Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Love of God

(6th Sunday of Easter, B)

We arrive today, brothers and sisters, at the thirty-sixth day of the Easter season, so we know that we are close to that fortieth day after the Resurrection when Jesus will ascend to the Father. So as we prepare to mark the departure of the Risen Jesus from our midst, that we might welcome his abiding presence among us in the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us his farewell commandment: “Love one another, as I love you.”

In order to know how it is we are to love one another, we must first understand how it is that God has loved us; only then can we love each other with that same love. In his first encyclical, Deus caritas est, our holy father Benedict wrote to us extensively on the love of God. Benedict reminds us that God loves us in a “completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit” on our part. (10) This is why the love God has for us is a love that is always ready to forgive; because God—in the Love that he is—desires and delights only in the happiness and flourishing of his creatures. In the service of that desire and delight God wishes to remove from us all the guilt and selfishness that hold us back from loving with our entire being.

Jesus is for us the incarnation of this love. In the self-emptying of his humble birth we see the God who is ready to give up everything it ought to mean to be God. And especially in his self-sacrifice on the Cross and his giving of himself into our hands in this Eucharist, we see the incarnate love of God, passionately expressing God’s desire to share his love with us. (13)

To love God is to love the love that God is; to love God is to be in love with God’s goodness to his creation. And so when we love God, we begin to share God’s loving attitude toward his creatures. This is why the love of God and the love of neighbor always go together. In loving God we love him in his love for each one, and so we come also to share in God’s love for our neighbor.

Jesus commands us to do precisely this: to love each other with the same love with which God loves the world. Indeed, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is exactly this: that the love of God should live in us as our love for our brothers and sisters. By our communion with God through the humanity of Christ, the Holy Spirit of love comes to expression through our love of each other. This is what the first letter of John is talking about in the second reading, when John writes that everyone who loves is “begotten of God.” The love we express for each other is the renewing and re-creating force of God’s Spirit present in our lives. It has the power to bring us and the whole world to a new and spiritual rebirth.

This is certainly the most beautiful that there is, but it won’t be easy. All who resolve themselves to fulfilling Jesus’ commandment of love will also have their share of the Lord’s Cross. Supporting the Church’s institutional works of charity requires of many the sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure. On a more personal level, many of those we are called to love will be people we can’t stand on the emotional or natural level. Many times our attachments to our own feelings and prejudices will have to be mortified in order to see every person as the lovable creation they are in the loving gaze of God. But to see each brother or sister as God sees them is to love them with a perfect love. When we let ourselves fall in love with God, we will begin to love each other with the Love that is the Holy Spirit, and he will be poured out from our hearts to renew the face of the earth.

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