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
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