God's love

God's love - Pope Francis    

08.1.16  Holy Mass  Santa Marta      1 John 4: 7-10 ,       Mark 6: 34-44


The Apostle John, continues to speak to the early Christians about the two commandments that Jesus taught us: to love God and love our neighbour. In the passage from the First Letter of John proposed in the day’s Liturgy (4:7-10), we read: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God”. This word, ‘love’, is a word that is often used but, when you use it, you don’t know exactly what it means. What then, is love? Sometimes, we think of the love in soap operas: no, that doesn’t seem like love. Or love might seem like enthusiasm for a person, which then burns out.

The real question then, is: “where does true love come from?”. John writes: “he who loves is born of God”, for “God is love”. The Apostle does not say: “all love is God”. He says instead: “God is love”. John continues, saying that “God loved us so much that he ‘sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him’”. Thus, God gives his life in Jesus, in order to give us life. Love is beautiful, to love is beautiful, and in heaven there will be only love, charity. So says Paul. And if love is beautiful, one is always strengthened and grows in the gift of one’s own life: one grows by giving of oneself to others.

John 4: 10 - “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us”. This confirms that God loved us first; he gave us life out of love, he gave life and his Son out of love. Therefore, when we find God, there is always a surprise: it is first he who waits for us; it is he who finds us.

Mark (6:34-44). Those people followed him to listen to him, because he spoke like one with authority, not like the scribes. He looked at those people and went further. Precisely because he loved, the Gospel says, ‘he had compassion on them’, which is not the same as having pity. The correct word is compassion: love led him to suffer with them, to be involved in the people’s life. And, the Lord is always there, loving first: he is waiting for us, he is the surprise.

This is precisely what happens, to Andrew when he goes to Peter to tell him: ‘We have found the Messiah, come!’. Peter goes, and Jesus looks at him and says to him: ‘Are you Simon? You shall be Peter’. He was waiting for him with a mission. [Jesus] loved him first.

The same happens when Zacchaeus, who was small, climbs the tree to better see Jesus, who passes by, lifts his eyes and says: ‘Zacchaeus, come down, I want to go to supper at your house’. Zacchaeus, who wanted to meet Jesus, realizes that Jesus had been waiting for him.

Nathanael who, a bit skeptical, goes to see the one whom they say is the Messiah. Jesus says to him: “when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”. So, God always loves first. The idea is also recalled in the parable of the Prodigal Son: when the son — who had spent all of his father’s inheritance on vices — returned home, he realized that his father had been waiting for him. God is always waiting for us first. Before us, always. And when the other son didn’t want to come to the feast, because he did not understand his father’s attitude, his father went to find him. And God is this way with us: he loves us first, always.

Thus, we can see in the Gospel how God loves: when we have something in our heart and we want to ask the Lord’s forgiveness, it is he who is waiting for us, to grant forgiveness.

This Year of Mercy, is also in part so that we may know that the Lord is awaiting us, each of us. He is waiting to embrace us, nothing more, in order to say: ‘Son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you; this is the value of my love; this is the gift of love’.

The Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart, because he is there waiting to enter. It is unconditional.

Of course, someone might say: “Father, no, no, I would like to, but I have so many ugly things inside!”. It is better! Better! Because he is waiting for you, just as you are, not as they tell you that one should be. You should be as you are. This is how he loves you, he embraces you, kisses you, forgives you.

Go with haste to the Lord and say: “Lord, you know that I love you”. Or if I don’t feel like it, to say this: ‘Lord, you know that I would like to love you, but I am such a sinful man, such a sinful woman”. Do so with the certainty that he will do as the father did with the Prodigal Son who spent all his money on vices. I will not let you finish your speech, I will silence you with an embrace: the embrace of
God’s love.


https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-06/pope-santa-marta-homily-love-god.html

It is not us who first loved God, it's the other way around: it is He who loved us first.

The prophets used the symbol of the almond blossom to explain this reality highlighting the fact that the almond blossom is the first to bloom in spring.

God is like that: he is always first. He's the first to wait for us, the first to love us, the first to help us.

However, it is not easy to understand God's love as is narrated in the passage from today liturgical reading in which the Apostle Paul speaks of "preaching to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ.”

It is a love that cannot be understood. A love that surpasses all knowledge. It surpasses everything. The love of God is so great; a poet described it as a “bottomless sea without shores…” This is the love that we must try to understand, the love that we receive.

Throughout the history of salvation the Lord has revealed his love to us: He has been a great teacher.

God did not reveal his love through power but by loving His people, teaching them to walk, taking them in His arms, caring for them.

How does God manifest his love? With great works? No: He makes himself smaller and smaller with gestures of tenderness and goodness. He approaches His children and with his closeness He makes us understand the greatness of love.

God sent us His Son. He sent Him in the flesh and the Son humbled himself until death.

This, is the mystery of God's love: the greatest greatness expressed in the smallest smallness. This, allows us to understand Christianity.

Jesus teaches us the kind of attitude a Christian should have; it is all about carrying on God’s own work in your own small way: that is feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, visiting the sick and the prisoner.

Works of mercy, pave the path of love that Jesus teaches us in continuity with God’s great love for us!

We do not need great discourse on love, but men and women who know how to do these little things for Jesus, for the Father.

Our works of mercy, he said, are the continuity of this love.



Pope Francis   05.05.19     Holy Mass,  Prince Alexander I Square, Sofia, Bulgaria     3rd Sunday of Easter  Year C   John 21: 1-19 
 
Pope Francis 05.05.19  Holy Mass, Sofia, Bulgaria

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Christ is risen! Christos vozkrese!

It is wonderful to see how with these words Christians in your country greet one another in the joy of the Risen Lord during the Easter season.

The entire episode we have just heard, drawn from the final pages of the Gospels, helps us immerse ourselves in this joy that the Lord asks us to spread. It does so by reminding us of three amazing things that are part of our lives as disciples: God calls, God surprises, God loves.

God calls. Everything takes place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus first called Peter. He had called him to leave behind his trade as a fisher in order to become a fisher of men (cf. Lk 5:4-11). Now, after all that had happened to him, after the experience of seeing the Master die and hearing news of his resurrection, Peter goes back to his former life. He tells the others disciples, “I am going fishing”. And they follow suit: “We will go with you” (Jn 21:3). They seem to take a step backwards; Peter takes up the nets he had left behind for Jesus. The weight of suffering, disappointment, and of betrayal had become like a stone blocking the hearts of the disciples. They were still burdened with pain and guilt, and the good news of the resurrection had not taken root in their hearts.

The Lord knows what a strong temptation it is for us to return to the way things were before. In the Bible, Peter’s nets, like the fleshpots of Egypt, are a symbol of a tempting nostalgia for the past, of wanting to take back what we had decided to leave behind. In the face of
failure, hurt, or even the fact that at times things do not go the way we want, there always comes a subtle and dangerous temptation to become disheartened and to give up. This is the tomb psychology that tinges everything with dejection and leads us to indulge in a soothing sense of self-pity that, like a moth, eats away at all our hope. Then the worst thing that can happen to any community begins to appear – the grim pragmatism of a life in which everything appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness (cf.
Evangelii Gaudium, 83).

But it was at the very moment of Peter’s failure that Jesus appears, starts over, patiently comes to him and calls him “Simon” (v. 15) – the name Peter received when he was first called. The Lord does not wait for perfect situations or frames of mind: he creates them. He does not expect to encounter people without problems, disappointments, without sins or limitations. He himself confronted sin and disappointment in order to encourage all men and women to persevere. Brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of calling us. His is the power of a Love that overturns every expectation and is always ready to start anew. In Jesus, God always offers us another chance. He calls us day by day to deepen our love for him and to be revived by his eternal newness. Every morning, he comes to find us where we are. He summons us “to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death”, and to stop seeking “the living among the dead” (
Homily at the Easter Vigil, 20 April 2019). When we welcome him, we rise higher and are able to embrace a brighter future, not as a possibility but as a reality. When Jesus’s call directs our lives, our hearts grow young.

God
surprises. He is the Lord of surprises. He invites us not only to be surprised, but also to do surprising things. The Lord calls the disciples and, seeing them with empty nets, he tells them to do something odd: to fish by day, something quite out of the ordinary on that lake. He revives their trust by urging them once more to take a risk, not to give up on anyone or anything. He is the Lord of surprises, who breaks down paralyzing barriers by filling us with the courage needed to overcome the suspicion, mistrust and fear that so often lurk behind the mindset that says, “We have always done things this way”. God surprises us whenever he calls and asks us to put out into the sea of history not only with our nets, but with our very selves. To look at our lives and those of others as he does, for “in sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored; in death, brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand” (
ibid.).

We can now turn to the third amazing thing: God calls and God surprises, because God loves. Love is his language. That is why he asks Peter, and us, to learn that language. He asks Peter: “Do you love me?” And Peter says yes; after spending so much time with Jesus, he now understands that to love means to stop putting himself at the centre. He now makes Jesus, and not himself, the starting point: “You know everything” (Jn 21:18), he says. Peter recognizes his weakness; he realizes that he cannot make progress on his own. And he takes his stand on the Lord and on the strength of his love, to the very end.

The Lord loves us: this is the source of our strength and we are asked to reaffirm it each day. Being a Christian is a summons to realize that God’s love is greater than all our shortcomings and sins. One of our great disappointments and difficulties today comes not from knowing that God is love, but that our way of proclaiming and bearing witness to him is such that, for many people, this is not his name. God is love, a love that bestows itself, that calls and surprises.

Here we see the miracle of God, who makes of our lives works of art, if only we let ourselves to be led by his love. Many of the witnesses of Easter in this blessed land created magnificent masterpieces, inspired by simple faith and great love. Offering their lives, they became living signs of the Lord, overcoming apathy with courage and offering a Christian response to the concerns that they encountered (cf. Christus Vivit, 174). Today we are called to lift up our eyes and acknowledge what the Lord has done in the past, and to walk with him towards the future, knowing that, whether we succeed or fail, he will always be there to keep telling us to cast our nets.

Here I would like to repeat what I said to young people
in my recent Exhortation. A young Church, young not in terms of age but in the grace of the Spirit, is inviting us to testify to the love of Christ, a love that inspires and directs us to strive for the common good. This love enables us to serve the poor and to become protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism. Brimming with the love of Christ, be living witnesses of the Gospel in every corner of this city (cf. Christus Vivit, 174-175). Do not be afraid of becoming the saints that this land greatly needs. Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, it will take away none of your vitality or joy. On the contrary, you and all the sons and daughters of this land will become what the Father had in mind when he created you (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 32).

Called, surprised and sent for love!