Friday, March 18, 2011

Reciprocal Love

"Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10), love is now no longer a mere 'command,' it is the response to the gift of love which God draws near to us." Deus Caritas Est 1

Christianity is a contiuation of the Shemah. Pope Benedict shares this insight. The Shemah is the prayer of Israel. They have it on their foreheads and on their door posts. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your hear, and with all your soul, and with all your might," (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). This was the command given to Israel from the Father at Sinai.

The devout Jew utters this prayer throughout the day reminding himself to follow the law. Jesus "came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it," (Matthew 5:17). So what does this mean for us as Christians, this Shemah of Israel?

Well, with Jesus it takes on a new light. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be expiation for our sins," (1 John 4:10). This is the verse to which the Holy Father alluded. Not that we first loved God (we are not the initiators of this relationship between human and divine), but He first loved us. Therefore, our love for Him is no longer a command, as in the Shemah, but a response.

Our love for God is a response to His love for us. We first experience this love as children in the faith. We experience it most powerfully in our first conversion experience. We experience it at the proclamation of the Gospel during the Liturgy of the Word. We experience it even more so at the Liturgy of the Eucharist where that event is re-presented, becomes present for us. We experience it when we receive the sacrament of penance.

Then, what is our response but to love back. We give back to God what He has given us, by giving ourselves fully to Him just as He gave Himself for us. There is no holding back. It must be our all.

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