The Surreal Love of God

All the readings this Sunday speak of love – God’s love. Each reading is so replete with spiritual richness, that I am overwhelmed and at a loss on how to justly unpack such precious gems. And so, I decided to share just a simple reflection from each reading.

The first reading tells us that God’s love is universal. It is offered to all, not only to the Israelites but to all peoples. When Peter saw Cornelius and his family receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who is “God’s love poured into our hearts,” (Rm 5:5) he could only say, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” Thus, he proceeded without hesitation to baptize the entire Gentile household.

The recent Vatican document, Infinite Dignity, confirms this basic truth – that we are all precious in God’s eyes and that our dignity is as infinite as God’s own because he created us in his image and redeemed us by the blood of his Son. Thus, there is no room for prejudice and discrimination but only respect and love for everyone, no matter his status, condition, orientation, background, etc. The document calls this innate and inalienable dignity of every human person his ontological dignity.

In the second reading, St. John exhorts us to love one another because love comes from God. In no uncertain terms, he states that the origin of love is God, who is love. Thus, when he speaks of love, he primarily speaks of God. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love starts from God. It is his initiative. It is unearned and is given gratuitously. Our love then can only be a response. “We love because he first loved us.” (1Jn 4:19) We cannot love unless we have experienced love.

We see this truth everyday in life. Children who grow up deprived of love find difficulty in learning how to love. A broken relationship is restored and healed only when one party dares to offer love despite the hurt and injustice. Love begets love. This what God shows us when he “sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”

Our gospel passage is even more mind-blowing. It continues last Sunday’s gospel reading and is taken from Chapter 15 of John. This chapter is dense with insights and images of the most important teachings of Jesus on love. I will dwell only on the dynamics of God’s love as described by Jesus.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”

The movement of love starts from the Father and passes on to the Son. In turn the Son passes it on to us. “As the Father loves me, so I also I love you.” Which means that Jesus loves us with the same love that the Father loves him. How awesome! Which means that the Father loves us, his adopted sons and daughters, with the same love he loves Jesus, his natural Son. Can anything be more surreal?

He reiterates the same message at the end of his Priestly Prayer. “[Father,] I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” (Jn 17:26)

“Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” Jesus remains in his Father’s love by keeping his Father’s commandments. Likewise, he asks us to remain in his love by obeying his commandments. Here we touch the very essence of love – obedience. Ultimately love consists in the union of wills. Jesus surrendered his will to the Father (“Not my will, but yours be done.” – Lk 22:42), and thus proved his love for him. (“He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross!” – Ph 2:8)

We too remain in Jesus’ love by obeying his commandment. And what is his commandment? “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” Here we come to full circle in the movement of God’s love. The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves us with the Father’s love. And now he asks us to love one another with his own love. He commands us to bring his own love (which is the Father’s love) to our brothers and sisters. Thus, he brings us into God’s own life and ushers us into the divine loop of love.

In the Salesian Constitutions, the Salesian is defined as “a sign and bearer of God’s love for the young.” This is true for all of us. We remain in Jesus’ love by being bearers of God’s love for our brothers and sisters.

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