True, no one has ever seen God as he is. And yet God is not totally invisible to us; he does not remain completely inaccessible. God loved us first (1 Jn ), and this love of God has appeared in our midst. He has become visible in as much as he “has sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 Jn 4:9). God has made himself visible: in Jesus we are able to see the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Indeed, God is visible in a number of ways. In the love-story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path. Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. In the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives. He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has “loved us first”, love can also blossom as a response within us.
Deus Caritas Est, 17
Reflection – How are we to love? For some this question is more acute and painful than for others. Some people have a certain reservoir of what appears to be ‘natural’ love – a predisposition to like most people, a generally positive view of life and humanity, an easy-going temperament, a natural affection.Others lack this, and struggle mightily to ‘play well with others’ as the saying goes. But for everyone, as the true nature of love, its demands, its cost unfolds itself through our lives, the question becomes acute. How are we to love as we have been commanded to do?
The answer of the Bible, which is the answer of the Pope in this paragraph of the encyclical, and was also one of Catherine Doherty’s favourite quotes is that God loves us first, and his love is meant to become our love.
This means that the first business of life is to live in such a way that we are available to receive God’s love. Without His love we cannot love as we should, and are condemned either to superficial ‘good relationships’ which may be pleasant but don’t really take us anywhere, or to perpetual struggle, conflict, and warfare with the rest of humanity, which takes us somewhere, all right—into deep loneliness and isolation if they are unchecked.
In talking about where we are to go to receive God’s love, the Pope significantly highlights the life of the Church. It is there that: “he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. In the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives”
As we begin today another stretch of ‘ordinary’ time, it is good to reflect on the most basic basics of life. We are to love one another as Christ loves us; this is impossible for us unless Christ is giving us his life; Christ gives us his life through the ministry of the Church. As Porky Pig was wont to say, ‘b’dee, b’dee, b’dee that’s all folks!’
But let’s not kid ourselves. We cannot drift through life just being nice, getting along, playing well with others. The world needs something more from us than that, and it doesn’t really work anyhow, in terms of making us happy.
It’s not complicated, the path that God in Christ has laid out for us in his Church. Not easy, but not complicated. Go to Church, say your prayers, receive the grace of the sacraments, and knock yourself out every day of your life loving and serving and giving to everyone as you are able. That’s all, folks.