July 23, 2019

Our Ability to Love

For the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear that beautiful letter from St. Paul (1 Cor 12:31-13:13) in which he speaks of spiritual gifts, the greatest of which is love.

Scripture tells us that God is love and that God is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible. Since God is a loving creator, He is not only the source of everything that exists, including you and me, He, by His very nature, must also love all that He has created. We can never fully understand or comprehend the mind of God, but we do know at least two attributes of God. He is love personified, and He creates, apparently for the sheer love and pleasure of creating.

We know that we were created in the image and likeness of God. We, therefore, share those two attributes of God. Each and every one of us were created with the Godlike ability to love, and with the Godlike ability to create.

When talking about our God-given attribute of love, we should realize that our understanding of love is somewhat clouded by our current culture. I will use the words of scripture to make my point. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires.” (Romans 8:5) “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:17) Love, and the physical expression of love that is featured so often in our modern day media, are not necessarily the same thing. To love is to care intensely. But we must understand that there are different kinds of love. The love that we have for a person is not the same as the love we may have for an object or activity.

For example, when you say I love the members of my family, my spouse, my children and my grandchildren, you are saying that you care deeply for them. You are saying that you love spending time with them. You are saying that if they needed you, you would do everything humanly possible to help them. You are saying that you always want what is best for them. And your love for them is not dependent on their behavior. For example, if your child should do something bad, you may not like or approve of their actions, but you would still love them. That, by definition, is unconditional love, a Godlike love.

But when you say that you love a thing or an activity, you are saying that you enjoy that activity or object. But unlike the love that you have for a member of your family, the pleasure and enjoyment that you experience from that thing or activity is obviously different than the intense deep feeling that you have for a loved one. But just as God creates for the sheer love and pleasure of creating so, too, do we create an object or activity for the sheer love and pleasure of doing so.

So when we talk about our God-given attribute to create, we have to realize that everyone, without exception, finds enjoyment and pleasure in creating. We were created with that attribute; and, as such, we share in God’s process of creation in all aspects of life, whether it be farming, gardening, baking, building, sewing, music, writing, artistic creations, performing, parenting, working, healing, teaching, etc. And we find fulfillment and pleasure in our participation in the process of creation, just as God does.

The primary characteristic that allows us to know something about God is love; both the unconditional love that we have for another human being and the love we experience in creating. We may feel passionate in our feelings of love, but the passion we experience is our sharing in the passion that God has for all of His creation.

God is love. So, when we love, we experience God. Our purpose here on earth is to know God and do God’s will in our life; and we do this when we participate with God in creation and when we share His love with one another.

But we are not robots. We were created with a free will. We are free to love or to hate. We are free to create or to destroy. All of the forces of evil that work in the human heart frustrate the power of the Holy Spirit; and, as such, we are free to become either a saint or a sinner. The choice is ours, and only ours, to make.

The Prophet Jeremiah says, “The word of the Lord came to me saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5) Our God did not create us and then abandon us. Our God loves every one of His children unconditionally. He knows every one of us better than we know ourselves and He has a plan and a purpose for the life of each of His children. If we simply stay true to those two God-given attributes that we share with our Creator, we will be fulfilling our purpose in this life.

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Written by
Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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Written by Deacon Donald Cox