Thursday, January 6, 2011

Counting the Ways that God Loves Us

"Beloved, we love God because God first loved us." (1 John 4:19). Two days ago I wrote in a blog entry that acts of Gospel based love must flow from a "fundamental disposition" to love that one decides on prior to loving in deed. However, even prior to our decision to have an attitude or disposition based on love, the above mentioned words from the First Letter of John point to the fact that we are able to love only because we are first loved by God. It is the love of God that empowers a "fundamental disposition" to love and the action of love.

In order to acquire more and more a disposition to love and to actually love in deed, it would seem essential to "count the ways" that God loves us. Rather than count the ways that God loves us individually (which is more of a personal "exercise"), I would like to ponder the ways that God loves by focusing on how God chose to create and the way that God continues "creating" through the sustaining and transforming of human life and even life itself.

To begin with, God does not create the universe in detached fashion. To the contrary, the Judeo-Christian account of how God creates is that God "breathes" and "speaks" creation into being (see the first two chapters of Genesis and the beginning of John's Gospel). Therefore, "right out of the gate" God is intimately involved and invested in the unfolding of creation. Few things are more intimate to a person than one's breath and one's word! Secondly, Genesis makes it clear in speaking of the "six days of creation" that creation and all creatures unfold and blossom under the careful and guiding hand of God. For those of us who are scientifically minded, this doesn't imply that God literally fashioned all creatures, it simply means that creation unfolds in a relatively deliberate, ordered, and purposeful manner. In other words, the creative act is both a mixture of chance and destiny in the universal "striving" to realize higher levels of organization, order, beauty, and meaning. This "striving" is realized most fully in the creation of the human person, who is referred to in Genesis as being made in the image and likeness of God.

If there was any doubt as to creation's meaningfulness, this doubt is mitigated almost to null by the arriving of the human person on the "scene of creation." The human person, almost by definition, is the being who strives to realize higher levels of organization, order, beauty, and meaning (this is essentially the project of every culture). This isn't to say that humans don't also bring about the contrary; however, we are focusing on how "authentic" human personhood images God's loving will and plan that creation make progress toward the good and flourishing of all life. As if this weren't enough of an expression of God's love, as we know, "in the fullness of time" God becomes even more personally and intimately involved with creation by becoming a creature and a human person in Christ. By doing this, God's "destiny" and the destiny of creation and the human person become inextricably and irrevocably bound. In other words, there's no going back for God now! Not only this, but because of the way that God lived in Christ, God demonstrates a love that shows an undeniable preference for the poor, the weak, the lowly, the vulnerable, the forsaken, the lonely, the abandoned, the oppressed, and the marginalized. In this way God's love is revealed as absolutely unconditional and gratuitous! In other words, there's nothing we can do to "earn" God's love but much that we must "undo" to receive it!! ("Un-doing" pride, inordinate attachment to wealth, injustice, oppression, the plight of the poor, etc.)

God finally "loves to the max" by sending us the fullness of his love in the Spirit. In, through, and with the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son, we are being drawn into the very heart of divine life and becoming like God himself. In counting the ways that God loves we can summarize all of the above into three movements of God on behalf of creation: 1) Self-communication (Creation through the Word and subsequently revealing himself) 2) self-participation (the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ) and, finally, 3) self-donation (pouring out the whole of the love shared by God the Father and God the Son in the form of God the Spirit). Pat, TOR