Father Richard describes how we can grow in our love for God:
The God Jesus incarnates and embodies is not a distant God that must be placated. Jesus’ God is not sitting on some throne demanding worship and throwing down thunderbolts like Zeus. Jesus never said, “Worship me”; he said, “Follow me.” He asks us to imitate him in his own journey of full incarnation. To do so, he gives us the two great commandments: (1) Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and (2) Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28–31; Luke 10:25–28). In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37), Jesus shows us that our “neighbor” even includes our “enemy.”
So how do we love God? Most of us seem to have concluded we love God by attending church services. For some reason, we think that makes God happy. I’m not sure why. Jesus never talked about attending services, although church can be a good container to start with. I believe our inability to recognize and love God in what is right in front of us has allowed us to separate religion from our actual lives. There is Sunday morning, and then there is real life.
The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself seek to love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me! “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “If we love one another, God remains in us, and God’s love is brought to perfection in us” (1 John 4:12). Then we love with God’s infinite love that can always flow through us. We are able to love things for themselves and in themselves—and not for what they do for us. That takes both work and surrender. As we get ourselves out of the way, there is a slow but real expansion of consciousness. We are not the central reference point anymore. We love in greater and greater circles until we can finally do what Jesus did: love and forgive even our enemies.
Most of us were given the impression that we had to be totally selfless, and when we couldn’t achieve that, many of us gave up altogether. One of John Duns Scotus’ (c. 1266–1308) most helpful teachings is that Christian morality at its best seeks “a harmony of goodness.” We harmonize and balance necessary self-care with a constant expansion beyond ourselves to loving others. This for me is brilliant! It is both simple and elegant, showing us how to love our neighbor as our self. Imagining and working toward this harmony keeps us from seeking impossible, private, and heroic ideals. Now the possibility of love is potentially right in front of us and always concrete; love is no longer a theory, a heroic ideal, or a mere textbook answer. Love is seeking the good of as many subjects as possible.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard’s book Essential Teachings on Love.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Leaves (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Christ Figure from the Office of Richard Rohr (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Web (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Fallen leaves in water surrender to the cycles of seasons. A spider’s web catches and kills a passing fly. Can we surrender to these moments too? Death is an invitation to slip beyond the web of knowing. What might we find if we allowed the cycle of death and resurrection in our own lives?
Story from Our Community:
Providing daily care to my loved one for eight years has been transformational. With each conflict and fear, I look for the good and holy. The angst, fear, and resentments have morphed into a softened, peaceful, and contented life. Experimenting with surrender, acceptance, faith, and hope, I eventually realized I don’t need to sustain my loved one and myself. God is sustaining us. I see it. I feel it.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.