There is no doubt that Jesus loves each one of us with an everlasting love. The question is whether or not we love Jesus in return. We might think or say that we do, but then, do our day-to-day lives reflect these words, or are we just paying Him lip service? Are we lukewarm toward Him, at the same time that we are on-fire for our jobs, our entertainment, or our vices?
What is Love?
So what is love? Is it a gooey, feel-good emotion? Is it a sexual urge? Is it wanting someone for what they can do for us? No, it is none of those things. Love is wanting the absolute best for someone, no matter the personal sacrifices we have to make in order to achieve that greater good. Jesus Himself showed us what true love is, by sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, even though it was our sins that placed Him on that cross. To love someone is to imitate Christ, the epitome of true love.
Jesus left us two great commandments, in Matthew 22:36-40:
- You shall love the Lord thy God with your whole heart, soul, and mind;
- You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
These commands of God seem pretty straightforward, but in reality, do we even tell God on a daily basis that we love him? Do we really love our neighbor, or do we just ignore them and/or just put up with them? And notice that love, rather than faith, is foremost in these two great commandments. Those who believe that we are saved by “faith alone” might want to ponder this biblical reality.
The Bible Speaks About Love
The Bible has much to say about love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us:
”So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Here St. Paul says that love is the most important virtue of three very important, everlasting qualities, along with faith and hope. It would seem once again, that “faith alone” is not enough to save us. Faith is certainly important, but it is only one leg of a three legged stool. Without the other two legs of hope and love, we all fall flat. Faith is a gift from God; our love for God and love for our neighbor in return for this gift are our responses.
Love can even get our sins forgiven. Luke 7:47:
“So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
Here the adulterous woman showers Jesus with her love, and so Jesus forgave her sins. This should be a great lesson for us all; that is, loving Christ with our whole heart does lead to our forgiveness. This is why it is so important for us to take time out of our busy day to tell Christ that we love Him. That should be the very least thing that we do. And since Christ said in Matthew 25: 40
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,”
then we should also start being kind to the less fortunate who beg us for money, time, or food, because we are not only doing it for Christ, we are doing it to Christ.
In John 15:9-12, Jesus says the following:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”
Here we learn the astounding fact that Jesus loves us as much as the Father loves Him. That ought to shake each and every one of us out of our slumbering Christianity and alert us to the depth of love Jesus has for us, no matter what our sinful state in life. Why? Because the Father loves His Son Jesus with an INFINITE love, and that is how much Jesus loves us. And all we have to do to remain in His everlasting love is to keep His commandments and to love one another. This may be hard to do at times, but what a payback (everlasting joy in heaven). Infinite love for us from the creator of the universe is something that is hard to fathom, but that fact should make us happier than we’ve ever been. What could possibly be better than being loved without limits by the same Creator who created everything from nothing?
St. Paul says in Romans 13:10:
“Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
What could be plainer than this? To fulfill the New Covenant law isn’t some courtroom declaration of a stern judge who carefully weighs the evidence for and against us. Instead, we learn from God-breathed scripture that love itself is the fulfillment of the law. Love and law may seem to be two very different things in our minds, but here, scripture links the two together forever. They are not opposed to each other, but instead are in unison with the Will of God in our lives. To love is to fulfill the law of God.
Paul has a great soliloquy about love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7:
“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] 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 injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
What St. Paul is telling us is that love is more important in our relationship with God and our neighbor than anything else. Love conquers our frail human nature. It conquers Satan. It conquers sin. It conquers hate. It can even conquer the world. Love is what will get us into heaven one day. Our inability to love (a sin of “omission”) should be confessed regularly, if that is one of our faults. What St. Paul is saying echoes St. James, who tells us in James 2:26 that “faith without works is dead,” by saying in essence that faith without love is dead.
The Last Shall Be First
It’s always hard to think that Jesus could love us with all of our sinfulness, but if one takes a look at Holy Scripture, the sinful tax collector who repented and who was truly sorry for his sins was chosen by God over the proud, self-righteous “sin-free” Pharisee. The adulterous woman who Jesus saved from stoning was also loved by Jesus, because she also repented with a contrite heart. The good thief on the cross, who was probably a murderer (due to the sentence of crucifixion), was also saved in spite of his sins, because of his repentant heart. St. Peter, even though he denied Christ three times, also learned that Jesus loved him infinitely, after he repented. Jesus asked Peter three times by a charcoal fire if he loved Him. This was because Peter had denied Christ three times, beside another charcoal fire, the night before the crucifixion. Even Judas could have been saved if he would have asked Jesus to forgive him, but he committed the sin of despair instead, and then hung himself.
God knows that our brokenness is caused by our sinful human nature and He is just waiting to be asked to fix it. Jesus loves repentant sinners who tell him that they are truly sorry, and who really depend on Him for everything (God is close to the humble and contrite heart). The self-reliant worldly people who never depend on God, like the proud Esau and the arrogant Nimrod in the Old Testament, always seem to be at odds with Him. Our relationship with God should be like a small child who comes up to his parent with complete trust, and who asks for his bike to be fixed, or her doll to be repaired. A good father always loves it when his child needs his help, especially if he or she is in tears about something. Just so, God is our loving Father, just waiting to be asked to fix our broken lives, if we only ask him with a contrite heart. Jesus even says that unless we become like a little child, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Practical Things to Do
So what are some practical things to do to overcome our human nature and to start loving, so that we can start living God’s commands? Specific prayers can overcome whatever is blocking us from loving wholeheartedly. Usually, one or more of the seven deadly sins is a love blocker. These sins are lust, greed, gluttony, envy, anger, pride, and sloth. Going before the Blessed Sacrament after confessing these sins and asking God to remove them from our life, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is a great way to remove these blockages.
After that, we should always try to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. If we want mercy on our deathbed later on, we must show mercy to others now. It’s definitely a win-win scenario, because the people we help receive our mercy, and then we receive God’s mercy when we need it the most.
Quotes from the Saints about Love
“What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.”
–St. Basil the Great
“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”
–Saint Therese of Lisieux
“Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders.”
–St. Anthony Mary Claret
“There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice”
–Pope St. John Paul II
“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others. ”
–St. Clare of Assisi