Sunday, May 6, 2018

To Love

Jesus is not proposing an ideal of love to us but rather a gift of God, which both fulfills and simultaneously surpasses our heart’s desire to be loved and to love. Michael Casey will say that Christian love “upgrades our perception” of one another. It is not easy, or even natural, to see simple goodness, let alone God’s presence, in everyone, especially in those whom we readily criticize or find difficult or repugnant. How are we to glimpse buried beneath other people’s failures and sins the seeds of a desire for God?

Our eyes are myopic; we only see the surface; we are never without distorting prejudice. The Good News is that there is nothing moralistic about loving God and neighbor. This precept is a gift - the gift Jesus holds out to us, whom he calls “friends.”

Such love is a gift precisely because we cannot generate it, despite our best intentions. It is not the result of an act of the will - we cannot try harder and force ourselves to love. As Saint John tells us, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Love arises out of an encounter with God, who is Love, and who loves within us - we learn love by being loved. Thus, we love God because we have experienced that God first loved us. The more we experience God’s love, the more likely we are to return that love.

“To love God is to accept God’s love.” Everything follows from that. And we do that by accepting one another’s love as well, which may be harder and more humbling to do than any of our attempts to love. But nothing more effectively expands the heart!

Love of God and love of neighbor is the same one love, undivided and indivisible, because God is its source, and he is one. The human heart cannot simultaneously experience love and hate; for when we are touched by love, we are taken over by a force which knows no limits, draws no boundaries. Saint Bernard will say, “The measure of love is to love without measure.” This means that nobody can be excluded from our love.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Dominic’s Sunday homily.