DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 18, 1999     vol. 10, no. 198


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      Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II from last Wednesday October 13 on the second Wednesday of October during his weekly Wednesday Papal Audience at St. Peter's Square where the Holy Father spoke about the ultimate love God has for man through His creation and imparting the commandments to show man how to live in grace. The Holy Father traces this love from the Old Testament to the fulfillment of Love in the New Testament when He sent His only-begotten Son - the ultimate sign of Love - and Jesus exhibited His ultimate sign of Love by dying for us after teaching us of His Love. The Vicar of Christ completes his catechesis "The Theological Virtue of Love: Love for God" by showing how the Holy Spirit reinforces and perpetuates that Love from God and in us. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency, article ZE99101321.

"The Theological Virtue of Love: Love for God"

Papal Audience Address from Wednesday, October 13, 1999

        On this past Wednesday, the Holy Father addressed over 16,000 in St. Peter's Square as the crowds continue to swell. He called all to practice the theological virtue of charity with a special emphasis on loving God for through obedience to Him we show the greatest love toward God and are enabled to nourish that through the Holy Spirit Who, along with Jesus, brings us to the Father.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    1. In Ancient Israel the fundamental commandment of love for God was inserted into their daily prayer: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest."

        At the root of this command to love God in a total way we find the love which God Himself bears for humanity. He awaits a true and proper response of love from the people he loves with a preferential love. He is a jealous God (cf. Ex 20:5), who cannot tolerate idolatry, to which his people are continually tempted. Hence the commandment: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ibid., v. 3).

        Israel continually grows in the understanding that beyond this relationship of profound respect and exclusive adoration, they must have a childlike and even nuptial attitude towards the Lord. The Song of Songs is intended and read as such, transfiguring the beauty of human love in the spousal dialogue between God and His people.

        The Book of Deuteronomy recalls two essential characteristics of this love. The first is that man would never be worthy of this love, if God did not give him the strength, through "circumcision of the heart" (cf. Dt 30:6), to rid the heart of every attachment to sin. The other characteristic is that, far from being mere feeling, this love is a concrete "walking in the ways" of God, and observing "his commandments, decrees and ordinances" (Ibid., v.16).

    2. The precept of Deuteronomy returns unaltered in the teaching of Jesus, Who defines it as "the greatest and first of the commandments," strictly uniting it to the love of neighbor (cf Mt 22:34-40). Reproposing the precept in the same terms as the Old Testament, Jesus shows that on this point revelation has already reached its apex.

        At the same time, precisely in the person of Jesus, the sense of this commandment assumes its fullness. In him, in fact, the maximum intensity of man's love for God is realized. From now on, to love God with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength means to love this God who is revealed in Christ, and to love Him with Christ's love, infused in us "through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).

    3. Love constitutes the essence of the new "commandment" taught by Jesus. It is in effect the soul of all commandments, the observance of which confirms and even becomes the clear demonstration of love for God: "For the love of God is this, that we obey His commandments" (1 John 5:3). This love, which is complete love for Jesus, represents the condition for being loved by the Father: "Whoever has My commandments and observes them is the one who loves Me. And whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him" (John 14:21).

        Love for God, made possible by the gift of the Spirit, is founded on the mediation of Jesus, as he Himself affirmed in His priestly prayer: "I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved Me may be in them and I in them" (John 17:26). This mediation is made concrete above all in the gift that he made of His life, the gift that gave the greatest love a sweeping testimony, by requiring from others the observance of what Jesus commands: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:13-14).

        Christian love draws from this wellspring of love, which is Jesus, the Son of God offered for us. The capacity to love as God loves is offered to every Christian as the fruit of the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection.

    4. The Church has expressed this sublime reality by teaching that love is a theological virtue. It is worthy of being called a virtue directly referring to God, and allows the human creature to enter into the circuit of Trinitarian love. In fact, God the Father loves us as He loves Christ, seeing in us His image. This image is, so to speak, painted in us by the Spirit, Who like an "iconographer" accomplishes it in time.

        It is also always the Holy Spirit Who designs the fundamental lines of the Christian response in the depths of our person. The dynamism of love for God springs forth as such from a sort of "connaturality" accomplished by the Holy Spirit Who, according to traditional Eastern language, "divinizes" us.

        In the strength of the Holy Spirit, love inspires the moral action of the Christian, and directs and reinforces all the other virtues, which build in us the structure of the new man. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "the exercise of all the virtues is animated and inspired by love. This is the 'chain of perfection' (Col 3:14); it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and coordinates them; it is the source and end of their Christian practice. Love guarantees and purifies our human capacity to love. It elevates to the supernatural perfection of divine love" (N. 1827). As Christians, we are always those called to love.

October 18, 1999       volume 10, no. 198


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