Saints and poets have written poems as if sent from God. I have several collections and find them inspirational drawing me closer to a love relationship with God. Characteristic of these poems is that they have little to do with heaven or hell. Rather, they adore God for God's sake. One doesn't love God in order to be saved. Whatever the afterlife may be, God is worthy of praise now as we offer our memory, understanding and will -- our minds to know God, our hearts to love God, and our bodies to glorify God.

I especially enjoy the love poems of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). He is recognized as one of the world's great mystical poets. Here is a short poem entitled, "I Am What is Loved."

I said to God,

"What are you?" And He replied,

"I am what is loved. I am not what should be loved

For how cruel that would then be for my bride."

We are the beloved of God, the bride, seeking to consummate our love in union with the source of all love. God doesn't demand our love, for that would be cruel. Love must come from free choice. This Lover sees more good in us than we can see in ourselves or others, for the Beloved only "sees Himself" in us. If we get carried away seeing only what is wrong with ourselves, others, and the world, pray to see with God's eyes who sees light flickering within us even in our darkness.

Love poems can even be humorous. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), a great contributor to spiritual literature and poetry, wrote that some of us may not have been tickled by God. Here is her poem, "Not Yet Tickled."

"How did those priests ever get so serious

And preach all that gloom?

I don't think God tickled them yet.

Beloved -- hurry."

Too much gloom and doom from the preacher may say more about the anger in the preacher than the joy found in God's love. As Thomas Merton has written, it sometimes happens that people "who preach most vehemently about evil and the punishment of evil, so that they seem to have practically nothing else on their minds except sin, are really unconscious haters of other people. They think the world does not appreciate them, and this is their way of getting even." Perhaps such folk need to be tickled by God.

The message of the Beloved to us is, "Enjoy Me."