I concluded last week by proclaiming that God really loves us! But let me begin this week's reflection by stating that in addition to the fact that He loves us, He actually likes us! I use the word “like” because that gives an affective, personal dimension to God’s love. God’s love for us is not general. It is specific and individual. It is personal delight. He delights in us; He delights in you! How else do we explain the above words?
How else do we explain ourselves? God’s love for me is the answer to the question “who am I?” Blessed John Paul II wrote in Redemptor Hominis: "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself; his life is meaningless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”
God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and He loves us (1 Jn 4:10; Rom 5:8; Gal 2:20). And His love is so powerful that it makes us His children, it makes us His sons (1 Jn 3:1-2). But, do we believe in this reality? Are we really aware of it? Do we feel it and live from it? The answer to these questions will determine our ability to discern, choose and live out our vocations in joy and peace; in a word, the answer to these questions will determine our happiness!
God desires that we would believe in His love and yes, He also desires that we would feel it. We are created to share in His happiness and in order to do so we need more than a merely general, intellectual knowledge of His love. We need an emotional, experiential, heart-knowledge of it. Really the same goes for our relationship with others; it’s not enough to know in our heads that we’re loved, we need to know in our hearts. God made us so that the heart has primacy over the head. The heart is supposed to lead the head; the head is supposed to serve the heart, because the heart is the place of loving-encounter--with God and others--the seat of true happiness.
While God’s love is certainly not reducible to an emotional experience, He does want it to touch us on that level. Our experience of an emotional love for God can actually lead us to a deeper and lasting faith and the higher, sacrificial love that Jesus ultimately calls all of His disciples to. The Saints and Mystics often speak of their union with God in personal, passionate, emotionally charged and poetic language. The Bible itself, especially in the Song of Songs, uses powerful, romantic and even sensual imagery to describe God’s passionate love for us and our response to that love.
Brothers, the beginning and end of all formation—human and spiritual—is the personal love of God for us. We are loved! The Christian life has been described as a passage from being loved by God without knowing it to being loved by God and knowing it. Knowing His love is a must for both discerning and answering God’s call. And proper development and maturation of our emotional lives is a must for knowing His love. Therefore, our series on human formation by exploring God’s plan for our emotional growth. Stay tuned…
God bless you all,
Fr. Isaac Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary