The Vocation of Love
moment of [his or her] existence an innate power and ability to love" (Saint Basil the Great). Without exception, then, every person is meant to be loved and, in response, is called to love God, self, neighbor, and the created world.
"Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. The sense of being accepted in the first place comes from other human beings. But, all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately, every person needs a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively that it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being! If a person's sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all" (Pope Benedict XVI).
The Spirit-God created "man" by his "breath," which infused an immortal soul into a now spirit-filled physical existence. Thus, human nature is a composite whole: "spirit, soul, and body" (2Th 5:23). In fact, human nature is CONSCIOUS spiritual existence. "When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you should care for him? Yet, you have made him little less than a God, with glory and honor you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet. All of them, sheep and cattle, yes, even the savage beasts, birds of air, and fish that make their way through the waters" (Ps 8:3-8).
At this point, the created world must be spoken of briefly. The world is a galaxy that contains all living and non-living things, including the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets. The planet Earth has been given by the Love-God to every human being so that, as a spirit-filled bodily entity, each person has a place to live out his or her love-relationships. Hence, the completion and fulfillment of human nature is not limited to God, self, and others. A lived love-relationship with the the natural order is to be embraced as well.
Sacred scripture, therefore, instructs: "Let us love, not in word of speech, but in deed and in truth" (1 Jn 3:18). Since "deed and truth" are essential to genuine love, the faculty of freedom is an essential element in lived love-relationships.
Without personal freedom, there is no such human act as genuine love. And, without genuine love, there is no such entity as an authentic love-being. Personal freedom alone makes is it possible for a free-willed person to turn to or away from God and others.
"It is, however, only in freedom that people can turn themselves towards what is good. The people of our time prize freedom very highly and strive eagerly for it. In this they are right. Yet they often cherish it improperly, as if it gave them leave to do anything they like, even when it is evil. But genuine freedom is an exceptional sign of the image of God in humanity. For God willed that men and women should be left free to make their own decisions so that they might of their own accord seek their Creator and freely attain their full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God. Their dignity, therefore, requires them to act out of CONSCIOUS and FREE CHOICE, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by their own blind impulses or by external constraint. People gain such dignity when, freeing themselves of all slavery to the passions, they press forward towards their goal by freely choosing what is good, and, by their diligence and skill, effectively secure for themselves the means suited to this end" (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church (Gaudium et spes), no. 17).
Conflicting views of love, therefore, abound these days. So, the question arises -
"What makes human beings go loony over love?"
Before an answer to that question is proposed, one must concede that there is such a reality as genuine human love, that is, a love that "rejoices with the truth" (1 Co 13:6).
"Show me someone who loves. He knows what I mean. Show me one who is filled with longing, one who is hungry, one who is a pilgrim and suffering from thirst in the desert of this world, eager for the fountain in the homeland of eternity. Show me someone like that, he knows what I mean. But, if I speak to someone without love, he does not understand what I am talking about" (Saint Augustine).
John D. Meehan has been involved in the lay apostolate of the Catholic Church since the close of the Second Vatican Council. He resides in New Hampshire with his lovely wife Elizabeth.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Catholicisim, marriage and family, human nature, vocation to love, john d. meehan
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