Most of us realize that life is more than our limited experience of day-to-day activity. We believe there is a God we believe that it is he who sustains the world. We further believe that it is God who made us. But moments of wonder and transcendence do not mean that we know God really loves us. Explaining the world, and especially our own lives, without a personal, sustaining and loving God seems impossible. The alternative is an accident, or worse yet, pure fate!
When John says “God is love” we are prone to think, “That’s really nice.” Then a dozen popular and cheerful songs flood our minds about love, sweet love, what the world needs a little more of we say. We conceive of someone who cheers us up by being sunny and happy. But the biblical writers didn’t sing these kinds of songs or conceive of this kind of sunny personality. They surely didn’t have these ideas in mind when they spoke of God being love. Love, for the biblical writers, is the will to do good for another person, even at great cost to one’s own person. The God who is Trinity is a God who is passionately committed to the good of the other. The God who is Father, Son and Spirit is such a loving God. The Father shares an eternal loving relationship with the Son and is passionate about his well-being. The Son has this same love for his Father. And the Spirit overflows in love for the Father and the Son and is equally committed to whatever is good for them.
Love is the perfection of God’s being. “This means it is not something temporary or accidental to him. All of his being is love. To speak of God apart from his love is to speak of someone other than God” (Kelly M. Kapic, with Justin Borger. God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, pegs 18-19).
The Great Imperative
All true and healthy relationships must be grounded in love or they will not endure to the end. There are many ways to command attention, even to create allegiance, but there is only one way to bind ourselves to one another relationally in the deepest possible way and it is divine love.
Chiara Lubich understood divine well when she said:
God-love, believing in his love, responding to his love by loving, these are the great imperatives today. This is the essential thing that today’s generation has been waiting for. Without it the world is heading for destruction, like a train off the tracks, Discovering, or rather, rediscovering that God is Love is today’s greatest adventure (Essential Writings, 56).
The great imperative is this – we are to love the One who is Love. God’s immense, infinite, tender, immortal and all holy love calls us to love. We love many things. But let us love the One who does not die.
In a June 1944 letter, written during the ravages of war on the ground and in the sky over Northern Italy a young, unmarried, school teacher discovered this life-changing truth. This young woman wrote a personal letter about her discovery of God’s love. She spoke of this discovery as an infusion of “light” and “love.” Through this infusion of the Spirit the love of God became present in her life as she’d never known. She wrote extensively of this love to a friend.
You have been blinded with me by the fiery brilliance of an Ideal that exceeds all things and contains all: by the infinite love of God! It is he, he my God and your God, who has established a bond between us that is stronger than death . . . . It is Love who has called us to love! It is love who has spoken to the deaths of our hearts and told us: “Look around you. Everything in the world passes away. Every day sees its evening, and how quickly each evening comes . . . Love that which does not die! Love the one who is love!” Love, love, love. People are created to love. Yes there is suffering in the world, but for the one who loves, suffering is nothing; even martyrdom is a song! Even the cross is a song. God is love! Every suffering is a sure test of love, its unmistakable divine seal. . . . Therefore we cannot let any sorrow in our lives go by without accepting it and desiring it, so as to prove to God, who is infinite love, our own little but steadfast love! Let’s leave out hearts with just one desire: to love! Let’s let out minds be intent on confronting our every thought with the infinite and immense love of God (Marisa Cerini, God Who is Love in the Experience and Thought of Chiara Lubich. Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 1992, 15-16).
God is love. This is the “name of the one who is” (Pope John Paul II). Think about this for a moment – the name of the God who is, the one who is the holy creator and redeemer, is Love. A modern theologian, grasping for expressing this truth, concludes:
God, whose essence is life and love . . . for this reason can be the God of human beings and the God of history. . . . that love is the ultimate purpose of every reality. This Christian conception of reality is so revolutionary in interpreting what is real, that it is difficult to imagine something greater (cited by Marisa Cerini in God Who Is Love in the Experience and Thought of Chaira Lubich, 18, translated into English from a 1974 article by a European theologian published in a German theological quarterly).