Sunday, July 17, 2011
This is Love, This is Love Which Obtains for Us Infinite Joy.
V Sunday after Pentecost - II Class
Missa Exáudi, Dómine
Epistle: I Pet. 3:8-15 [Love one another and God will be on your side.]
Gospel: Mt. 5:30-24 [Condemnation of anger and the offering of sacrifice without reconciliation.]
Full Latin-English propers here.
One lesson that I have learned time and again in my life is that if I let God choose how a given situation will turn out, then it always turns out far greater than if I had chosen the outcome myself. The gifts God offers us are greater than what we could ever imagine. We can sit and fantasize about how great life could be, but if we let God choose what will happen, the result is greater than our greatest fantasies. God ends up satisfying us far more than what we could ever satisfy ourselves. That is because God created and designed us, so He knows how to satisfy us more than anyone else, even more than we can satisfy ourselves. We struggle to understand ourselves and why we suffer, but God understands us and our sufferings perfectly. Because God understands us better than we or anyone else understands us, He can make us happier than we or anyone else can make us.
The Church today reminds us of this truth in the collect, "O God, Who hast prepared for them that love Thee such good things as pass understanding: pour into our hearts such love towards Thee, that we, loving Thee in all things, and above all things, may obtain Thy promises which exceed all that we can desire." So we are reminded that God's gifts are greater than all our understanding and all our desires. Not only that, but we are also told how to go about getting these gifts: we must love God "in all things and above all things". Loving God "above all things" is the first commandment: to love God with your whole mind, heart, and strength. Loving God "in all things" is the second commandment: to love thy neighbor. This love is the price of being perfectly filled with joy. It is a joy that only comes from God because God alone completely understands us.
So what does this love entail? Love is a complete sacrifice of yourself for the good of another. This is the logical step that follows the realization that God can make us happier than we can make ourselves: God understand us better than we do, so He can make us happier than we can make ourselves, so we must give ourselves to Him so He can give us a better life. We then give everything to Him in order to receive a greater gift. We must offer our whole selves, everything we have and everything we are, so that God can mold our lives and choose what our lives will be like. This self-giving is what constitutes love.
This love is two fold. We give self to God first, for His own sake, loving God "above all things". God is so great, that He is worthy of our whole selves. God is love and joy itself, so if we are to enjoy these things, then we must give ourselves entirely through Him, and He will give us these things through whatever means He so chooses. It might come through being married and having a family or it might come through being cloistered in a convent. Either way, it is the same love, the same joy, the same God. He will choose how we shall receive His joy. While our joy comes through whatever means God chooses, we must still love God above those means. The only reason those means are important to us in the first place is because God's love and joy comes to us through those means, so God is rightfully placed ahead of them.
Secondly, we love neighbor. Love of neighbor is done for two reasons. We love neighbor primarily for the sake of God, loving God "in all things", that His love for us and for all humanity might shine forth through our love for each other. Whenever we love anyone other than God, we are to love them in a way that mirrors Christ's love: Christ's love for them, for us and for all mankind. The more our love of neighbor mirrors the love of Christ, the purer and greater our love is and the more Christ's love shines forth through our love. Secondly, we love neighbor for his own sake, sacrificing ourselves and giving of ourselves for his greater good. His ultimate good is Heaven. There will inevitably be many intermediate goods (be they large or minute) to help attain the ultimate good. This is how love operates. Love does not harbor hatred, rivalries, or anger. Love does not seek pleasure or anything for self, it only seeks to give for the good of the other. This sacrifice of self, to God first because His greatness makes Him deserving of it, and to neighbor second for God's glory and neighbor's good, purchases for us a share in the joy that God designs for us and gives us through His Son, who makes up for our failings.