Last time we began to take a look at the Holy Father’s first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est. We began by reflecting on the concept of love as found in Greek philosophy. We continue this reflection by examining the Biblical vision of love.
Unlike the god of Greek philosophy, who was distant, unknown and unloving, the true God revealed to the people of Israel was close, knowable and passionately in love with his people. He gave life, not because he had to, but because he wanted to, out of deep love. He chose a particular nation to reveal himself to, the people of Israel, and loved them in a special way. Israel was invited into a Covenant with God, and was constantly reminded by the prophets to be faithful to the Lord. The prophets Hosea and Ezekiel, in particular, described the love God had for Israel as that of a husband for his wife. They also described infidelity to the Covenant as adultery, and wrote of God’s forgiveness in very passionate, unconditional terms.
In the creation of the human race God made this capacity for love essential to our being. Adam could only find a true helper in Eve. Before the creation of woman, man was truly alone in the world in spite of the presence of all the animals of the field and birds of the air. We were made for community and for communion, and this truth finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God’s love that had been working in the life of Israel. He came to draw the lost sheep back to the Father and to show the deep love of God by his self sacrifice on the cross. It is this love that we are called to imitate. We are to love our neighbor as Christ loves us—totally.
In the Eucharist Christ gives us the memorial this sacrifice so that we may remember what he did for us, and that we may be united with him and so be nourished with the Bread of Life. In the Eucharist we are mystically united with Christ and to all who receive his Body and Blood. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a member of a community. We are bound to one another and called to a life of radical sacrifice. This total commitment is lived by the life of Charity that is essential to the life of the Church. The second half of the Holy Father’s letter is dedicated to how we live the love described in the first half.