After a recent discussion with a bromide filled atheist, one of her comments reminded me of one of the great evils my own atheism caused. She said "I don't need God, I'm happy with who I am", and I remembered a time, years ago, when I foolishly thought that too.
My mother had a life that would rival Job's, and I now pray daily that she is with our mutual Mother basking in the Beatific Vision.
Sadly, about twenty years ago I did not have that compassionate insight, only a pseudo intellectual philosophy born of the writing of the last Century's great fool, Ayn Rand. While Rand is more often right than wrong when discussing some of our world's economic and political follies, she of course was a true idiot when it came to the idea of "selfish love", which she now knows was a huge oxymoron. The truth of love is the Cross, of caring so much for another that you not only will painfully take nails in your hands, but will gladly offer to do so if it will benefit the other. Without sacrifice what she called love is really at best mere fondness, at worst a form of narcissism.
At 28 I did not know this, and armed with my sick "virtue of selfishness" went to once again visit my mother who needed help with her rent. This oh so troubled woman, was not only deaf since childhood, but had suffered many emotional and physical difficulties in her life (which I pray count much towards her time in purgatory, but that I won't go into here). She would not have ever won "Mother of the Year", but I wouldn't have won "son of the year" either. Abandoning us when I was eleven, I honestly didn't really ever know her, except as I got older, and only when my sister would call because of this or that problem my mom had gotten herself into.
One this particular day, she was being threatened with eviction, and I went to see what I could do, but only because I loved my sister and she had asked. I went back and forth with my mother and the rental office, and things did get straightened out, but not after this self serving boy became extremely frustrated. My mom, this frail and frightened woman, said to me something very telling "you act as if you don't love me!"
In full Ayn Rand "everybody must earn love" pretentiousness I said "but I don't"
While I have committed many evils in my life, that I said this to this poor daughter of God, will remain my greatest sin . . .and one I committed against not only her, not only to my God, but to my very soul.
A few months later I moved to DC, and would not see the woman that gave me birth until after my conversion, and after she had developed Alzheimer's. As a new Christian I started visiting her every Sunday after church, but she never knew who I was, never recognized the man she bore.
See, I would never be able to undo my words to her, never say "I love you mom", and have her understand. My foolish childhood philosophy of "earned love" had cost me the chance to tell my own mother she was loved . . .and as Jesus reminds us, even the Pharisees could did that.
While I pray she knows how sorry I am, and how much I love her, I will go to my grave knowing my last statement to my mother was that I did not love her.
That is why it matters that we have, and can give, the unconditional love of Christ.