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Is God’s Love Unconditional? (Part II of II)

September 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, God's Love

…A reader asks: Dear Father John, since I have been very exposed to the modern self-help movement that tells us God’s love or Christ’s love is unconditional, how do we explain judgment of others?  If he loves us all equally, why do we need to pray, be virtuous or even religious? If we are all flawed humans (some worse than others ) and we are told to love ourselves regardless, what could possibly be the motivation for our civilization to change? Thank you.

In Part I, we talked about responding to God's love, the dangers of self-help and other religious systems and heresies, and the need to go beyond self-help. In this second part, we will look at the amazing call to go deeper into relationship with God and be co-creators with God, and what it means to love more and more.

The Amazing Call to be Co-Creators
There is a related question too. Why does our having a deeper and deeper relationship with God for post on Is God's Love Unconditional?require us to change, to grow in virtue, and to strive to “enter in by the narrow gate” as Jesus put it (Matthew 7:13)? Why isn't it enough simply to have experienced God's love and then say we love him in return?

The answer to this question points us back to a simple truth: God created us as historical beings –  we exist inside time and space, even though our final destiny is eternity. When God did this, he purposed us to be partners with him in creation. This is why he gave Adam and Eve the commandment to go and subdue the earth and fill it. It is in our nature to be creative, to do things, to make a difference in the world. And as we pursue those activities, if we pursue them out of love and for love, we grow spiritually; our souls become capable of more intense loving and being loved. Like a fruit tree that bears more fruit when it reaches full maturity, we can grow to greater spiritual maturity and bear more spiritual fruit (the fruits of the spirit, St. Paul teaches, are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – see Galatians 5:22-23).

Loving More and More
As we grow in wisdom, courage, love, and self-mastery, we are simply more capable of deeper intimacy with God and others, because we are more capable of giving ourselves in love, and of receiving others in love. Someone like [Saint] Mother Teresa of Calcutta was spiritually mature, and so she reflected God's glory more fully than those who were spiritually immature. As a result, her experience of God was deeper and broader. God wants to give himself to us completely. But wherever selfishness still lurks within us, we are closing him out. As that selfishness is purified through spiritual growth and greater maturity, we are able to open those closed doors and let God fill us more and more completely; we are able to receive his love more fully. And then, in turn, we ourselves can love more intensely. And that's what life is all about: living in an ever deepening communion of love with God and, in him, with our neighbors.

May God continue to bless you, and may you continue to respond to his love with a joyful and trusting generosity!

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Art: The Narrow Gate, 2005-12-12, http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/90997 geograph.org.uk, author: http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/3495 photographed by David Long, CC-SA 2.0 Generic, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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  • patricia

    To have creativity is a sign of the Holy Spirit especially when it brings yourself and others closer to God. Great post Father and insight. As we allow God to be more and more the center of our lives of his story for us we will not even miss our selfish tendencies for it will dissipate in Gods purifying fire of love and mercy.

  • The question was: “What is the motivation for our civilization to change?” The motivation is to bring about a more just, loving society for all. Jesus has shown us the way of love and called us to follow him. When we follow him, we improve our lives and the lives of those around us (the civilization) We have the marvelous opportunity to create justice simply by following Christ’s way of love of God and neighbor. If each person followed Christ more closely, the whole of civilization would be improved. Isn’t that motivation enough? The more we imitate Christ, the less selfish and self-centered we become. Multiply that love and we all benefit by creating a civilization in which we can all grow and flourish. In glorifying God in that way, we fulfill our purpose to know God, to love Him and serve him in this life and be happy with Him in the next.

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