It’s one thing to will the good for another and so love him or her in a fundamental and sustaining way, in a way which would be advantageous for anyone. It’s another thing to particularize your love response to a person on the basis of his or her personal qualities and unique vocation. Jesus showed us both of these”objective” and “subjective” sides of love in his exemplary communication of “personal love.” Dr. Tobias Nathe, Director of the St. James Project and Assistant Professor of Systematic and Moral Theology at the Athenaeum, spoke on this theme yesterday evening as part of the “Heart of Christ” Lenten Speaker Series at St. Cecilia Parish in Cincinnati. What follows is a transcript of his talk.
Much can be said about love. We love chocolate, our dog, we love the Reds—at least if you’re from Cincinnati—we love our siblings, our spouse and, of course, God. Love is a basic natural attraction (connaturality or natural love); it’s a movement in me based on something that pleases my senses (passion or sensitive love); it’s a rational choice for one thing over another (dilection); it’s wanting to be with another (unity); it’s wishing someone well (goodwill); it’s charity—giving myself away for another under the impulse of grace. It’s a lot of things. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est or “God is Love,” doesn’t deny any of these forms of love, but he rather indicates how they reach their pinnacle expression in God himself.
God loved us first (1 Jn 4:19), St. John tells us. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16). The very essence of love, in its most purified form, is God himself.
So to really understand what all of the loves in our life are about, to what extent they really are love, we do well to consider God’s own character—how he modeled his love for us by sending us his only Son to die for us. In a word, if we are to know to what extent our love for chocolate bears the mark of true love, we have to see it in comparison with Christ, he who is consubstantial with the Father, in the Spirit. It is Jesus who sets the terms for love.
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