Saturday, April 08, 2006

Deus Caritas Est - Overflowing Love

This brings us to the last aspect of part 1, the interrelation of the love of God and the love of neighbour. The Pope states that there are two questions to answer with regards to this:

Can we love God without seeing Him?
Can love be commanded? (Quick clarification, I believe that "command" is being used in the sense of the choice of the individual, that a person commands their own willingness to love)

Response to the first question: God is not totally invisible to us. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council said that Christ is really present to us in five ways at the Mass alone; in the congregation, when it gathers for prayer, in the word of God when it is proclaimed, in the priests, when they preside at the liturgy, in the sacraments, when they are administered, and finally, in the Host and Chalice offered at Mass. Furthermore, we must remember, God loved us first, and this love is made visible to us in Christ. Through the incarnation, Christ is made present to us not only in the Mass, but in our entire lives. He is made present through the activities of the Church, He is made present in the poor, in the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned. Indeed, God is ever present to us in an ever new and dynamic way. We encounter God in an intimately personal way each day, through our own actions and the actions and needs of others. Thus, God's love is not distant and far off, but it is a dynamic experience, it is something that we encounter, and something that is ever unfolding in our lives. Because God loves us first, we can now respond to that love as it wells up within us. We are not forced to love, but we want to love

Love, therefore, is not a sentiment, it is not a feeling. Those come and go and change like the wind. If love is a purification of man in his entirety, as spoken of already, then love must engage man entirely, and not depend on his emotions simply, though they can express the reality of love, but only for a brief moment, and thus the incompleteness of feelings with regards to love. If love involves the whole self, then it must be an act of the will, the intellect, and the sentiments. Only all three together, which are attributed to man in his fullness, can man make a truly loving act. It is the will, however, which begins this act of love. We need a will to make an act, thus the willingness to say “yes” to God is our act, which encompasses the will, intellect, and sentiments. We must make that initial yes to God in order to respond to the love he outpours to us. Once we receive God's gift of love by responding with a complete yes that involves our entire self, we are abile to begin the life long, open-ended process of the exchange of love between God and ourselves. It is thus through this love that the love of neighbour comes about as a natural result of our love for God. If we love God, we will love our neighbour, in whom Christ is present. If we love God, we will love the beauty of His creation and give it the respect that is due to its dignity. Because all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, there is thus a dignity there that is due our love. This is all a result of the overflowing of love. A loving communion brings about an overflowing of love.

The most concrete example of the effect of the overflowing love that is a result of the communion between man and God is indeed our loving our neighbour. It is the result of the communion between you and God. This love is made known to us in many ways, and one of them is through the charitable activity of the Church, which is the focus of the second part of the encyclical.


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