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On the Love of God

March 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Lent, Loving God, Meditations, Preparation for Death

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 PhirographyTheShepherdsLove(Lamb)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.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Charles Fisk

    Dear Dan, here I go again! I was reading this article and fully agreeing and feeling good when I came upon this sentence:
    “Consider, moreover, the special love God has shown to you in making you be born in a Christian country, How many are born among idolaters…or heretics, and are all lost! ”
    Does God chose that some people are to be born among heretics and are all lost?

    I agree that some of us are blessed to be born in the faith and for that we are grateful. So the first part is true. But you add that those born in heretic countries are all lost. The second part is confusing.
    I heard a Jewish brother say I am grateful that I was born Jewish so it required no effort on my part to love my faith. But I envy the one who knew nothing of my faith, studied it and meditated over it, understood it and converted!
    God gave those of us gifted to be born in the Cristian faith the challenge to go out and help the others who have not. Jesus said the poor you will always have and you can always give to them.. But you not always have me…

    This is good direction that needs some clarification for the ones who are born without the immediate gift of the Catholic faith.

    • Dear Charles – this post, as indicated, was written by St. Alphonsus, not me. He is referring to the fact that those who are born into non-Christian cultures have far less opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.

      • Charles Fisk

        As a mainstream catholic I am not deeply versed in the teachings of the doctors of the church. So I look to places like your site for further study. I guess like all studies we need to know at what level of knowledge we are. So for someone like myself I find these meditations too hard and suspect that some people may not even dare to comment on them because of the anxiety such teachings cause. Perhaps some readers may be so afraid of these readings that they may feel it is better not to read any more articles on this site as it is “over my head”.I thought and prayed about this today as I had decided it was best for me to stop reading Catholic Direction and just go back to the bible and the basic catholic teachings. Them suddenly I felt the need to tell you this.
        God bless the work you do and forgive my questioning nature.

        • Charles – some of Jesus followers found his teachings too hard as well – they abandoned him. The issue is, will you lean in and learn or run because they don’t make you feel good? I don’t mean to be harsh but that really is the choice here. These are truths that set the heart oriented to God free. If they feel oppressive to you, St. Ignatius would lead you to understand that this may be the work of God to root something out of your soul that is damaging to your salvation.

          • Charles Fisk

            Therefore it us not enough to read the bible, go to mass, daily prayers,confess our sins. Love god and neighbors and have faith hope and practice charity without getting immersed in deeper theology is damaging to the soul ?

          • Charles – you are missing my point. To recoil at Church teaching indicates a problem in the heart/mind/soul that should be dealt with, not ignored.

          • Charles Fisk

            I do not understand. I am not recoiling from the church teachings merely not agreeing with some writings of saints. For example I this sentence
            “How many are born among idolaters…or heretics, and are all lost! ” in St. Alphonsus, actual writing he is very clear and mentions who is lost and I cannot but disagree with him.

          • Ok – maybe I am misreading this kind of comment as recoiling, “So for someone like myself I find these meditations too hard and suspect that some people may not even dare to comment on them because of the anxiety such teachings cause. Perhaps some readers may be so afraid of these readings that they may feel it is better not to read any more articles on this site as it is “over my head”.I thought and prayed about this today as I had decided it was best for me to stop reading Catholic Direction and just go back to the bible and the basic catholic teachings. Them suddenly I felt the need to tell you this.”

          • Charles Fisk

            Definitely not recoiling from my church! Just not agreeing with a couple of sentences written by St Alphonsus. The actual writings in those sentenced may be sensitive in today’s world. That is why I cannot understand and accept them. Is it wrong to question this?

          • LisaB101

            Please allow me to offer a slightly different interpretation. Certainly, I am not a theologian, nor do I understand
            many things, so I may be way off base here, but when I read this passage in question something differently comes to my heart. FIRST — “…are all lost!” may not be referring to one’s soul having a non-stop ticket to hell, but perhaps just lost on the journey to Christ. Truly, all heretics are on a different path, and therefore, lost. That does not mean their souls are lost in hell for eternity, for
            all are given the opportunity to turn to God. Yes, they are all lost!…. but not necessarily lost to hell. (For I was lost, but now am found! See Luke 15 for examples.) I believe St. Alphonsus would never judge where a soul ends up, since that is only for God to do, so it makes sense to me that “lost in hell for eternity” was not his meaning. SECOND — Charles, it is never wrong to
            question, for when we don’t, we become stagnant and fail to form a deeper relationship with God. So do not stop reading this site or asking questions, for this is how one learns. May I humbly suggest leaving it at “I don’t understand; Lord, help me to understand,” rather than disagreeing? In my early days as a convert I remember accepting the Truth taught by the Church, but not understanding it. Over many years, I have received clarity by asking questions and through meditation. (Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. – Math 7:7) Charles, it seems God has called you closer to Him, and He has provided a way of learning through this website. Let us Praise God for the opportunity to learn, and trust the Lord will teach His Truth. May we ALL be humble enough in our learning, that one day we, too, shall be called “Saint.” God bless!

          • Charles Fisk

            Thank you for your thoughtful reply. In St Alphonsus writing he mentions Jews, Mahometans and heretics. So my concern is that a non Cristian reading this writing would feel rejected when reading it. As such the reading would not help if I used it to reach out to a non Cristian. God gave those of us gifted to be born in the Cristian faith the challenge to go out and help the others who have not. Jesus said the poor you will always have and you can always give to them.. But you not always have me…
            Also in the rosary we pray O my Jesus forgive us for our sins and lead ALL souls to heaven specially those that are in most need of your mercy.
            So the reading I think needs to be a reminder to us Christians to go out with love and tenderly talk to our non Cristian brethren. That was why I had a concern. .

          • Or this comment, “I see hell and then it makes sense to fear going to hell for not loving him as he said he loved us. St John Paul said be not afraid. Why are these spiritual directions centered so much on fear it seems to me that they turn people away and do not inspire.”

      • marybernadette

        And that is why, we who are given the ‘Fullness of Truth’ have the greater responsibility of sharing it with others, with the guidance of Holy Mother Church!’

  • Jeanette

    My heart is so deeply touched by this meditation…St. Alphonsus, pray for us that we may have a loving heart like yours!

  • marybernadette

    ‘Wow, as you know, I have mentioned in other posts how I have been confirmed by the Holy Spirit, in certain ‘teachings.’ I have been going through ’emotional and spiritual healing’ in my life for a number of years. One day recently, I heard the Lord speak to my Spirit saying this very passage from Holy Scripture, Jeremiah 31:3. ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’ Thank you dear God, how Worthy you are to be totally Loved Praised and Glorified for ever and ever, Amen!’

  • Sista T

    Gods makes all things for our good, even when we don’t understand. Seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you. Prayer is a knock on the door of His heart, opened to the heart that seek His Love. The Love He first shared with you! He’s waiting for you to share your self with Him. To return what has been already given. All belongs to Him, All is His. Given as an inhertitence. How beautiful everything that is created through Gods eyes of love what a beautiful gift all of Life. He died for All, All was given and His Love is Greater than All things! Their is nothing greater, Thanks Be to God! Love me forever Lord for I am yours, feel me with your Love , that I may share it freely as you have freely given unto me

  • Joan

    Some years ago I found a leaflet in church describing the terrible sufferings of souls in Purgatory. It shocked me at the time as these kind of things don’t seem to be spoken of at Sunday mass anymore. My sister showed the leaflet to the visiting priest at the time and he promptly ripped it up in front of us!

    • LizEst

      Wow! That’s amazing! The holy souls in purgatory are my number one intention. That said, I would have to have seen the leaflet to know if it was something that was faithful to the magisterium. Some things are not in accord with Church teaching, even if, on the face of it, they seem to be. Do you recall the title and/or author of the leaflet? Did the priest indicate why he was ripping it up?

      • Joan

        I ‘m sorry I don’t recall the title. I asked my sister about it this morning and she remembers it as a small black and white print paper booklet. The theme seemed to be if you only knew the torment of these souls in their longing for God once they have seen him and have to wait perhaps a very long time although more explicit in the description and how could anyone forget them for a moment and enjoy life. I’m sorry I can’t remember more detail I think we were left with the impression that the priest thought it was ‘over the top’ in the description of purgatory or old fashioned and not in line with the current teachings. We were a lot younger then and didn’t like to question him but the holy souls are in my daily prayers too and in fact I’m going to a mass at lunchtime being offered for ‘the most forgotten holy souls.’

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