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Love.

(From a 2012 Lent and Easter series of sermons on the Catholic Virtues.)
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A favorite Scripture quote of Protestants is John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

God gave His Son – conceived in Mary of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem of Judea, to announce the good news that God loves us, and that love fulfills the Law, and that if we love one another God’s life is drawing us to Himself, Who is Love.

God loves us that much, to give His Son for us; but we should not think of this as a human father giving up his son for someone else’s benefit. We would think such a father monstrous. If you don’t love and protect your own child, how could you love someone else’s? But Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God, love with one love, act with one benevolent will toward the world they together created and destined for happy fulfillment. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is the visible manifestation of this divine love, of the infinite fullness of being that is perfect joy and generosity.

Our human relationships of love – between friends, between spouses, between parent and child – reflect something of this divine love at the heart of the universe. They reflect it, participate in it, and prepare for it; which is why our human loving relationships are so important: they are preparing us, fitting us out and equipping us for the life of heaven, the life of God.

No wonder, then, that St. Paul could write what he did to the Corinthians in his first letter to them. He reviewed some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, like speaking in tongues and prophesy, and wrote that without love these gifts avail nothing. Even giving away everything you have, including your body, avails nothing if it is not motivated by love.

You can say the same about prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. These human virtues are expressions of love, and avail nothing, are not really virtuous, if they are not expressions of love. Same goes for the theological virtues – Paul said “Faith, hope and love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Why? Faith will give way to sight when we enter God’s presence. Hope will give way to reality. And that reality into which we will enter, in which we already begin to participate, is God, God Who is Love.

The virtues are love in action:

  • prudently discerning the true good, and the best means to achieve it;
  • justly giving others their due;
  • tempering our natural appetites with moderation so as to avoid sin and not lead others into sin;
  • hanging in there with fortitude when doing the right thing is difficult;
  • applying reason to claims of truth but with a willingness to accept with faith the abundant evidence that God has provided;
  • and looking forward with hopeful confidence to what God has promised those who love Him.
St. Paul gave his own description of what love in action means, and we hear in it many of these same virtues.

  • ”Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injuries, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (I Cor. 13:4-8)

You could use his description of love in action as an examination of conscience. Love never fails, but we do. But this just means that we need to keep trying, practicing the virtues, getting better as we go, trusting not in our own efforts but in God’s help. And He gave us a lot of help. In fact, “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, So that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”



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Date:   Sun Dec 07 2014
From:  Vic Biorseth
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