In his 2007 encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI observes that the experience of loving and being loved is a moment of “redemption.” Love gives new meaning, new joy, new energy. Every love is a new birth.
We long and hope for love. We want it to feel like the very first time. But our loves are fragile. The people we love die, so love is no longer mutual. Over time, memory of a loved one fades. Fragile, temporary loves can’t fulfill our longing for love.
To enjoy permanent redemption, eternal life, eternal joy, eternal energy and eternal life, we need to encounter an unconditional and eternal love. This unconditional love can only be found in an unconditionally loving God.
We hope for infinite love, and God is the only infinite Love there is, for He is love – eternal, unconditional, untainted love.
The love we hope for isn’t simply a final destination. Faith is the substance of things hoped-for (Hebrews 11:1). In faith, the love we hope for becomes a substantial, present reality. Through the gospel, love is no longer merely “not yet.” It’s becomes “already.”
We enjoy the love we hope for because we have communion with Jesus, the incarnate Love that is God. This makes us confident about our future and also opens us to love others.
As Benedict puts it, “Being in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his ‘being for all’; it makes it our way of being. . . . To live for him means allowing oneself to be drawn into his being for others.”
Benedict cites the example of Augustine, who wanted to retreat into contemplation but was drawn into the hubbub of leading a busy, contentious congregation. In union with Jesus, he turned outward to serve the people of Hippo.
Augustine described the daily demands of love this way:
The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved.
We hope for love. God is love. The love God is is embodied in Christ, who dwells in us. Therefore, the love of God grips and constrains us, so the unconditional love that we hope for, the unconditional love that gives hope, becomes our way of life. In Jesus and by the Spirit, we become the love we hope for, and inspire others to the same hope.
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