“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” — 1 John 4:7-8
Today’s readings (in the U.S.) from the First Letter of John summarize the core of Christian faith. As Pope Benedict said in his wonderful first encyclical Deus Caritas Est:
“These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny. In the same verse, Saint John also offers a kind of summary of the Christian life: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us”.
We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (emphasis in original)
In the Greek language of the New Testament had four words that all get translated into the English word “love”. St. John uses the term “agapē” which is kenotic unconditional love that God consists of and is the core of reality, both the material and spiritual realms. As the Irish Jesuit site Living Space says:
This is the love that God unconditionally extends to all his creatures without exception. It is the love that each of us, too, is to extend to every one of our brothers and sisters – again, without a single exception. It is an outreaching love; it is an unconditional love; it does not depend on mood, liking or disliking. It is based purely and simply on the need and on the good of the other. It may or may not be expressed sexually but it is definitely not the love that most of the pop songs are talking about.
No matter what we do, no matter how evil or vicious we are, God’s love for us remains unchanging and unchangeable. “Love it was that made us and Love it was that saved us…” as the hymn says. The reason is simple: ‘God IS love’. Love enters into his very being. God cannot not love – if he did, he would no longer be God.
It is strange to say (and for some it may be shocking) but God loves the most depraved person we could imagine and Our Lady or one of the saints in exactly the same way. He cannot do otherwise. Is there no difference then? The difference between Our Lady and the evil person is not in God’s love for them but in their response to the love offered to them. One person has a closed heart; Our Lady from the moment of the Annunciation gave an unconditional ‘Yes’ which she never withdrew.
All our loving then is simply an opening of our heart, a return of the love that God has first shown us. When we reveal ourselves as loving persons it is because God’s love is working in us and through us. The sign that we are loving him is also that we are filled with love ourselves, love which originally came from him.
As someone once said, God’s love is like electricity. God’s love is only in us when it is passing through us. It can never stop with ourselves. When we keep that love to ourselves, it dies.
Too often I fall down in reciprocating God’s love to others. I get petty, jealous, calculating and want to love someone only if they will love me back. That is not the way of God or the natural order of things. Today’s readings are a good reminder to focus my actions on the core of Christian faith.
Deus Caritas Est (Full)
Deus Caritas Est (Wikipedia Summary)
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Living Space Reflection (Part I)
Living Space Reflection (Part II)
You had to know I would love this. My word for 2014 is agapē. I can only try to write about it as succinctly as you have here. Thank you for another resource filled post (for me to learn from)
Thank you Cristina 🙂 Look forward to reading your reflections!
I “love” the analogy of God’s Love being like electricity—that it may only pass through us–that if it should stop within us, it should die—-
Thank you for the suggested reading regarding Mother Teresa—looking forward to reading it on this oh so frosty cold morn 🙂
Hope all is well William, that you and your family had a wonderful holiday—that work will calm down, and that you may find that inner peace you seek 😉
Julie, thank you for the kind words. Things are calmed down at work; the Holidays were great. Hope you are staying warm.
There are so many struggles with this incredible agapē – first of all, the struggle of believing that God could love even me with such great unconditional love; then the struggle of opening myself up and accepting this love every moment of every day; there is also the struggle of realizing that God loves every single human being with the same love – God has no favourites; we struggle to love ourselves with this same compassionate love; then we struggle to love others as God loves us. God’s love is indeed the source of all life but we, as humans, find it challenging in so many ways until we learn to trust completely..
Thanks for this reflection William.
I just came across this quote on People for Others by one of our favourite theologians and thought it would be an appropriate addition to the discussion: “Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Love this quote. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for your comments. You very succinctly hit on the various challenges I have had over the last 25 or so years :-). Hope your New Year is off to a fantastic start.
William, this is kind of fun, see and claim if you wish: http://kasseybarker.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/relishing-the-not-freshly-pressed-award/ Happy Christmas weekday
Thank you Kassey! I am flattered.
love this post. 🙂