most abundant life we can live is one in which we  experience the love of the Father, which is always,  always available to us.  Yet sometimes we fail to avail ourselves of that,  or sometimes we fail to recognize the nature  of God’s love for us,  or the fact that he loves us at all, that we  walk away from it and we deviate from  that design, from that plan. 

You think of, anything like, a tool.  Think of a hammer. A hammer is made to drive nails.  Use that hammer for anything else, and it’s wrong. It’s off.  It’s not doing the thing it was made to do.  Now you and I, of course, have far more dignity than a tool,  but knowing that we were made to receive the father’s love  for us and then reflect it to each other, to connect  with each other according to the father’s love, when we  function outside of that, it’s unnatural to us  and it’s not right. 

God wants our conversion, which is what Lent is for.  We bring ourselves to the desert.  We’re removed there by the Holy Spirit so we can receive  with more clarity without  so many distractions from the world  or from ourselves, we receive with more clarity.  What His will for us is. He wants our  life, not death, not our downfall.  It is Satan who desires us to trip up, to be defeated,  to be separated from God,  but the Lord is always working for us to return to Him,  always inviting, always inviting, and He’s glad when we do. 

We’re all so, so very familiar with John 3:16. “God so loved the world that He gave His only son that all  who believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.”  That is so, so very good and so true.  But when we pair that with the next verse,  John 3:17 , we understand things more fully.  “God did not send his son into the world  to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  God looks upon his own creation with love, always,  always with love, always with hope that we will return  to him And then  consequently return to being  our best selves, our full selves. 

What Can Walking Away From The Truth Do To You

In times when we elect  to walk away from what we know is true, what is good,  what is beautiful, what is of God, I know  that in my experience, that only leads to confusion.  It leads to chaos, unhappiness  and anger sometimes at other people  and more often at myself.  Years and uh, years ago, it was  , my father passed away  after receiving a diagnosis of melanoma  and fighting for what felt like a very long time,  and it was so arduous for him.  He at last passed away.  You know, initially I was quite hopeful.  I was like, okay, praise God.  He is, he’s not suffering anymore.  He’s no longer in pain, at least physical pain.  If he’s in purgatory  or if he’s in heaven, then he knows God  so much more intimately  and he can be a better father to me now  than he was when he was on earth.  In this brief time  after my dad’s passing, I was hopeful.  And then it’s like one day my grief shifted  and I became angry, So Hurt. 

I didn’t understand how it was God’s plan.  Why is this the loving plan of a loving father for me  to lose my Father?  I was 27 years old when he passed away.  I didn’t understand any wisdom that came from my siblings,  also losing their father from my mother losing her husband.  It was incomprehensible.  And not just that, but unjust to me, especially,  and on a personal level, I begged for my dad’s life  in the name of Jesus Christ.  I beg you spare him. That was my prayer.  And I was so confident that the Lord would answer me  and he would say, yes, I will save him.  I will spare him. I will not let him die.  I last the, the Lord did answer my prayer,  but his answer was no.

 And so I became angry  and I thought maybe there’s  no one even listening.  I’m a cradle Catholic,  the faith has been important to me my entire life.  And so everything I knew  and understood, I was  toying with the idea of setting it aside entirely  from my anger because what God  had planned was not my will.  That’s not what I wanted to happen. And it caused me pain.  So I despaired.  I was no longer confident that the Father loved me,  but because I had understood God to be loved, then  maybe there wasn’t a God at all. 

God’s Plan Is Always Out of Love

It was several months later when I was  putting my, my baby boy down for bed.  I had three sons by that point, all of them, very small.  My oldest was three. My youngest was an infant.  And notwithstanding the love that I had for my sons,  I really ached for a little girl.  I really pined to have a daughter to be on the maternal side  of a mother daughter relationship.  And that desire was  so deep, so deep in me,  and I remember looking up face toward the ceiling  and what felt like a terrific leap of faith.  I, I prayed for the first time in months  after stonewalling the Lord, getting rid of pictures,  getting rid of any evidence that I had of Him in my life,  essentially going through a high school breakup, but with God.

I took a risk  and I said, “in the name of Jesus Christ, I beg you  to give me a little girl.”  And then hoping that maybe my, my dad  could pray on be on my behalf.  I asked for his intercession as well.  A month later, I found out I was expecting,  and three months after that,  I found out that I was a little girl.  My daughter’s name is Jane,  and that name means God’s gracious gift.  I understood that even when I turned away from the  Lord quite willfully, that he was still choosing  to bless me, not just with the the constancy of every day,  but with this tremendous ask that I had.  He knew my heart. He knew the desire of my heart.  Now, he knew the desire of my heart when I asked him  to spare my father.  And I said, no, gosh, not now. Please don’t let my dad die. 

Now, he knew the desire  of my heart then and still.  He said no with this plan of his,  the Lord’s plan when He deprives us, when he says no  to us, all of that is out of love.  My mother, now a widow met,  someone’s a faithful Catholic.  They got married and they are incredibly happy.  My little girl is about years old.  And what’s remarkable is to look back at the course  of our own lives and see how God has worked  for our good, for our hope. 

One of my very favorite verses is Psalm 143:5 ,  and in one translation it says, “I’m muse on  what your hand has wrought.”  And that means you look back,  what has the Lord’s hand brought into your life?  What are the goods?  What are the blessings that he has given in your own life?  And we trust having experienced  that we go forward in faith.  All right? God has always been good to me.  He will not stop being good to me.  He will not stop blessing me.  He will not stop loving me  and working for my benefit, for my salvation, even in ways  that are quite painful to me. 

God Desires Not Our Death But Our Life

So God does not desire our, our death.  He desires our lives.  He wants us to experience the triumph, the joy  of the resurrection  because in every lack in anything that we want,  in every unmet desire, the Lord still says,  “I fulfill that.  I am what you need.” 

It is good to regard God, the Father, as loving  and as merciful.  And sometimes in the course of our own faith lives,  our understanding of who God is  and how He functions in our lives,  how He moves and and works.  It’s our understanding is flawed. And why?  Because we are powerfully influenced by our interactions  with others, by our relationships with other people.  Our relationships, especially with our parents, have  a tremendous influence on how we experience God,  how we were all raised  or our being raised by imperfect people, people  who are wounded, people who have concupiscent,  who sin, who hurt our feelings cause trauma. 

And so we take that experience  and tend to project it onto the Lord.  And it has been so tempting for me to take  those negative things  that I’ve experienced in imperfect relationships  and say, that’s God too.  God’s there. He’s loving, but He’s aloof. God’s there.  He’s caring and He provides for me materially,  but maybe he doesn’t care about my feelings.  And that’s not the case. Whatever deficiencies we’ve  encountered in our human relationships,  if we’re aware of them, we can say, Lord, here is this  pain here.  Is this injustice in my connection to another person?  Help me to trust that you are not the same way. 

Is He Trustworthy?

I was reading my sisters “the saints” years ago,  and the author was considering whether she trusted God.  And at one point she said, the question isn’t,  do I trust God?  The question is, is He trustworthy?  And I loved that sentiment. I find it to be even now.  So grounding, yes, the Lord is trustworthy.  It is hard to understand His ways  because sometimes he does draw us to the desert, draw us  to things that are painful and uncomfortable.  But why? So we are more open to His love  and His movement and his grace. 

God reveals so much of His own nature through us.  I mean, we’re made in his image and likeness, right?  And so I think of parents that I’ve seen, the parents  that I am, and one of my,  my favorite images is of a, toddler.  If you haven’t had a toddler yourself,  you’ve seen a toddler, especially a little one who’s  learning how to walk is very weak and very uncertain.  So I remember when my children were learning how to walk,  they would stand up  and they’re on their two little shaky legs  and they’re kind of thrilled, a little nervous.  Oh my goodness. Suddenly the world, their view  of the world is higher. 

And then they fall. They fall flat on their butt  and sometimes they cry or sometimes they chuckle.  And when a toddler is taking the first couple of steps,  they’re feeble, they’re weak,  and there’s not much that they can manage.  And so what, what do we do  as the adults when we see a toddler learning how  to walk when they fall flat on their rears?  Do we just, Again,  do we throw up our hands in frustration  and say, why don’t you know how to do this?  Like you, you fell again.  All right, well figure it out and then come.  Let me know when you know how to walk.  Come and let me know when you’re running. 

And sometimes when, when we encounter our own weakness,  we experience shame.  We’re like, gosh, you know, I’m not, I’m not enough.  I’m not good enough. I’m not holy enough,  I’m not beautiful enough,  I’m not articulate enough  and that causes us to shrink back from life.  We feel embarrassed by that.  But it’s that weakness that is,  that’s a place for the Lord to love us.  What is it that we do when we encounter that toddler?  What do we do? We offer a little finger.  We’re like here, and then they hold onto it.  Sometimes we offer two and we give them balance  and we walk with them  because we know what they’re capable of  and what they’re incapable of. 

He Walks With Us

Similarly, the Lord is perfect justice.  He knows precisely what you’re capable of  and what you’re incapable of,  especially in the spiritual life.  Where are your weaknesses?  Where is it that you keep falling  or you take a couple of good steps forward  that are especially thrilling  and then boom, you’re on the floor again.  It can be frustrating for us,  but the father is loving and patient.  He’s merciful and just.

God never tells us to go do something  and then report back.  He doesn’t say, okay, go. This is what I want you to do.  Go do it and let me know when you’ve got it.  And then you and I can be close  and then I’ll give you my grace.  We don’t earn the father’s love. He already loves us.  We are made from love  and we are made in the image  and likeness of God who is love.  No, he doesn’t say Go report back.  He says, go. This is what I want from you.  And if it’s hard, he gives us a finger or two.  He walks with us. He gives us grace.  He puts people in our lives to support us,  to be conduits of his love and His ready mercy.  We don’t have to feel defeated,  especially when we sin over and over again  or when we have the wrong perspective of the Father.  And that view is just deeply rooted. It’s hard to eradicate.  Those are things to bring to Jesus.  What are the things that cause you hesitation in your  relationship with God? 

As my pastor says so often, the Lord speaks  to us and says, tell me about that.  What is it that you don’t want to talk to me about?  Let’s work on that.  And the Father does so in love.  We know from our life experiences, we know from scripture  that to run away from God’s love, from His provision,  from His will, for our lives, which is  completely merciful and just  and loving, we know that to run from that, to deviate from  that means confusion and misery.  And when we do so, the Lord waits  and always says, come back to me.  Come back to me.  This time in the desert, during Lent,  when we present ourselves in prayer, when we fast,  when we give of ourselves to others,  this beautiful time has the potential of being  so grace filled if we only present ourselves for that. 

God bless you, the remaining of this Lent.  And may you have the most incredible joyful Easter morning.

About Katie Sciba

Katie Sciba is an international speaker, retreat writer, and nine-time Catholic Press Award-winning columnist. She has a degree in theology from Benedictine College, and her work on Catholic minimalism, spiritual intimacy with Jesus, as well as the domestic church has impacted audiences across the map. Katie writes for The Catholic Telegraph in Cincinnati and co-hosts Two Coins Culture, a faith-based podcast on living simply. Her humor and honesty enable her to connect well with a crowd. Katie and her family live in Omaha, Nebraska.