God is Love

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“Deus Caritas Est.” God is Love.

Recently, I waited in anticipation for the release of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical (a formal letter from the pope to the entire Church). There is a lot of emphasis put on a pope’s first encyclical because it is his first chance to formally write out his feelings and it gives us an idea of how he will be leading the Church during his pontificate. Many had the perception that Pope Benedict, being the outspoken defender of the faith that he has been in the past, would come out on the attack, pointing out everything that is wrong with the world and calling everyone to repentance. To the surprise of many, although not really surprising at all, he opened his first encyclical with an often forgotten, fundamental Truth that is the very heart of the Catholic faith, “Deus Caritas Est.” God is Love.

At once I knew what this first blog post should be about: God is Love. Even if only replicating the theme of our pope, it says what I want to say far better than I could say it. It’s something that captures the entire essence of what I want to share with this blog and that all of us must work to put at the heart of our hearts. This is what I hope to always get across no matter what I am saying, writing, or doing and no matter how pathetically short I fall in living up to those things. God is Love.

In all that God and our Catholic faith have to offer to our soul, body, and intellect and in the many amazing mediums God has chosen to share that with us, ultimately it all comes to us in a single currency: love. If we are unable to first speak the language of love, then we can never understand any of it. If we are unable to love and be loved, then no matter what we claim to believe or how much knowledge and wisdom we possess, we can not know God. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). And as humans, we were specifically made to know and to love God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church actually begins (the prologue) with the title, “The Life of Man – To Know and Love God.” It’s that simple. The pages that follow mean absolutely nothing if not understood with that purpose. God is Love.

As humans, we are always looking for signs. We want God to ‘prove’ his existence. We want something that touches our senses, something we can experience. So God, of course knowing all of this, gave us Love. What else is there that overwhelms every physical sense, is completely beyond our intellect, and yet perfectly nourishes our soul? We want a sign? Love is the single greatest sign of God. God is Love.

A good thing for us is that God designed us with the desire and capacity to love. He created us in His image. And love begets love. Once we experience real love, we want more of it. Unfortunately, because we are imperfect, impatient, and prone to sin, we often times fill that yearning for ‘more’ with things other than real love and we suffer because of it. So how do we know what real love is? There are many people, groups, tv shows, movies, teachers, etc. in this world that will try to tell you what real love is. And many of them sell it very well. But if we really want to know for sure, why not go to the expert? If we really want to love to the best of our ability, then we must go to the source of all love: God. God’s love is far greater than any love we can imagine. If we want to know how we can best love, we must get to know God. God is Love.

So again, God, fully understanding our need to know Him, didn’t just leave us to figure it out on our own. He didn’t just send a letter telling us about Himself. He didn’t just send a friend to tell us. He made the visit Himself. And not only did He make the visit himself, but He humbled himself and actually became one of us. God became man. What better way to allow us to get to know Him? Then, He didn’t just explain who He was with words, He showed us. And what He showed us was the single greatest act of love in all of human existence: The sacrifice of his own life so that we may have life…eternal life. God is Love.

So we understand that our purpose is to know and love God. That’s what we were made to do. And God gave us everything we need to do that. He became one of us so that we could meet Him and know Him. Then, in showing us who He is, He showed us the single greatest act of love: Total and complete self sacrifice. Then, He came back from the dead and told His apostles, “See that? Do you see what I just did? Do you see who I am? Do you see what love is? Do you see what your life is for?”

“Now go forth and love.” Deus Caritas Est. God is Love.

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Perica Bosan?i? February 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

Beautifully written, thank you for putting in plain words what most of us take a lifetime to figure out.

Sage April 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Hindus know love. Buddhists feel love. Atheists love. Agnostics love. Pagans loved. Greeks and Romans loved. Humans have always loved and will always love.

Matthew Warner April 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Exactly – because we are made in the image of God…who IS Love.

Frank February 27, 2013 at 2:23 am

Is God literally love? Or is it just a poetic idea? If you’re being literal, are God and love identical (as in, “a starfish is a sea star”), or is God a subset of love (as in, “a starfish is an echinoderm”)? If God and love are identical, does that mean that love has all the properties of God, such as fluency in Mandarin?

It seems a silly conclusion that love should literally be fluent in Mandarin, but if God is fluent in Mandarin, and God and love are identical, then love is fluent in Mandarin.

Have you ever heard of the reification fallacy? If you believe God and love are identical, I feel you may be committing it.

Matthew Warner February 27, 2013 at 11:25 am

Frank – I never said God and Love are identical. God is Love. Love is not necessarily God. But when we do love, we do so in the image and likeness of God (as God is Love).

Frank March 2, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hi Mr. Warner,

Is there anything else that is a subset of love in that way, as in, “Starfish are echinoderms, but echoniderms are not necessarily starfish,” and “Sea urchins are echinoderms, but echoniderms are not necessarily sea urchins?”

That is to say, what word other than “God” can replace the asterisks in the following sentence? “* is love, but love is not necessarily *.”

Matthew Warner March 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

Frank, I think you could do it in a kind of imperfect way by pointing to a particular relationship – like a good marriage. A Marriage is Love…in that it represents a selfless, total and complete gift of self from one person to the other.

Now, it’s imperfect as we are imperfect beings and our total, selfless and complete gifts of ourselves are likely not completely pure. But they are an attempt at it and they certainly are love, although sometime imperfect expressions of it.

In this way, Marriage is an image of the Trinity…a communion of persons, totally in service and gift to the other. That’s Love. Marriage is supposed to teach us this about God. It’s a reflection of who God is in this way. And an acknowledgment that when God made us in his likeness, he did so most profoundly in our relationships with each other (i.e. the expression of Love). Marriage is also a foreshadowing of our relationship to come after this life…our marriage to the bridegroom, total and complete union with God.

Hope that helps a little.

Frank March 6, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Thank you,

If “marriage” can replace the asterisk, we get “marriage is love, but love is not necessarily marriage.”

If “God IS love” is the reason “We love in the image and likeness of God” is true, is there anything wrong with saying “We love in the image and likeness of marriage” is true due to the fact that marriage IS love? You said it was not perfect. Is that imperfection relevant here?

“When we love, we do so in the image and likeness of God (as God is Love).”

“When we love, we do so in the image and likeness of marriage (as marriage is love).”

I feel if one is valid the other must be.

Matthew Warner March 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Frank – I think you could say that we love in the image and likeness of Marriage, sure. Why not? It’s just a bit of a strange way to say it. And it presumes a certain definition of Marriage.

Any analogy to God is going to be imperfect and incomplete. All analogies are. And in this case, we’re trying to grasp the mystery of a Being bigger than our brains can comprehend. A Being that consists of things outside the realms of our small imaginations and where we are limited in describing an unlimited being using the concepts of our limited existence. There’s certainly mystery to it. But understanding Love gives us a glimpse of who God is.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at though?

lozen March 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Frank, please keep going! With every question you ask, Matthew’s responses become more inane and transparent. Good job!

Marcotte April 13, 2013 at 11:59 pm

We love in the image and likeness of God. We do not love as God loves however because we are imperfect and are not always loving, merciful and good, as God is. Also the definition of love can differ in our language as we struggle to describe what we love, the way in which we love and the relationship amongst the people we love. And we use the word as a verb (I love my pet and don’t want anything bad to happen to my pet). God loves _____. is different from saying God is love. I could just as easily say God is Good. That is a true statement as well as long as your definition of good is concise and understood, etc. I wrote about this more in the marriage equality section on this blog. It is important for me to add this next line to show how we can misinterpret such limited language. 1.) My God, you are big! 2.) You are big, my God! You see the difference when there is no context? The first line allows me the freedom to say I could be describing God OR whoever I context back to “You” (literally any person I am talking to. The second line allows the context to determine I can only be describing God and be talking to Him.

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