Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Loving substance

It's a bit of an eye-opener when you see the question,  "what is love?" in an RS exam and see that they've only allowed two marks for the answer. Can we really sum up Love in a sentence where saints, poets and novelists have written libraries? Students are encouraged to be succinct, in which case you could say with St Thomas Aquinas that "to love is to will the good of the other". This still does not say explicitly what love is: we still have to understand what "will" and "good" are.

First, we have to see that Our Lord shows us that "to will" is not passive. We cannot sit down at a desk and say that we love our enemies because we will them nothing but good. This isn't what "will" means. It is a confusion with the word "wish". Our will consists in the capacity to choose between options the result of which usually is a clear outcome. We can wish someone well but that needs no further action on our part. Think of how decisive we are when we respond with "I will do this"!

Human beings are interesting in that it is in our nature both to love and to hate. Humanity possesses a peculiar rationality in which we can choose to act reasonably or unreasonably. Only a truly rational being can be foolish. We can choose what is truly bad over what is truly good. We can even choose to define what "good" and "bad" mean for us irrespective of how else they might be defined. And that's a problem. It's a problem that we face in this very day and age. How can we will the good of others if we don't know what "good" is?

Often what we mean by good is whatever makes life most pleasant for ourselves. This cannot be right. Whatever is truly good must be outside of our own point of view. It must be outside of everyone's point of view.

In that famous chapter by St Paul, we read:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Look at how all of these attributes of charity look beyond anyone's point of view. True love lies not in the emotions but outside in the very being of other people. And that very being is the image of God Himself. God is love because God is what it means to be good. Whatever God does is good because He does whatever is consistent with Himself. We have our being within the substance of God because our creation is good. We do not deserve love because of what we do but because we are human beings and possess the ultimate dignity of being a child of God.

It is in our nature to hate others because we have lost the sight of God in others. We are fallen from the grace of union with God and we can only have our sight restored in Our Lord Jesus whose flesh given in love restores our substance. Let us pray continually for the grace to see the image of God in others and thus will their good that divine image determines.

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