DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 11, 1999     vol. 10, no. 193


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      Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II from last Wednesday October 6 on the first Wednesday of October during his weekly Wednesday Papal Audience at St. Peter's Square where the Holy Father spoke about how man "is called to love God with total commitment and, in his relationship with his brothers and sisters, to display a love inspired by that very love of God. Conversion means to convert oneself to love." After recalling the mercy of God during the Old Testament, the Pontiff stated that the New Testament "presents us the dynamism of love centered on Jesus, beloved Son of the Father." He finished his talk "WHO LOVES HAS KNOWN GOD, BECAUSE GOD IS LOVE" with the words, that "the Paraclete is the One thanks to Whom we experience God's paternal love. The living experience of the Father and the Son comes about in love, that is to say, in the last analysis, in the Holy Spirit." The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency, article ZE99100620.


Papal Audience Address from Wednesday, October 6, 1999

        On this past Wednesday, the Holy Father addressed over 18,000 in St. Peter's Square as the crowds continue to swell. He called all to practice the theological virtue of charity for in loving others, we better can relate to God's love for us and grow steadily in our love for Him. That was the gist of his talk, "Who loves has known God, because God is Love."

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    1. Conversion, a topic which we met in earlier catecheses, is directed toward the practice of the commandment of love. It is particularly opportune, in this year of the Father, to highlight the theological virtue of love, according to the directives in the Apostolic Letter, "Tertio Millennio Adveniente" (cf n. 50).

        The Apostle John urges: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God: everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love has not known God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

        While revealing to us the very essence of God as mystery of infinite love, these sublime words are also the foundation of Christian ethics, which is based on the commandment of love. We are called to love God with total commitment, and to relate to our brothers and sisters with an attitude of love inspired by the love of God Himself. To be converted means to convert to love.

        Even in the Old Testament the profound dynamic of this commandment can be found in the covenental relationship God established with Israel: we have on the one hand the initiative of God's love, and on the other, the response of love which he expects. Here is an example of the divine initiative in the book of Deuteronomy: "It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you -- for you were the least of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you" (Deuteronomy 7: 7-8). The fundamental commandment corresponds to this totally free, preferential love, which inspires all the religiosity of Israel: "You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength" (Ibid., 6:5).

    2. The God who loves is not a remote God, but one who intervenes in history. When he reveals his name to Moses, he does so to assure him of his loving assistance in the salvific Exodus event, an assistance that would endure for ever (cf Exodus 3:15). Through the words of the prophets, he continually reminds his people of this gesture of his love. For example, we read in Jeremiah: "Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought a quiet dwelling, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jeremiah 31: 2-3).

        This love takes on a tone of immense tenderness (cf. Hosea 11: 8 ff.; Jer 31: 20) and usually avails itself of paternal images. However, it also is sometimes expressed by a nuptial metaphor: "I will take you for my wife forever, I will take you for my wife in justice and in righteousness, in mercy and in love" (Hosea 2:21, cf vv. 18-25).

        Even after his people are repeatedly unfaithful to the covenant, God still offers his love. He creates in them a new heart that makes them worthy of accepting his law without reservation, as we read in the prophet Jeremiah: "I will put my law within them, I will write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33). In the same way, we read in Ezekiel: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take from you the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).

    3. The New Testament presents us with this dynamic of love as centered in Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father (cf Jn 3:35; 5:20; 10:17), Who is revealed through Him. Those participating in this love know the Son, accepting His teaching and redemptive work.

        It is not possible to enter into the Father's love without imitating the Son, and thereby observing the Father's commandments: "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (Ibid., 15:9-10). In this way we also participate in the Son's knowledge of the Father: "I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father" (Ibid., v. 15).

    4. Love allows us to enter fully into the filial life of Jesus, making us sons in the Son: "See what great love the Father has given us, that we should be called sons of God, and we really are! The reason the world does not know us is because it did not know him" (1 John 3:1). Love transforms our lives and enlightens our knowledge of God, until we arrive at that perfect knowledge of he whom St. Paul speaks: "Now I know only imperfectly, but then I will know perfectly, even as I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

        The relationship between knowledge and love must be emphasized. The intimate conversion which Christianity proposes is an authentic experience of God, as indicated by Jesus in the priestly prayer during the Last Supper: "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent" (John 17:3). Of course, knowledge of God has an intellectual aspect (cf Romans 1:19-20). But the living experience of the Father and the Son happens in love. In the last analysis, it happens in the Holy Spirit, so that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5).

        The Paraclete is the One who enables us to experience God's paternal love. The most consoling effect of his presence in us is precisely the conviction that we will never lose this everlasting and immeasurable love, with which God has always loved us: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?... I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord"(Ibid., 8:35, 38-39). The new heart, which loves and knows, beats in unison with God, who loves with an everlasting love.

October 11, 1999       volume 10, no. 193


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