That virtue called love
In these last days before we enter the penitential season, love is in the air. No, we are not referring to the commercialization of the feast of the holy martyr St. Valentine, but rather a reminder of how much God loves us that the Father sent His only-begotten Son that we might have life everlasting and have it abundantly as Christ affirmed in St. John 10: 10. It has often been said that love begins in the heart, and it does but in a way few are willing to recognize for that heart, which miraculously is the core of life fashioned by God to pump blood to our mortal bodies will cease once the blood stops flowing and the flesh withers and dies. But how we lived while that heart was working is the key to whether the real core of our lives - the soul - lives on in eternal bliss or is relegated to the abyss of hell to forever suffer. Therefore, the Infinite established two great commandments for finite man to follow, to love God first and foremost, and then to love ourselves and our fellow man because of our love for Him. Jesus said it so clearly that one cannot love Him if one does not keep His Commandments. Yet so few realize this fact and therein lies the biggest obstacle to true love.
Editor's Note: This series is an effort to return to basics since too often we all make the holy Faith complicated, whereas in reality the truths and traditions of the Catholic Faith are quite simple. God doesn't complicate things, man does. Realizing the fact that, for many generations indoctrinated by conciliar ambiguities, it all seems so confusing, we are introducing this series which is an adaptation of an earlier series titled "Appreciating the Precious Gift of the Faith" in utilizing a combination of the excellent compendium of the late Bishop Morrow's pre-Vatican II Manual of Religion My Catholic Faith and Dom Prosper Gueranger's incomparable The Liturgical Year as well as the out-of-print masterpieces The Catholic Church Alone The One True Church(1902) and the Cabinet of Catholic Information (1903). Through prayer and discussions, we've decided to employ this revised series to simplify the tenets of the Faith for those who continue to wallow in what they think is the 'Catholic Church' out of obedience to a man and his hierarchy who long ago betrayed Christ and His flocks. This then, is an affirmation of the basic truths the Spotless Bride of Christ has always taught and cannot change or evolve as "living documents" for truth is truth. As we say every day in the Act of Faith, "We believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived." If you have been deceived, and the vast majority have been, then realize what you've been indoctrinated with over the past 50 years cannot be from God but from His adversary. Our advice: flee the conciliar confines as well as other man-made religions which do not teach these truths without compromise. Seek out a traditional chapel nearest to you. There is a list of churches you can absolutely trust at Traditional Latin Masses
(St. Matthew 22:40)
Love of God first and foremost
The love of God causes us to hate sin and do good. St. Mary Magdalen after her conversion, loved God fully. She hated sin so much that she never again committed any, although she had previously been a great sinner.
The two great commandments that contain the whole law of God are: first, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength; second, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed to us the two great commandments. Once a doctor of the law asked Jesus: "'Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?' Jesus said to him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord they God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'" (St. Matthew 22: 36-39).
The Love of God is the greatest commandment, because it includes all other commandments. If we truly love God, we will do nothing to offend Him. We would not commit sin, because sin is displeasing to Him. We would obey all the commandments. Not only that; if we truly love Him, we will do things which He does not require, but which we know will please Him.
The two great commandments are inseparably united, so that one cannot be observed without the other. As Holy Scripture says, "If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, is a liar" (1 John 4:20).
The greater our love of God, the more we shall love our fellowmen. And the more zealously we help our fellowmen for God's sake, the more perfectly we serve God. Our love of God can best be gauged by our love of neighbor.
More specifically, the first great commandment embraces the first three of the Ten Commandments; the second great commandment embraces the last seven. The two great commandments affect and control all the powers of man: his will, his understanding, his emotions, and his actions. Would we not have a perfect world, needing no other laws, if all men obeyed these two commandments strictly? For this reason our Lord made sure all realized that on those two commandments rested the entire law and what the prophets had foretold as indicated in his words of St. Matthew 22: 40.
We should love God because: He is infinitely good and perfect and worthy of love. "One there is Who is good, that is God" (St. Matthew 19:17).
We can see the goodness and perfection of God all around us. If we meditate on His goodness, we shall never tire of loving Him. We love our parents and friends because they are good. Their goodness is nothing compared to the goodness of God.
He loves us, and is always doing good to us. We only have to think of ourselves and our lives to find an innumerable number of favors He has granted us.
He wants and commands us to love Him. We are God's creatures. His slightest desires are law to us. How much more should we obey His solemn commands? Our Lord said very clearly: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with they whole mind, and with thy whole strength" (St. Mark 12:30).
Our love of God is perfect when we love Him above all things for His own sake. We love God above all things when we would rather lose life, property, friends, and all things else, rather than offend Him; when we are ready to do anything in order to resemble Him, to give Him pleasure.
"He who loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me" (St. Matthew 10:37). God permits us to love creatures, urges us to love our fellowmen; but such love must be only for God's sake, subject to the love of God. God wishes us to love Him in His creatures, not the creatures for their own sakes. He will not take second place in our affections. "I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous" (Exodus 20:5). He will not permit us to love anything which detracts one whit from our complete love of Him.
We love God for His own sake when we love Him for His infinite perfection. We love God for His own sake when we love Him because He is the highest good and most worthy of love.
Our love of God is not perfect when we love Him only because He gives us gifts, or threatens us with punishment, or promises us Heaven. Nevertheless, imperfect love of God is often the beginning of perfect love. Little by little perfect love develops from it.
We prove our love of God by obedience to His Commandments. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (St. John 14:15). We show our love more by deeds than by words. St. John says: "My dear children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed" (1 John 3:18).
The love of God is not a mere delight in thinking of Him; it consists rather of an act of the will, to live a godly life on account of that love. However, the love of God also makes us speak and think of Him frequently, since it is a human trait to do so regarding the object of affection. One who loves God is united with Him at every moment in every fiber of his being: in thought, word, and deed. "Where thy treasure is, there thy heart also will be" (St. Matthew 6:21).
We show greater love, when we not only avoid what God forbids, but do what will give Him pleasure. Thus God does not command us to go to Mass every day, but if we do so, He is pleased by this mark of our love.
We increase our love of God by loving Him. "Practice makes perfect." The more we love Him, the more we can love Him. Every piece of good work we do makes us grow in God's love. We show our love of God by accepting all that comes from His hand. One who habitually murmurs at all inconveniences, sickness, misfortune, etc. does not possess Christian love of God, Who never promised us deliverance from all earthly ills.
Love of One's Self for One's Own Salvation
God commands us to love ourselves. We must thus care for both our body and our soul. Since the soul is far more precious than the body, we should give it more careful attention. Every day we must pray for grace to live according to God's most holy will. Care for the body includes taking proper treatment and medicine when we are ill. Anything against health violates the duty to love ourselves.
We must love ourselves because: God wishes and requires it. Our Lord said: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). Thus He made the love of self the measure of love for others. Saint Augustine says: "Learn first to love God, then to love thyself, then thy neighbor as thyself." Each man is his own closest neighbor.
We are made after God's image. We must therefore reverence God's image in ourselves, just as we are bound to respect it in our neighbor, even our worst enemy.
We are redeemed by the blood of Christ. We are bought with a great price. We must be very precious in God's sight. Saint Peter says: "You were redeemed from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, not with perishable things, with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18).
By the merits of Jesus Christ we are made children of God and temples of the Holy Ghost. Because of that we are the caretakers of our body as well as our soul. Should we not love ourselves as such, if only to show reverence for God? "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). "Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, Who is in you?" (1 Corinthians 6:19).
We are destined to live eternally with God and the angels in Heaven. This dignity should prompt us to love ourselves in the manner God intended and to live in compliance with the divine Will. The end of man is the glory of God and the salvation of his own soul. We must have care, love of ourselves, in order to save ourselves for God. For this reason, we should even love ourselves more than others; we have a greater duty to ourselves than to others. This should not be interpreted, however, as meaning that we should not sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others; for, as we shall see, self-sacrifice is not only possible, but most desirable.
True love of self consists in avoiding sin and practicing virtue. "Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter that way. How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it" (St. Matthew 7: 13-14).
We must first assure our eternal salvation, before we attend to earthly things which are but means to our last end. "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice: and all these things shall be added unto you" (St. Matthew 6:33).
We should care more for our soul than for the ease of our body. If we lose our soul, we lose everything. We should provide for our bodily needs, such as food, clothing, etc., but without excessive solicitude. They are only means by which we may ascend to God. "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary" (St. Luke 10: 41-42).
It is against true love of self to strive only after earthly possessions and honors and neglect eternal salvation.
Earthly riches and honors are not good in themselves, but are good only as a means for attaining eternal happiness. They are not to be used to gratify our senses, our pride, arrogance, conceit, or vanity, but only to help us go closer to God.
Love of self includes love and care of the body, for our body is a gift of God, that we should treat as such. Our body is united with our soul, and is the soul's instrument for good, for the attainment of our end, eternal happiness. "God did not create us as disembodies souls; it is His will that we work out our salvation in this world, our soul inhabiting our body. As the instrument of the soul, the body must not be misused. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body...And do not yield your members to sin as weapons of iniquity, but present your members as weapons of justice for God" (Romans 6: 12-13).
We should have the greatest respect and reverence for our body. We should never defile it by sin, for it is destined to live forever in Heaven. We should guard our eyes, ears, tongue, and hands carefully, because sin enters the soul by the five senses. As indicated earlier, our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is like a monstrance holding God. St. Peter spoke of his body as a "tabernacle."
Some people are very particular about keeping their body clean. They frequently soap and wash their hands, and disinfect them after touching dirty things. But they are not so careful about avoiding sins that make their body so dirty that no disinfectant can purify it.
We do not love our body when we indulge it in vanity, or too much comfort, or by gratifying its every passion. By such indulgence we rather hate our body, because we bring upon it eternal punishment. The saints mortified their bodies. That is how they understood the words of our Lord: "For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, and for the gospel, shall save it" (St. Mark 8:35).
True love of self also ordinarily includes care for one's reputation and temporal goods. A good reputation is a precious possession, useful for both time and eternity. By a good reputation one can do much good; being well-thought of, he can be of influence over others, as well as more encouraged by himself to lead an upright life.
Our Lord Himself said: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in Heaven" (St. Matthew 5:16). And the Apostle reiterates the same advice when he said, "Let your moderation be known to all men" (Philippians 4:5).
Temporal goods are useful as a means for obtaining spiritual riches. By them we can help the needy, promote religion, gain ascendancy for the common good. As with our body and our reputation, we should use riches only for the glory of God and the welfare of ourselves and our fellow men. When put to the right use, all these make us truly rich in the eyes of God. Then we shall have no fear at death, when God says to us, "Give an account of thy stewardship : for now thou canst be steward no longer" (St. Luke 16:2).
Previously: Step Twenty-six: Blessed are they who...
Catholicism Made Simple