TEACHINGS ON LOVE
commentaries on some verses from the First Letter of St John
30 December Glenroy 1975
We live already in eternal childlikeness, youthfulness and maturity.
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have conquered the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” 1 John 2:12-17
John compares the fathers with “the one who has existed from the beginning”; with regard to the young men, he refers to their strength, their natural desire for victory and for taking up challenges; he refers to the children as “those who know the Father”. He is connecting each different age – childhood, youth and maturity – with the different elements of the spiritual life. At the same time, he warns them not to love the “passing world” and the limits of human existence. In direct contrast John proclaims the will of God: “anyone who does the will of God remains forever”. That is, if we live according to the mind of God and if we have his Spirit in us, his mentality, his hope and his wishes, then we live already in eternity, outside of time, in eternal childlikeness, youthfulness and maturity, taking part in God’s own being, his own eternity, embracing all times, and every age.
31 December Glenroy 1975
“Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.” 1 John 2:18-19
In the early Church as a whole and in the local Church to which John belonged, a number of Christians had rejected the faith, left the community and fought against it. John states concerning them, “several antichrists have already appeared”, “Those rivals of Christ came out of your own number”. John also quotes the general doctrine, “the antichrist must come”.
This is a firm belief of the early Church which we maintain today. The passion and resurrection of Christ are the mystery and essential meaning of all creation. They need be repeated in every individual and in the whole human race. Just as Christ had his opponents – his antichrists – who finally put him to death, so too the whole world must experience its passion. ‘Antiworlds’ will arise in the world, affect the world and bring it to its agony. And again, just as Christ came to his resurrection so too the world, despite its antichrists, will come to its completion and fulfilment through the passion it must endure. In short, the antichrist – the anti-Church – whatever it may be, whether it is an individual or a group, must come into the world before the world can come to its resurrection.
The whole Christ too must have its antichrist.
“Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.” 1 John 2:18
The essential plan of history, dimly perceived in all ages and clearly revealed in Christ, is that the human must enter into suffering before the Man can emerge. For this reason, Christ, though perfectly human and perfectly divine, had to undergo the depth of suffering before reaching the height of glory. His passion was his antichrist.
The whole Christ too must have its antichrist. The consummation of history will not occur until the Church is oppressed on every level, until the whole panoply of evil and treachery is set against the Church, until the sum of evil is made apparent in its minions and in its own self. Once the fullness of evil is unleashed, then the hour has come. The fullness of good flowers in the Church and, through evil, despite evil, the Man is.
In each Christian, the same law prevails; in each individual Church, the same event occurs, but on a smaller scale. The sphere of evil touches us at a point and gives an intimation of its extent. Our heart is struck cold, for we know what we hesitate to imagine; and we dread already what others will one day fully endure. To each his own evil is symbolic of the whole evil. Yet this is the prelude to the last hour, the great day, the Day of YHVH, the fulfilment of the promise. When evil strikes, it means that the day is at hand. To every evil there is God’s return of good. Therefore, though we suffer, we are not afraid. Though we tremble, we do not dread. Though in terror, we do not despair, for the bright day is coming which will dispel every darkness.
2nd of January Glenroy 1976
By his own power the Holy Spirit reveals where the truth lies.
“Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. … As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.” 1 John 2:22, 27
The first letter of John deals with a group of Christians who have lost faith in Christ, who have left the Church, who have denied that Jesus was the Christ and have asserted that all the believers are lying. John the Apostle, in writing to the different communities where these things were happening, is trying to strengthen them. He says: “the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ – they are the liar”. In other words, it is not the Christians who are liars but the apostates. He goes on to say: “you have not lost the anointing that he gave you and you do not need anyone to teach you”. John is reassuring the Christians who have lost self-confidence as a result of the scandal that they still possess the Holy Spirit and do not need anyone to teach them. The Holy Spirit is active in them, illuminating them and teaching them the truth about Jesus Christ.
Those who have come to faith in Christ, and who are moved by the Holy Spirit, have an interior source of truth that always abides with them. Those who have the Holy Spirit do not – speaking at the deepest level – need anyone to teach them. By his own power the Holy Spirit reveals where the truth lies.
Tuesday after Epiphany Glenroy 1976
We can say ‘God is love’, but never ‘love is God’.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
John is quite apodictic: everyone who loves, whether Christian, pagan or atheist, everyone who truly loves, seeking not his own satisfaction or likings, everyone who loves is begotten by God, is of his nature, has his Spirit, is redeemed and has entered the divine sphere of eternity. Again; those who do not love, even though they may appear to love, with many works of charity to their credit, even though they may say they love the whole world, yet actually love no one real person – they do not know God, have no experience of him, has no connection with him, nor have his Spirit. Even though they may say the word ‘God’ and may have read all the books, they do not know God.
This is because love can have no other cause than God. It can be nothing else than a share in his own nature. Just as the existence of this creation does not make sense – for its being is feeble and insufficient to itself – unless we acknowledge some far greater source of existence, the First Cause – so too love in this world cannot be explained – for we cannot love unless we have first been loved, unless we see some Lover as the source of all, the First Lover.
Created beings exist, not independently of God, but separately from him. Yet in love, there is neither independence nor separation. When we love, we love with God’s love; we are applying his love to the one we love; we are buoyed up by his power to love, we are united with him in the closest of bonds, namely that of sharing his own nature. For as John goes on to explain, nothing is so characteristic of God as love. God is far greater than anything we can understand or experience and so no human word – even ‘love’ – can encompass him. Yet if we are to search out from our experience the feeble word that comes closest to a description of his attitudes and nature, we find it is love.
We can say ‘God is love’, but never ‘love is God’. When we love, it is because we have already become children of God. We could not, otherwise, have the strength to love. And as we proceed on our work of love, as we grow in love, it is because we are continually being born, in further and further depths of our being. Those who are engaged in love are being renewed by God more and more, until we make our supreme act of love, in sacrifice. Then God will apply to us, once and for all and most fully, the words said of Jesus, ‘You are my Son, this day I have begotten you’.
Wednesday after Epiphany Glenroy 1976
This creation is more properly called ‘love’ than ‘universe’.
“So, we have known and believe the love that God has for us.God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4:16
God’s most characteristic quality is love, the love which creates and ratifies, which purifies and restores, which is forgiving and constant. This love alters the world, so that it is transformed; its very substance is changed so as to become love. So great is the reality of that love, so slight the reality of the world, that this creation is more properly called ‘love’ than ‘universe’. Every stone is a memory, every plant is a lesson, every living creature speaks the same message: the love of God.
Those who have known this love copy it. If they have had the real experience of love, touching their conviction and their freedom, then they too love. They have that same love of God working in them and they too are transformed. Therefore, they live in love: their world is a world of love; their life is a work of love. Now, not only the stones and the plants are love, but their every action too is love, so that they live in love. They live therefore in God, who is love, from whom all ability to love derives.
No need to seek the sanctuary of temples nor the mansions of heaven, for they are already in the presence of God. No need to long for the after-life: already they enjoy the beatific vision. No need to look for the coming of Christ: for already they are with Christ before God. Yes, let them hope for an ever-deepening love, an ever more violent passion of love; let them long for the transforming power of love from Christ and the saints; let them look for the perfection of love which is the last Day and the Coming of Christ – yet already they are in the presence of God at the essential heart of their being: for their being is in love, their being is in God.
Thursday after Epiphany Glenroy 1976
We have to experience love before we are able to love.
“We are to love because God loves us first.” 1 John 4:19-21
We have to experience love before we are able to love. This is true in human psychology; a person who has not been loved by parents or elders is unable to love others. It is doubly true in the religious sphere; we are unable to love until we have first experienced God’s love for us. Once we know we have been chosen by God, then we can begin to love our neighbour.
John goes on to say: “if we have no love of neighbour, we are liars if we say we love God”; and again, “if we have no love of neighbour we are incapable of loving God”. For the love God communicates to us is generous and without bounds, universal and wide-reaching. If we limit it in some way, what we have in fact is not love but some pretense of love. Our love is to be catholic.
We who empower him in the world are empowered by him.
“Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.” 1 John 5:4
The Christian faith proclaims, “Jesus is Lord”. It is not a bland statement of fact or an item of information. Faith places Jesus in a position of influence and authority. It establishes Jesus in power; it confers upon him Lordship of the living and the dead.
Christians do not give him that authority, for he receives it from the One, but they do accord him its exercise. They accept, acknowledge and proclaim his authority; they open the floodgates of his power over the world; they place themselves and all things ‘under his feet’, so that his grace becomes active in this world.
The world of dissolution, and hate, the areas of distrust and sin, are subjected to the influence of love, to the simplicity of sheer strength which shines with the directness and calm of pure light. What is good it confirms; what is evil it discards. Evil has its own seeds of destruction, and it collapses under its own weakness.
Our power to enthrone him is reciprocated by his ability to empower us. We make him king, which he already is. His kingship spreads throughout the Body, so that we now have his power. We who empower him in the world are empowered by him. We who allow his reign are empowered by his reign. His power is our power. We too share that calm strength of light, we too reconcile and choose, make peace and confirm. We too establish the blessed of the earth and leave evil to its eternal darkness.
The world is won and heaven is won by our faith.