Wednesday, August 9, 2006

God is Love-Unique to Christianity

Pope's General Audience:

“It is not by chance that I wanted to start my first encyclical letter with
the words of this Apostle: ‘God is love’ (Deus caritas est); those who abide in
love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 Jn 4:16). It is very difficult to
find such writings in other religions. And so such expressions bring us face to
face with a fact that is truly unique to Christianity.”

Starting out not from “an abstract treatment, but from a real
experience of love, with direct and concrete reference, that may even be
verified, to real people”, John highlights the components of Christian love that
the pope summed up in three points. The pontiff said: “The first regards the
very Source of love that the Apostle places in God, reaching the point where he
affirms that ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8,16). John is the only writer of the New
Testament who gives us definitions of God. He says, for example, that ‘God is
Spirit’ (Jn 4:24) or that ‘God is light’ (1 Jn 1:5). Here he proclaims with
striking intuition that ‘God is love’. Take note: this is not a simple
affirmation that ‘God loves’, still less is it that ‘love is God’! In other
words: John does not limit himself to describing divine conduct, he goes right
to its roots. Further, he does not intend to attribute a divine quality to a
generic, perhaps impersonal love; he does not rise from love to God, but he
turns directly to God to define his nature with the infinite dimension of love.
By this, John wants to say that the essential constituent of God is love and
hence all the activities of God are born from love and are stamped with love:
everything God does, he does for love and with love.”
The second point,
continued the pope, is that God, in his love, “did not limit himself to verbal
statements, but he truly committed himself and he ‘paid’ himself. As John in
fact writes, ‘God so loved the world (that is, all of us) that he gave his only
Son’ (Jn 3:16). Now, the love of God for mankind is concretized and manifested
in the love of Jesus himself. Once again, it is John who writes: Jesus, ‘having
loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end’ (Jn 13:1). In virtue
of this sacrificial and total love, we are all radically saved from sin, as the
Apostle writes once again: ‘My little children... if anyone does sin, we have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the atoning
sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole
world’ (1 Jn 2:1-2; cfr 1 Jn 1:7). This is how far the love of Jesus went for
us: until the shedding of his own blood for our salvation! The Christian,
pausing in contemplation before this “excess” of love, cannot but ask himself
what a dutiful response would be.”