ON THE LOVE OF GOD
“Let us therefore love God, because God hath first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
Consider, in the first place, that God deserves your love, because he has loved you before you loved him, and because he has been the first of all to love you. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Your parents have been the first to love you on this earth; but they have loved you only after they have known you. Before your father or your mother came into this world, God loved you; even before the world was created, he loved you. And how long before the creation of the world did God love you? Perhaps a thousand years, or a thousand ages? It is useless to count years or ages; God has loved you from eternity. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, take pity on thee” (Jeremiah 31:3). In a word, as long as he has been God, he has loved you; as long as he has loved himself, he has loved you. Hence the holy virgin St. Agnes had reason to say, “I am prevented by another love.” When the world and creatures sought her love, she answered, “No, I cannot love you. My God has been the first to love me; it is but just, then, that I should consecrate all my love to him alone.”
Thus, my brother, God has loved you from eternity, and through pure love has taken you from among so many men whom he could create; he has given you existence, and has placed you in the world. For the love of you, God has created so many other beautiful creatures, that they might serve you, and remind you of the love which he has borne to you, and of the love which you owe to him. “Heaven and earth,” says St. Augustine, “tell me to love you.” When the saint looked at the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, they appeared to him to speak, and say, Augustine, love your God; for he has created us for you, that you might love him. The abbot De Rance, founder of La Trappe, when he saw a hill, a fountain, or a flower, would say that all these creatures upbraided him with ingratitude to God. In holding a flower or a fruit in her hand, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi felt her heart wounded as it were by a dart of divine love, and would say within herself, “Then, my God has from eternity thought of creating this flower or fruit, that I might love him.”
Consider, moreover, the special love God has shown to you in making you be born in a Christian country, and in the bosom of the true church. How many are born among idolaters…or heretics, and are all lost! The number of those who have the happiness of being born in a country where the true faith prevails, is small, compared with the rest of mankind, and he has chosen you to be one of that small number. O, what an infinite gift is the gift of faith! How many millions are deprived of the sacraments, of sermons, of the examples of good companions, and of all the other helps to salvation which are found in the true Church! And God has resolved to give all these great helps to you without any merit on your part, and even with a foreknowledge of your demerits; for when he thought of creating you, and bestowing these graces upon you, he foresaw the insults which you would offer to him.
Affections and Prayers
O Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, infinite good, infinite majesty, who hast loved men so tenderly, how does it happen that thou art so much despised by them? But, among these men, thou, O my God, hast loved me in a particular manner, and hast bestowed on me special graces, which thou hast not given to so many others. And I have despised thee more than others. I prostrate myself at thy feet. O Jesus, my Savior, “cast me not away from thy face.” I would deserve to be cast off on account of my frequent ingratitude to thee. But thou hast said that thou wilt not reject a penitent soul that returns to thee. “Him that cometh to me, I will not cast out” (John 6:37). My Jesus, I am sorry for having offended thee. Hitherto I have not known thee. I now acknowledge thee for my Lord and Redeemer, who hast died in order to save me and to be loved by me. When, O my Jesus, shall I cease to be ungrateful to thee? When shall I begin truly to love thee with a true love? Behold, I this day resolve to love thee with my whole heart, and to love nothing but thee. O infinite Goodness, I adore thee for all those who do not adore thee, and I love thee for all who do not love thee. I believe in thee, I hope in thee, I love thee, and offer my whole being to thee. Assist me by thy grace; thou knowest my weakness. But if thou didst bestow so many graces upon me when I neither loved nor desired to love thee, how much greater graces should I hope for from thy mercy now that I love thee and desire only to love thee My Lord, give me thy love, but a fervent love, which shall make me forget all creatures; a strong love, which shall make me conquer all difficulties in order to please thee; a perpetual love, which shall never be dissolved between me and thee. I hope for all graces through thy merits, O my Jesus; and I hope for them through thy intercession, O my mother, Mary.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death”(1758).
Art: “The Shepherd’s Love”, Pyrography on Poplar Wood, Uploaded by StefyMante, June 19, 2010, own work, CC, Wikimedia Commons.