Tuesday after Epiphany, Saint John Neumann, Bishop
1John 4: 7-10 tells us we should “love one another, because love is from God.” He seems to be saying that we should love in order to be like God — but to be more than just “like” him. John keeps identifying sharing in God’s life (the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”) with the experience of being united in being with God within us, loving both us and others from within our very existence.
He continues: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Loving, being and knowing. In loving we experience our new being or new identity as reborn, having “become Christ” by dying in Christ and rising with him in Baptism. It is all the same interlocking mystery of mystical knowledge of ourselves and of God through the mystical experience of letting God express his love to others in and through us. John says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” The corollary is, “Whoever loves does know God, because God is love.”
How do we know God’s love? By living it: “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” The love that John calls an experience of knowing God is not just human love, affection for others or benevolence toward them. It is the experience of loving others in union with God loving them from within ourselves and letting us share in his own act of loving.
When the presider says, in the Greeting at Mass, “May... the love of God... be with you, ” the liturgy is inviting us to recall and resonate with the mystical experience we have had of “God’s love... poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” and of God within us giving that love to others.1
John goes on to tell us that our own act of loving God depends on our prior (or simultaneous) experience of being loved by God. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.”
If we have no experience of being loved, we lack assurance of our value, of community and companionship, of protection and help in need. So we “fend for ourselves” and fight for ourselves. Survival is our priority. Being loved frees us to care (affectively and effectively) for others. Being loved by God frees us to love without bounds.
God “sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” That is radical, total assurance of our value, safety and acceptance. But we must assimilate the mystery of this self-expression of God.
Two symbols will help us absorb it: the cross, and image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Make both visible at home.
Mark 6: 34-44 continues to show us God’s love revealed in Jesus. He had “compassion” for the crowds and “began to teach them many things.” Then he fed them, in a preview of Eucharist. In every Mass he teaches us through his word and feeds us with his Body and Blood. The love we experience at Mass should empower us to love others as he is loving us.
If we will only pay attention at Mass, and participate “fully, actively and consciously,” we will absorb being loved and learn to be loving. Then we will bring the Responsorial (Psalm 72) to fulfillment: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”
Initiative: Absorb being loved. Use the crucifix and picture of the Sacred Heart.
1 Romans 5:5.