Saint Raymond of Penyafort (Optional Memorial)

 

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.

 

What exactly “love” means is subject to any number of interpretations.   St. John, however, is clear and specific.   Love comes from God. John also tells us what love looks like:   God sending his own Son to pardon all of our sins and offer us a personal relationship with him.   Think about that for a moment.   God’s love, which comes first, is costly to himself but free to us.

First.   God’s love always comes first.   Before it even dawned on you to receive his love or to love him back, he was already pouring his love upon you.   Before you had any idea of following him, he loved you and sent his Son for you.   Before your baptism, your confirmation, or any conscious decision to love and serve him, God made a way for you to do it.   Even should you never accept it, God would still offer you his love fully and unconditionally.

Costly.   Love is not just kind feelings or well-wishing aimed at other people—even people who have hurt us or disappointed us.   Neither is it just a broad tolerance of different types of people.   Love, as God himself showed us, is giving another person something precious to you.   Sometimes it’s your time, like when you put down the novel you are reading to help your spouse find the car keys. Sometimes it’s your forgiveness.   Or your patience.   Or your listening ear.   It could be any number of things.   Mostly, love is laying down—sacrificing—your desires and preferences in order to lift up someone else.

Free.   Love is giving without expecting or demanding anything in return.   It’s giving what you have so that someone else might have it too:  the comfort of your presence at a hospital bedside, an encouraging word to a dejected friend, some spare change offered to a homeless man.   It’s a free gift, a gift that brings you as much joy giving it away as it brings to the person receiving it.   If it is valuable to you and if you freely give it to someone else, that is love.

Isn’t this what God did when he sent his Son to live among us?

“Father, thank you for your love: first, costly, and free.   Help me to love as you have loved me.”

Psalm 72:1-4, 7-8
Mark 6:34-44

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