Step 3: The Love of God
I love You!
If we were to put a face on God’s love what would it look like?
If we were to give it characteristics , what would they look like?
-kindness, patience, joy, truth, hope, charity, faith, endurance; VIRTUES!
and since we were created to be mirror images of God the Father who is the source of all Love then naturally we turn to Jesus, the Son of God. Creatures after his own heart we are drawn “to be perfect, just as [our] heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) but we ask ourselves, what constitutes perfection?
His Perfect Charity is the means of all perfection; GOD IS LOVE!
We have already determined that the incarnate face of Love is Jesus Christ and thus we look to him for guidance on how to love as he loves. So we move on to St. Paul who first asks us to focus on what love is not: “It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing.” Now let us consider what love Is: “Love is patient, love is kind, rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” VIRTUES! VIRTUES! VIRTUES! These will perfect our love!
A perfect love is a selfless love; Jesus by dying on the cross for us has displayed a penetrating example of what it means to love selflessly.“With what love would we be inflamed did we but see the flames of love that burn in the heart of Christ!” (qtd. St. Francis of Paul). Should this not be a sufficient reason for our love, should we not seek to live our whole life for this purpose? We know that God has given us a secondary motive for our purpose in life, namely Hope for eternal Joy but even greater yet is the primary source of all our efforts in life. A woman found by King Louis companions said: “with this torch I would gladly burn Heaven, and with this water extinguish the fire of Hell, in order that men might love God not because of the reward of Heaven or the punishment of Hell but simply and solely because He deserves to be loved.”
St. Alphonsus asks us to first desire love; Pure Love, because without the grace of longing we cannot genuinely be disposed to receive it. He then warns us of the danger of complacency for the love of the world. This kind of love keeps the heart in a mediocre state. ” if I knew in my heart there was a single fiber that was not from God, in God, and for God, I would immediately tear it out.” DO NOT SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECT LOVE!
Likewise, it is our duty to help others avoid the contagion of false love. Charity is a gift and it must be shared with those we are naturally draw too but more importantly with those we do not seek to love. Charity is perfected in our seeking out the dark shadows of hate; the souls we do not delight in, the unlovable, and inserting our gift of love. St. John of the Cross reminds us “where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.” but when our efforts do not bear the fruit of love in return we find an opportunity to offer an even sweeter sacrifice of love to God.
Not for a second should we be convinced that our human love suffices, that it somehow fulfills our practice of charity. It does not come close! We are sustained by the Father and rely on him for our strength. Trials will come, weakness will come, contempt will come, sinful imperfections will come and when they do our love will not suffice; our capacity to become a selfless gift for others will cripple and when that happens our channel of love will run dry.
But to fear our limited humanity is to fear in vain because St. Paul reminds us of God’s unfailing Love; He will never leave us to our own efforts: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? . . . No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, or height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So let us put on the Heart of Christ and fearlessly enter into the world seeking to give this precious gift of Love to others!