Recently I engaged in a back-and-forth in the blogosphere.
The topic was interesting and it kept me intellectually occupied for a couple days researching church teaching not just in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but some source documents that went back a few decades. My counterpart is a sharp sister - not a nun - a fellow Catholic that takes seriously to learn and defend the faith.
One of the concluding remarks from her side was, "your compassion is misplaced." I could not really respond after that. I don't think she meant it as bad as it reads, it was just her other point was a stronger one to her, and this part of it had to be weakened I think.
Hard to imagine compassion being misplaced. I am not writing this to win an argument. I am making a new one.
Love is Primary. Everything else is secondary and that includes moralism.
I am just sharing as powerfully as a new blogger can the most important, most essential knowledge I have gained in my 43 years breathing air.
I am going to cover this hard, with the Word of God, with the words from His mouth (Jesus=Word of God), and other words from scripture, with images and music that will viscerally and emotionally impact you.
Disclaimer: You may come away from this post thinking I hit a finishing nail with a sledgehammer.
The two greatest commandments were summarized by Jesus, and this seems good place to start if I am looking for knowledge of the essential, the aim of my life, and how I should live.
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength
- Love others (with His grace) as He has loved us
I add the "with His grace" because there will be times when we in our humanity, our brokenness will not be able to love or forgive without His grace.
In short it all comes down to love.
You'll recognize this verse, many use it in their weddings.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. ~1 Corinthians 13:3
Are you familiar with this one?
We have recognized for ourselves, and put our faith in, the love God has for us.
God is love,
and whoever remains in love,
remains in him. ~ 1 John 4:16
Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas (God is Love) Est 7:
Yet to become a source, one must constantly drink a new from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (referring to the scene in John 19:34)
What images help you visualize God's love for us?
- God's love for us is similar to the look of love a mother has as she holds her newborn baby
- David's (OT -- 1 & 2 Samuel) fatherly love, compassionate and self-sacrificing for Absalom even when he had mind for patricide
- Jesus praying for forgiveness for those putting him through physical agony
If you watched Passion of the Christ you'll remember the scene from John 19:34
But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
(that occurs at 4:00, if you want to skip to it, and then come back later when you are ready to see what precedes it, which is a) Christ's great gift of his Mother to be Our Spiritual Mother, b) Christ yelling out his feeling of abandoment prophesied in Psalm 22:1, c) the actual giving up of his spirit.)
Disclaimer: This is the part where I thought you would think finishing nail being hit with a sledgehammer. This is the most powerful scene in the movie. You might want to take a second to prepare your heart.
(from spirituality/love/desert_spirituality taken from Love as God Loves by Roberta Bondi)
How much easier it is to daydream about the dramatic acts of love and self-sacrifice I or the church might make to prove our love of God or neighbor! But the temptation to regard such small actions as unimportant while there are so many serious social problems in the world is the temptation to understand the Christian life only in heroic proportions.
While we dream of heroic acts of love, we often fail to simply love others in small ways: “If we wish to love our neighbor, we start small by trying first to avoid harming the neighbor, refusing to gossip about the neighbor, and offering small help”.
The assumption of the Desert Fathers was that “it is the little things we do over a long period of time that form character and make our relationships with ourselves, others, and God what they are”. Through small steps we express God’s love: “If you are able to extend one small act of kindness to another human being you have already begun to live out of [God’s] love”.
Want to learn more? Please check out this site. It is amazing . . .has some amazing metaphors to show us how to love God, and how with God's grace to love others.
Here is an excerpt, and I would include the whole thing but then if you have read this far, you may be going well past your available post reading time for one blog.
Love is the Goal (from spirituality/love/desert_spirituality taken from Love as God Loves by Roberta Bondi)
For the Desert Fathers, love is the goal. Dorotheos offers a beautiful illustration concerning how the practice of love toward others draws us into the love of God.
Suppose we were to take a compass and insert the point and draw the outline of a circle. The center point is the same distance from any point on the circumference. . . . Let us suppose that this circle is the world and that God himself is the center: the straight lines drawn from the circumference to the center are the lives of human beings. . . . Let us assume for the sake of the analogy that to move toward God, then, human beings move from the circumference along the various radii of the circle to the center. But at the same time, the closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they become to God.
This metaphor not only illustrates how love draws us to God, but it also puts God in his proper place – at the center of all things and all relationships. “It assumes that God is present in a real way in God’s own universe, at the center, metaphorically speaking, drawing all people and things to God by a natural love for God, placed in their nature by their creator”.
(Italics emphasis added) If the goal is love, and love toward others draws us into the love of God, then the opposite is also true. Refusing to love others draws us away from the love of God. Keeping the goal of love in mind is an antidote against the mistaken idea that one could actually be a good Christian if it were not for other people!
Keeping this in mind keeps us from descending into moralism: “If the fulfillment of the moral law for its own sake is seen to be the point of the law, the temptation is, in cases of doubt, to err on the side of caution. But if the point of the law is love, then the Christian must be prepared to take real risks for the sake of other people”.