The True Love of God

    Deposed Christ Embracing Bernard of Clairvaux, by Francesc Ribalta (17th c.)

    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind…. You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself (Mt. 22:40). ⧾

    Our Gospel text contains what is sometimes referred to as the Great Commandment; encompassing both the love of God and the love of neighbour. This formula is a summary of the Ten Commandments. It is a summary of Christian moral teaching and of the natural law; unchanging moral principles that are the basis for all human conduct, without exception. It is important for us to understand that fidelity to the commandments given to us by God has as its ultimate goal the sharing of God’s own life for eternity. Nevertheless, this fidelity also impacts on how we live our earthly life. This is self-evident. The Gospel liberates. Following Christ is the greatest good for man. This is an undeniable historical fact which we can unequivocally affirm by appealing not only to the witness of history but also to our own experience of life in the family of faith that is the Church. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. It is this love, perhaps better expressed as charity that urges us on (Cf. 2 Cor. 5:14). This is the fundamental and essential difference between philanthropy and charity; the former is human, the latter is divine. God commands us to love because He Himself is Love and He created us to share for eternity in this Communion of Love which we sometimes refer to as the Beatific Vision (visio beatifica).

    In Heaven, we will behold God face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). Indeed, we will have direct knowledge of Him and so experience perfect fulfillment. All too often Heaven is trivialized, but sometimes it is possible to grasp something of the reward of Heaven.  Recently I came across a description of Heaven by a young woman dying of cancer. She said Heaven is my mother’s love for me, only times a hundred times greater. As touching as this is, Heaven is infinitely more than this. According to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, In Heaven…we shall plunge the gaze of our intellect into the depths of [God’s] inner life seen directly. God will thus give Himself immediately to us and we shall give ourselves to Him…beatific love will be in us as a consequence of the immediate vision of the divine essence…We shall see His infinite goodness and beauty so clearly that we shall be unable not to love Him…In Heaven the love of God and the joy of possessing Him will necessarily follow the beatific vision, which will thus be the essence of our beatitude (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, “The True Nature of Christian Perfection, The Three Stages of the Interior Life, Vol. I, Ch. 8).

    Heaven is the goal of human existence; and next Sunday as we celebrate the great Feast of All Saints we will celebrate all those souls, known and unknown, who have reached this goal in the Communion of Saints. As we sing in the well-known hymn: O Great Communion, fellowship divine, we feebly struggle; they in glory shine…Yet all are one. We on earth who feebly struggle are one with all the Saints in Heaven and this should give us both strength and hope to persevere in the faith amidst our own struggles and difficulties. The Communion of Saints that we profess in the Creed each Sunday is the goal and purpose of human life. The Communion of Saints affirms the unity of the Church which we also profess in the Creed. All of God’s people, in Heaven, in Purgatory and here on earth; we are united as one body.

    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind…. You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself (Mt. 22:40). The Great Commandment engages us completely in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy which include prayers for the living and the dead. This is beautifully asserted in the Canon of the Mass; the ancient Eucharistic Prayer that includes a memento, a remembrance of prayer for both the living and our beloved dead. The Mass is truly both the feast of faith and the school of faith; if we pray the Mass attentively and devoutly we are given at almost every turn a lesson for life – life here on earth and life eternal. It is no exaggeration to say that the Mass is everything. If there is so much confusion, sadness and disarray in our once Catholic countries and communities, in no small measure it is because in such great numbers we have turned away from the source of all good and holiness here on earth.  St. Padre Pio was correct when he said: It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.

    Our faith when taken seriously is an ever deeper journey into the Mystery of God’s Trinitarian Love. If we follow Our Lord who became Man for our salvation, we will keep His Commandments, we will live the Beatitudes of His Gospel, we will practise His Works of Mercy; and so we shall be all the more capable of perceiving His Presence here and so live in the certainty of Heaven’s reward, our life’s goal. Those who live for Heaven build up the Kingdom of God on earth though never neglecting that this  Kingdom is no less an interior, spiritual reality (Cf. Lk. 17:21) which in Heaven we will possess with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind.