“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite
absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love (with Jesus), stay in love (with God), and it will decide everything.”
From Pedro Arrupe SJ (Jesuit Superior General from 1965 to 1983)
Before I shift from the focus on “Be-Loved” to the practices and disciplines that – by the work of the Holy Spirit – transform us into “Being in Love” with God and people, I want to use the above quote to do a final meditation on love.
What is love? Doing good to God and people Effectively and Affectively. To love is to promote the highest good of the other, to act in their best interests.
Effective love is doing… caring behavior, sacrificial action… love is more than words (1John 3:16-18)! Love is seen in acts of selfless service – giving of ourselves to the other. God loves effectively (John 3:16), seen in Jesus of Nazareth. He showed “God is love” (1John 4:8) in pouring out his life (John 13:1f) for our highest good (our salvation), seen on the Cross of Calvary, the ultimate enfleshed definition of true love. Today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, which culminates in Jesus’ suffering and death.
Take time this week to meditate and journal on the effective love of God for you… in Jesus.
Affective love is being… warm affection, passionate desire, spiritual bonding… “being in love”. Doing ought to flow out of being or else it’s a performance and runs dry. Being must overflow into doing or it doesn’t exist, its reality/integrity is in question! God loves affectively: Deuteronomy 7:7 says God “sets his affection” on Israel, on us, “choosing” to love us for our good (see Psalm 18:19). This fiery passionate love of God is also seen in its ultimate enfleshed form in the passion of Jesus in Gethsemane and Golgotha.
Meditate and journal this week on this affective aspect of God’s love for you… in Jesus.
How do we fall in love? By Attraction and Appreciation.
Attraction is Admiration: We love because God first loved us (1John 4:19). God allures us with his beauty in both his affective and effective love. God is love, revealing himself to us in creation and ultimately in Jesus Christ. By seeing God for who s/he is, being ravished by God’s beauty and character, we cannot but fall in love with him. As Pedro Arrupe says, to “find God” is very “practical”: we fall in love with him, which decides everything in our lives… literally everything!
Take time to meditate and journal on God’s beauty, sheer goodness, pure character, in all creation, and in the man Jesus of Nazareth.
Appreciation is Adoration: We fall in love with God and others, not only for their being (people are beautiful, created in God’s image – we find it if we look for it), but also for their doing good (people mean well and do good – if we look for it!) This is “returned love” in sheer appreciation for all the great good that God has done for/to us. Think of all God’s grace-filled good deeds, it will produce love in profound gratitude and adoration.
Make a long list of all the great good God has done for you, and give thanks for each one!
How do we stay in love? By Model and Method.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love just as I remain in my Father’s love by obeying his commands” (John 15:9-10). The Greek kathos (“As… so…”) means both the model and the means of love: Jesus experienced the Father’s love as his standard and source, evaluation and enablement, of his love for his disciples. Likewise our love for one another is modeled on and enabled by Jesus’ love for us: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34-35). We cannot love with what we don’t have! We can only love to the extent we know we are loved. Hence the FACT of our true nature in Jesus Christ: WE ARE GOD’S BE-LOVED! Believe it!
How did Jesus stay/remain in love? He was so ravished by his Father’s (model of) love and so filled with (the means of) that love, that he continually lived in and from love. This is being in love. How did he do it? How did he sustain it, fresh and new every day? Primarily by prayer and Torah meditation. Certain exercises and disciplines, practiced daily, was his means of simply being with his Father moment-by-moment. This is how he learnt to obey his Father, as overflowing returned love in deep gratitude and adoration. Through daily spiritual practices Jesus learnt to receive and flow in his Father’s love, relying fully on the indwelling Holy Spirit to use his spiritual exercises to progressively transform him into a living incarnation of “Being in Love”.
The exact same applies to us! How do WE stay/remain in love? By Jesus’ model and means – using HIS methods, HIS daily spiritual practices, trusting the Holy Spirit to continually transform us into living from our “first love”, the passion that drove us when we first fell in love with him. Our “first love” (Revelation 2:4) was actually God’s love that was there at first – the standard and source of our love for him – the fire that first ignited our flame for him. To keep that flame of love burning bright, we must “repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5)… the spiritual practices we passionately pursued in the first flush of fresh love. Remember what that was like?
To be in love is to simply want to be with God as much as we can. We want to do “one thing”: to gaze upon his beauty, seeking him in his Temple (Psalm 27:4). “Only one thing is needed”, to sit at his feet, gaze into his eyes and hang on his every word (Luke 10:42). We simply cannot get enough of God! We want more and more, till we are filled to overflowing by his person and presence, in his love and mercy.
What does this look like? How can we describe this “Being in Love”?
The obvious answer is Jesus. But let me give Paul’s poetic picture. To my mind it describes something of the perfection of love we see incarnated in Jesus – to which we aspire – our model and means of being in love:
“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)