Valley Voices

Kathy Andes: Pope Francis’ ‘Jesus loves you:’ Banal or sublime?

Pope Francis touches the cheek of a young girl as he prepares to depart the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Washington.
Pope Francis touches the cheek of a young girl as he prepares to depart the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Washington. Associated Press

Pope Francis, in his video message to the people of Cuba on the eve of his visit said, “Jesus loves you so much, Jesus loves you completely. … The Lord loves you from the heart.”

When I heard that on the news, I was doing chores around my house. I paused and sighed deeply. I, the unlovable one, am loved. Relief.

No, it wasn’t a bad day. Actually, it was a good one. But life is relentless, as social commentator Dennis Prager often says. It’s relentless for the best of us.

Every day the sun comes up. We face another day of work issues, annoying people, not-enough-money, things breaking around the house, picking up groceries, sick cats, etc. Even on a “good day” life can be tedious.

On that particular afternoon, when I heard the phrase “Jesus loves you,” it was as if for the first time.

Of course, Jesus loves me. He died on the cross for me. I know that … or do I? Or maybe I did know it, in my mind, but it left my heart. Feelings are so fleeting.

That’s why we need to be reminded. But the repetition of even a meaningful truth can grow stale.

You see, my reaction that day wasn’t typical. Usually, I’m annoyed by the phrase “Jesus loves you.”

It’s used so often and without any other moral considerations, it is as if Jesus’ love is all that matters.

“Jesus loves you,” so do whatever you wish.

“Jesus loves you,” so there’s no need to repair the damage of your failings.

“Jesus loves you,” so there’s no need to strive to be better.

“Jesus loves you,” so there’s no need to study the catechism or the Bible.

Most of the time when I hear the phrase, I roll my eyes, and think, “How banal.”

Certainly, Simon and Garfunkel thought so when they included the phrase in a song as a wry salute to a promiscuous woman, “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.”

But on that afternoon, my cynical nature was off-duty. The phrase I had heard a thousand times caught me by surprise, at just the right moment. It was a sweet message that made me stronger and better able to face my day.

One other thought as I write this. Once, while reading a book to my oldest granddaughter, I read out loud, “God loves you.” Four-year-old Julia looked at me and asked, “God loves me?” I smiled and said, “Yes.” With a big smile, she replied, “That’s so very nice of God.”

Indeed it is.

Yes, despite its overuse, there is something sublime in the phrase, spoken at the right time, with the right heart, that can touch the soul deeply. When Pope Francis speaks it, I pray others hear, as if for the first time.

Katherine Andes is a web content developer who lives in Hanford. Her website is betterwebsales.com

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