Unconditional love? Let me share my story.
At an early age, I found refuge with my grandparents. Despite their different beliefs, my grandmother being Mormon while my grandfather was agnostic. they both loved me unconditionally. My grandmother taught me to pray, and my grandfather taught me how to play poker. Can it get any better? I remember my grandmother catching us playing poker for peanuts, and although she was mad, my grandfather had a small smile on his face and said, "Honey, how is Richie ever going to learn about life if he doesn't learn how to play poker?"
The rest of my world was far from paradise. My parents fought and later divorced, and I moved from school to school. Eventually, when I was eight years old my mother took her own life. Through it all, I never seemed to get angry with God as I perceived Him then. I knew no theology, nothing about the Godhead, just that somehow, I was loved.
When I was 15, while living with my dad and stepmother, a friend and I were caught doing something we shouldn't have been doing. It was California in the early '70s, so you can use your imagination. Not wanting my father to know, I told the officers I lived with my grandparents. Handcuffed and humiliated at 15, I stood at my grandparents' door with my grandmother crying as she saw her little Richie in that state. Feeling an inch tall, I heard a voice come from their bedroom. "Richie, come here." I walked to my grandfather, same smile on his face as before. He said, "Richie, looks like you're in the doghouse."
"I will talk to your father. You stay with us through tomorrow, and after work, we will talk,".
The next night, my grandfather and I walked down the long driveway together, eating the same shelled and salted peanuts we once gambled with. He put his arm around me and said, "Richie, I am not worried about you. I know you're going to be alright." He hugged me under the stars, and we both shed a few tears together.
Many milestones later, I made a deal with my wife to move to Utah to get rich selling franchises with my brother-in-law. She said that if we were going to move to Utah, she wanted me to learn about her Catholic faith. I saw money, in all honesty, and I took a gamble and agreed.
I remember walking through the doors of the Catholic Church up on campus. As I learned about the Catholic sacrament of confession, it was then that I found my new home. The familiarity for me was breathtaking. One year later, I was baptized into Christ. I knew then that everything I saw in my grandparents was from Jesus. This is what the church was offering me, a sinner in transition—the same unconditional love I had witnessed from many encounters in my life—the love of Jesus through others.
It was now becoming personal, taking on the form of the cross, a love that strong. Like dot to dot, I was connecting it all to Jesus through His Church. I always felt I was known and loved through the good times and the bad. Because of what I was learning, I could look back and see where Jesus was at every step of my life. When I think of my grandparents now, I see them pointing to Jesus, smiles on their faces, reminding me to stay close to Him. I never did get rich selling franchises, but what I have received far exceeds that worldly dream.
Looking back, I realize that my grandparents showed me the kind of love that only comes from God. They taught me that no matter what, I am loved unconditionally. That I am to do the same with others. Just passing it on.