Monday, October 14, 2013

God is Love

In his first epistle, St. John tells us twice that God is love. Being an English teacher, I would classify this as a simple sentence. But in reality, it is probably the most complex sentence ever written. How can God be Love? In order to begin to understand what this sentence means, we must first understand what love is. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said that the word “love” is misunderstood and misused so much. I believe that this is very true especially in today’s world and in my own life.

We tend to overuse the word “love” so much (I love that dress. I love your hair. I love pizza.) that it has lost its true meaning. When I searched Webster’s online dictionary, I found that there were 28 definitions and examples for the word “love” ranging from a warm affection for someone or something to a sexual desire for someone. I think these are the two most commonly accepted definitions of “love” in our world today, which is very sad. Love is so much more than a warm fuzzy feeling and so much more beautiful than a sexual desire for someone.

So what does scripture tell us that love is? I believe that St. Paul describes love best in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous; it does not put on airs; it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is never self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth; Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;”

If this is what love is and God is love, then this is also what God is. God is patient. God is kind. God is merciful. God is not jealous. God does not put on airs. He is not quick to anger. He does not brood over injuries. God rejoices in the truth. God bears all things. God endures all things. God never fails.

This is so different from the so-called love we see in real life. As humans, we are not patient with one another. We are jealous of one another. We are prone to anger and do brood over injuries. The love we seem to have for one another waxes and wanes and is often dependent on the actions of the other person. But God’s love is unconditional.

Throughout my life, I was a people pleaser. I thought that the more I did for people the more they’d like me or the more they’d love me. I felt that my parents only loved me when I was being good. I thought that they stopped loving me when I did wrong, and they had to discipline me. Because I didn’t know the true meaning of love in my human life, I could not understand God’s unconditional love. I felt that I had to earn God’s love by doing good deeds. I thought that He’d love me more, the better I was and the more I did for Him. I spent a good part of my early adulthood trying to “buy” God’s love or to make Him love me more. But there is nothing that we can do to make Him love us more than He does right now, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us any less than He does right now.

As hard as it is to understand that God’s love is unconditional and unchanging, it may be harder to comprehend that His love is eternal and everlasting. Our human minds cannot comprehend what eternity is. People say to imagine a line going on forever and ever without stopping. Or to look at the sky that s endless, but even those in our minds seem to have a stopping point or a border somewhere. Here on Earth, everything seems to have a beginning and an end. But God’s love has no beginning. Scripture tells us in several places that He knew us even before He created us in our mother’s womb and that He destined us for love even before He laid the foundation of the world. There has never been a time when God did not love us.

Just as His love had no beginning, it has no end. It will last forever. It will never fade away. We see so much divorce in our world that we find it hard to believe in an unending, everlasting love that endures all things with patience. But in Psalms 118 and 136 the words “God’s love endures forever,” is repeated over and over. And God tells Jeremiah, “ I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And He told Isaiah in chapter 54, verse 10, “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you.”

Although, it may be hard for us as humans to understand this kind of unconditional, eternal, and everlasting love, it is ours. It is given to us freely. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that God created us out of His love and that His Love was written on our hearts from the beginning of time. He created us for no other purpose than to share in His love. This Love is waiting to be embraced. It is waiting to be accepted. It is waiting to be returned.


I recently gave this "God is Love" talk to the faculty of Holy Rosary High School on Camguin Island here in the Philippines.  After the giving the original talk (above), I discussed how each one of us as baptized Christians are called to reflect God's love, to share God's love, and to love as Christ first loved us.

I had read a post on Facebook a few weeks ago about a mother who had her daughter replace the word "love" in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 with her boyfriend's name as a test to see if he was truly "the one."  I recalled this post a few hours before I was to give my talk and decided to challenge the teachers was to replace the word "love" in that verse with their own name as they thought about their relationship with their students and fellow teachers.

I challenged them to something I had not yet done myself until that very moment when it came out of my mouth.  "Wow" is all I can say!  It was truly an eye opening exercise.  I couldn't get past the first one without wanting to run to Jesus in the confessional!  It has taken me several times to get throught the entire passage using my own name.  Boy, do I have a lot of work to do!

I challenge you to do this, but only when you have quite a bit of time and a lot of Kleenex on hand.

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