Love is Colorblind

Lizzie was from the South Bronx, and had a spunky personality. With straight bleached hair dancing nonchalantly about her shoulders, and large brown eyes underlining her beautiful bronze features, Lizzie’s manner was poised and free. She had learned to be a survivor, drawing on the resilience of her personality as she navigated some of the darkest corners of New York’s inner city- a far cry from my own upbringing in rural Canada. We met Lizzie when she was pregnant with her firstborn son. She took her motherhood seriously: a new depth of maturity and self-reflection now enriched her attitude about life.

Over the course of months, our relationship with Lizzie grew. It was obvious she enjoyed coming to the convent, where she would feel safe, at ease, and unabashedly ask us a thousand questions about the life and customs of her “nun-friends”. We grew fond of Lizzie, too, and looked forward to her visits, which often brought us laughter and joy.

We have a tradition every Easter Sunday to invite several mothers we know, with their children, to spend the day with our whole community at our retreat house in Connecticut. The Easter after her son was born, we invited Lizzie to join us for this special day. She came all aglow, her sweet, chubby infant bouncing in the car seat in her hand.

The day was glorious; Holy Mass was bursting with the joy of the Resurrection; a lively Easter-egg hunt followed for the children, and then a delicious Easter feast. After dinner, the mothers and sisters enjoyed walks and conversations outside while the children chased balls, chipmunks, and other sisters on the giant front lawn.  When it was time for the mothers to depart, they piled into the vans the sisters were driving back to the city, with sleepy children in their arms. As the vans were pulling out of the driveway, Lizzie leaned out of the window, and with a big grin called out to me, “Stay Black, Sistah!”

Now I am about as blonde-haired and fair-skinned as it is possible to be. Yet Lizzie’s admonition to “stay Black” held a deep, radiant truth: she has come to see me, to see the sisters, as part of her world. Even though our life backgrounds were so vastly different, she sensed a deep bond between us, so deep that these differences were no longer relevant, or even visible. What remained was love.

Isn’t this the love in the heart of God the Father? He, the Infinite One, comes so close to our world as to be part of it – in the person of His Son Jesus. Just as in true love there is a radical equality between the lover and beloved, Jesus does not so much stoop down to us in gracious condescension, as He does lift us up and unite us with Himself. This is the wonder and mystery at the heart of Christianity.  God became a human person so that human persons can be one with God. And He gives us the amazing gifts of the Sacraments, especially of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, as ways by which He lifts us up.

Lift me up, O Jesus, and lead me to the Father.
Lift me up, O Jesus, and lead me to the Father.
Cleanse me with the water of Your love and mercy.

(prayer by Elżbieta Drożniewicz)