The Word Among Us

Personal Spirituality Resources

Surprised by God

We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)

Surprised by God: We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)

True love is both loving and letting oneself be loved. It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love. That is why it is so hard to achieve the perfect love of God, because we can love him but the important thing is to let ourselves be loved by him.

True love is being open to that love which was there first and catches us by surprise. If all you have is information, you are closed to surprises. Love makes you open to surprises. Love is always a surprise, because it starts with a dialogue between two persons: the one who loves and the one who is loved.

We say that God is the God of surprises, because he always loved us first and he waits to take us by surprise. God surprises us. Let’s allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let’s not have the psychology of a computer, thinking that we know everything. What do I mean? Think for a moment: the computer has all the answers: never a surprise. In the challenge of love, God shows up with surprises.

Think of St. Matthew:

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

Matthew was a good businessman. He also betrayed his country because he collected taxes from the Jews and paid them to the Romans. He was loaded with money and he collected taxes. Then Jesus comes along, looks at him and says: “Come, follow me.” Matthew couldn’t believe it. . . .

That morning, when Matthew was going off to work and said goodbye to his wife, he never thought that he was going to return in a hurry, without money, to tell his wife to prepare a banquet. The banquet for the one who loved him first, who surprised him with something important, more important than all the money he had.

So let yourselves be surprised by God! Don’t be afraid of surprises, afraid that they will shake you up. They make us insecure, but they change the direction we are going in. True love makes you “burn life,” even at the risk of coming up empty-handed. Think of Saint Francis: he left everything, he died with empty hands, but with a full heart.

(Meeting with Young People, Manila, Philippines, January 18, 2015)

—For Reflection—

Do you let yourself be surprised by God or do you want everything plotted out so that nothing interferes with your plans?

What would it take for you to let go and let God show you the next step in his plan for you? Is fear holding you back?

Can you name that fear and offer it to God?

This is a selection from Don’t Be Afraid to Say Yes to God!, by Pope Francis, with reflections by Fr. Mike Schmitz, The Word Among Us Press, available from