An Encouraging Word – Finally getting it

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom. Isaiah 40

I grew up scared of God. No matter how good I was, I never felt good enough for God, not even after a good confession. I always felt that my best was never good enough to satisfy God.

Maybe I didn’t have the ears to hear the good stuff about God, maybe those who taught me had a bad experience of God and taught me what they had been taught, but wherever it came from, those impressions of God lasted into my 30s. Love God? I was afraid not to!

All that faded away one night in a very vivid dream, the only dream I ever had about God. As some of you know, when I woke up I knew in my heart that God had permanently and dramatically changed for me and that change has lasted.

My grasp of the incredible and unconditional love of God has deepened and deepened over the years. I have come to realize that it is not about how much I love God, but how much God loves me.

If you want a good image of God, one that is more accurate than that judgmental and condemning version of God that I grew up with, there it is in Isaiah: “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”

And, “Comfort, give comfort, to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hardship is at an end, her guilt is removed.”

Our God is a hugging God, a caring God, a comforting God, a soft-spoken God, a forgiving God, a God who loves us even more when we are lost and cannot find our way.

The famous English churchman, Cardinal Newman, once said that every preacher has but one sermon, a sermon that he gives, over and over again, in a variety of ways. When I think back over 47 years of preaching, over 700 times at Bellarmine alone, and look back through my own material, I must admit that his observation rings true.

The primary task of a priest is to preach and what he is supposed to preach is the good news. The good news, the basic message of the Scriptures, is this: God loves us without condition, no ands, ifs or buts about it!

I have taken a lot of heat over the years for this kind of preaching. Many believe that the “fear of God” is what I should be preaching and the message that will turn people around. I could not disagree more.

I am convinced that the “love of God,” not the “fear of God” is what actually turns people around. I have seen it happen too many times not to!

To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog:

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