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MONDAY HOMILY: Fidelity to the Commandments Draws us into the Love of God

By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
April 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We love God when we choose to love Him, when we direct all our desires to Him, when we seek to know Him, and when we strive to persevere.   For our love of God to be authentic, it must involve our whole being: our intellect, our will, and our desires.  St. Jose Maria Escrivá expressed the love of God in this way, quoting a Spanish ballad: "I have no use for divided hearts: I give mine whole, and not in parts" (The Way, no 145).

CATHOLIC ONLINE (Sugar Land, TX). When asked which of the commandments of the Law was the greatest, Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).  On another occasion, he adds the qualification "all your strength" (Luke 10:27) to the equation.  Clearly, Jesus is interested in a love that is whole, complete, and entire.  

This is the love to which God calls us.  This is the only kind of love that will fulfill us.

We use the word "love" to refer to many different degrees of affection or preference.  We say that we "love" a particular kind of food, entertainment, or sport.  We also say that we "love" our friends and family.  These loves are not equal.  Only by paying attention to the context in which the word is used can we fully appreciate the quality of love to which a person refers.

The language of the Bible, however, admits of a greater nuance.  In the Greek of the New Testament, there are four distinct words that are used for love.  To refer to highest form of love, the sacred writers used the word "agape."  This word refers to a love that is supernatural, all-embracing and sacrificial.

This is how God loves us, and how wants us to love him.

Is it even possible to love God in this way?  How do we engage our mind, heart, soul and strength so that they help us to love God and to grow in that love?  According to St. Thomas Aquinas, these Biblical terms have a specific meaning and correspond to the powers of our soul.

In St. Thomas' understanding, "heart" refers to the human will, the power of decision-making.  "Soul" refers to the passions and appetites. These are powers that move us to some action, whether good or evil.  "Mind" refers to the intellect, the power to know and understand.  "Strength" refers to our commitment to carry through with difficult tasks. 

We love God when we choose to love Him, when we direct all our desires to Him, when we seek to know Him, and when we strive to persevere.   For our love of God to be authentic, it must involve our whole being: our intellect, our will, and our desires.  St. Jose Maria Escrivá expressed the love of God in this way, quoting a Spanish ballad: "I have no use for divided hearts: I give mine whole, and not in parts" (The Way, no 145).

During the Last Supper, Jesus gives his disciples another key for interpreting the quality of their love for God.  "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me" (John 14:21).  Just when we think that the love of God is beyond us, Jesus gives us some concrete direction.  

Obedience to God's commandments draws us into the love of God.

The obey God is not a blind or heartless compliance.  Obedience requires that we listen to God, that we hear him and take his words to heart, acting on them freely and joyously.  God gives us his word through the Sacred Scriptures and in Sacred Tradition, preserved in the constant teaching of the Catholic Church.

And so that our obedience might be animated by joy, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the fruit of a life of fidelity:  "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him" (John 14:23).  Through his gracious love, and with our correspondence to the divine will, God will actually come to live within us by his grace.  What could be more marvelous?  To possess God, not as an idea or desire or memory, but in Himself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes a beautiful prayer of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity that expresses this desire with great simplicity and clarity:

"O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action" (CCC, no. 260).

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Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

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