The Important Need in Order to Love God
There was a well-known evangelical preacher based in the south who did not like Catholicism. I don’t think he was against Catholics as people but he did not like our faith. He said that it was a system of salvation.
His point reflects a misunderstanding of what we truly believe.
Today, we see in the Gospel the two commandments on which the ten are based. If we want to understand the ten we need to first understand these two. Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind and strength. Love you neighbor as yourself.
Now many people focus on the word commandment. This is what I must do to be saved. Or this is what I mustn’t do to be saved. However, the operative word there is love.
Now I am going to ask you a question to reflect on during the week. How do you know how to love God if you do not know the experience of being loved by God. If you focus on the word commandment and not on the word love, you will try to do what God says without the experience of knowing God. If you focus on the word love you will have no need to comprehend the word commandment because it will follow that you will live the commandment automatically because you are trying to love.
However, you cannot love God if you do not know the love of God. So that is the first step.
In the first letter of John there is an important explanation about this love because he says that it is not that we love God, but that he loved us first. If we want to know how to love God, we must first know the love of God. We must first know that God loves us and experience that love. We cannot do that if we are trying hard work to earn his love by trying to do the right thing.
Further, we cannot claim we love God if we are disobeying him. We are disobeying him because we do not love him as he calls us to love him.
So we need to experience his love first. How do we do that if we have not done so.
That is to pray and ask the lord to show us his love in our lives if we have not done so.
That is why prayer is so important.
Do you not need to show others that you love them? The flowers at time, the well-cooked meal at another the little gifts, the words. If we need to show others in little ways that we love them and we them to show that to us why could not believe we need the same from God even as we try to show God our love for him.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that every law aims at establishing friendship either person to person or person to God. If we do not understand that then we may blindly follow the laws because they are laws. That is when we focus on the word commandment and not on the word love.
One of the greatest ways to learn to be open to God’s love is to be thankful for all his gifts.
Let me give you an example: People are often looking for signs of God’s existence and they look for them in miracles. However, they do not see the miracles that happen every day. How many of you have experienced any kind of a physical wound from a paper cut to a third degree burn. How often have you see the wound heal. We take that for granted but can you actually tell me that is not a miracle? It is a natural process but we did not invent it, it is part of the construct of our biology. Can you tell me that is not something for which to be thankful?
Do you thank God for your meals? I don’t mean saying the rote grace: “Bless us O Lord for these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty to Christ Our Lord Amen.” You can easily say a more from the heart grace quietly in your mind as you begin your meal. Thank you Lord for this food.
I do my own cooking and I still remember to this. I may love the food I cooked but I only cooked it, God provided the raw materials.
But do not stop there, ask the Lord to show you his love for you. You need that to understand how to love Him. Remember this is about a relationship. Just as God calls you to love him, you need to experience his love for you. Otherwise, how are you going to learn how to love him?
What was the fight between the pharisees and Jesus about? The pharisees followed rules and Jesus commanded that they act in love.
They followed the rules without love and if you read the gospels carefully you will notice that they grow harder and harder in their hearts. Christ tried to lead them to understand the law and prophets but they could not.
We are in the midst of the election season and we learn that many people have a profound hatred for Christians and especially Catholics. Why? Because they do not see love, they see commands. They do not understand the commands because they do not know the love.
I always like to bring up the archbishop, not our own, who wrote about the need to live lives of virtue and in his entire column not one word about prayer. Not one word. Two other bishops celebrated his column saying yes people have to learn to live virtuous lives. Neither of them commented that there was not one word about prayer. That is focusing on the word command and not on the word love.
If you focus on the word love you will follow the command. You will also live a virtuous life because you learn virtue helps you give and receive love better.
So back to the question I asked earlier: How you know how to love God if you do not know the experience of being loved by God? Answer is the difference between seeing our faith as a relationship with Christ or a system it was the latter idea that the evangelical preacher hated.