"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind" (Luke 10, 27).
1. MEANING OF THIS COMMANDMENT.
The love of God is a gift of God conferred on us in baptism. He who loves God gives himself to God with all his heart as to the Supreme Good, so that by fulfilling His will he may please Him and be united to Him. "If any one loves Me," says our divine Saviour, "he will keep My word and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and will make our abode with him." (John 14. 23).
2. QUALITIES OF THE LOVE OF GOD.
In the first place, the love of God, as a theological or Christian virtue, is supernatural, otherwise it would have no relation to life everlasting; and therefore it must be based on motives of faith, and not on merely natural motives. Secondly, our love of God must be sovereign, or supreme; it must surpass all other love. God, being the Supreme Being, our Creator and our last end, requires us to give Him the very first place in our heart. "He that loveth his father and mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10. 37). We may love other things, but we must love God more than them, and prefer Him to all else. Perez de Gusman was defending a besieged city. Rather than betray his country he resolutely refused to surrender, although the besiegers, parading his captured son before the walls of the city, threatened to put him to death, unless Perez would surrender. In like manner, rather than offend God, we must make every sacrifice, even the most difficult and painful.
He who truly loves God is able to say with St. Paul: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? ... I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, . . . nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, . . . nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Rom. 8. 35-39). Thirdly, our love of God should be efficient, that is, consist in acts or deeds, and not in mere words." He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (John 14. 21).
3. MOTIVES FOR LOVING GOD.
Many persons look upon God as a strict, stern and very unamiable old man. And, nevertheless, God is loveliness and lovableness itself, for, in the first place, He is the supremely perfect Good. We naturally love whatever is good, whatever is perfect. But all the goodness, all the perfections that shine forth in creatures, however great they may be, are a mere shadow compared to the absolute goodness and infinite perfections of God. He is supremely good, supremely perfect. He is so good and so perfect, that it is impossible for Him to be more good and more perfect than He really is. God first loved us, for He has loved us as long as He is, that is, from eternity! His love for us, moreover, has always been infinite or boundless, and without any merit or claim on our part. He is infinitely happy in Himself, and therefore has no need of us, nor of our love. And, nevertheless, what great and countless benefits has He not, out of His infinite goodness and love for us, lavished upon us! All that we have and all that we are, are His gratuitous gifts to us. He is our greatest Benefactor. "Let us, therefore, love God, because God hath first loved us" (i John 4. 19). For us He created heaven, He made us His children, and destined us, as His heirs, to share forever His own happiness. Thirdly, God, our Creator, our Sovereign Lord, demands our love; insists on it: "And now what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but that thou love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul?"(Deut. 10. 12).
He promises heaven with all its endless joys to those who love Him, and threatens those who will not love Him with the everlasting fire of hell. Fourthly, we owe to God all our love for giving us His divine Son as our Redeemer, our Saviour ; and we owe all our love to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for becoming man, teaching us how to save our souls and suffering and dying for us on the cross to enable us to save our souls and merit the eternal reward of heavenly bliss. Could God do more for us to manifest His boundless love for us, sinners? Behold the crucifix! It tells us how much His love for us has cost Him! Look at the tabernacle, in which Jesus Christ, out of love for us, dwells among us as our best Friend, as the nourishment of our souls ! Look at heaven, where He has prepared for us ineffable and inconceivable enjoyments which will for ever satisfy all our desires ! And then tell me what more can God do for us to testify His excessive love for us and to win our love?
4. OUR LOVE OF GOD MAY BE EITHER PERFECT OR IMPERFECT.
It is perfect, if we love God for His own sake only, and not for our sake or benefit. Our love of God is imperfect, if there is any selfish motive in it; for instance,if we love God for His benefits towards us. Perfect loveof God has the power to obtain God's forgiveness for even
mortal sins, however numerous and heinous they may be, if it is joined to the resolution to confess them. The same effect is attributed to an act of perfect contrition, because perfect contrition necessarily includes perfect love of God.
5. WHEN SHOULD WE MAKE ACTS OF THE LOVE OF GOD?
It is customary for good Catholics to make daily at least once or twice the acts of faith, hope and charity. We make an act of the love of God explicitly when we say: "O my God, I love Thee" or use similar words ; but we make such acts implicitly, that is, when we say or do some thing that implies or includes the love of God; for instance, every time we pray devoutly, hear Mass, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, make an act of patience or resignation to God's holy will in our trials, in time of sickness, and whenever we make a good intention, such as, "All for the love of Thee, O my God;" also when we show our grati tude towards God and thank Him for His benefits. We are obliged to make an act of the love of God, at least implicitly, whenever we receive a sacrament. We should especially make acts of the love of God in our dying moments; also whenever we are in danger of death.
6. HOW TO ACQUIRE AND INCREASE IN US THE LOVE OF GOD.
First, we should avoid sin and its occasion; not only mortal sin, but even all wilful venial sin. Secondly, we should faithfully and fervently perform all our religious duties; thirdly, go frequently to confession and holy Communion; fourthly, daily in the morning make a good intention to please God in all we do, and renew this good intention often during the day; fifthly, often reflect on God's goodness towards us and the motives we have for loving Him with all our heart; sixthly, bear all trials and sufferings with patience and resignation for the love of God;seventhly, frequently look at the crucifix and consider how much Jesus Christ has loved us; and finally, pray God to impart to us and increase in us His love, and daily make in our heart many acts of the love of God, and renew our resolution to suffer every pain and trial rather than offend God.
Source: Sermon Matter, Imprimatur 1915