Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

‘Be not afraid!’

Proper responsibility of the lay faithful

The Church contributes to the just ordering of society, the work of politics, by calling the reasoning of politicians to a greater purity and by inspiring works of justice, according to the demands of ethics.The duty of the State is direct.The duty of the Church is indirect, that is, the duty to foster the right reasoning by which the State will fulfill its responsibility.

The lay faithful have the proper responsibility to participate in the native political activity of the State for the sake of the common good.Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)" recalls the teaching in Pope John Paul II’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Christifideles laici (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World)," which underlines the moral responsibility of the laity for "the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good" (Christifideles laici, n. 42, quoted in n. 29b).The Catholic faith has always taught patriotism as a fundamental virtue, by which the faithful assume their proper part in the safeguarding and promoting of justice in society.

Organized charitable activity

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the same charity which "must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful" must also inspire "their political activity," which, indeed, is a form of "social charity" (n. 29b). The Church’s works of charity, for example, Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences, are, however, proper to her.The Church carries out the works of charity as her "direct responsibility."As earlier noted, the Church has rightly understood, from her first days of existence, that the faithful must organize the works of charity.

In this regard, the Holy Father reminds us that "there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love" (n. 29c).

Struggle for justice and love

Pope Benedict XVI fittingly interrupts his discussion of the Church’s charitable works to consider "the overall situation of the struggle for justice and love in the world of today" (n. 30a).He observes, first of all, how the ever developing means of social communications have made us immediately aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.The communications media make us aware that, notwithstanding all of the technological progress of our time, there is great poverty, "material and spiritual," in our world.

I think of how Blessed Teresa of Calcutta observed that the greatest poverty in the world today is the spiritual poverty found in the West, which fears human life and regularly commits the gravest moral evils in violation of the dignity of human life.She observed:

"Today there are many countries which permit abortion, sterilization and other means for avoiding or destroying life from its very inception.This is a clear sign that such countries are the poorest among the poor, since they do not have the courage to accept even one more life" (Luch Gjergji, Mother Teresa: Her Life, Her Works, Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1991, p. 67).

Her speech at the reception of the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1979, is an extraordinary commentary on the poverty of our world today, to which Mother Teresa responded with Christlike love.

Quoting the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity," the Holy Father reminds us that the progress in the means of communication means that our charitable works "can and should embrace all people and all needs" (n. 30b).The Holy Father also comments that globalization has made possible the provision of help to those in need throughout the world.He mentions, in particular, "modern systems of distributing food and clothing, and of providing housing and care" (n. 30c).He reminds us of the work of the State and of organizations in fostering a sense of global solidarity.

Cooperation of Church and State

Globalization has inspired cooperative works of the agencies of the Church and of the State in addressing social needs.The Holy Father points out that Church agencies, "with their transparent operation and their faithfulness to the duty of witnessing to love," add a particular quality to cooperative works, favoring the expression of charity.

Commenting on the work of charitable and philanthropic organizations and the work of many volunteers in providing service to those in need, Pope Benedict XVI expresses his gratitude to all who participate in charitable activities.

Ecumenical cooperation in works of charity

The Holy Father recognizes, in a special way, the charitable works of the other churches and ecclesial communities.He notes, in particular, how the works of the churches and ecclesial communities often make it "possible to establish a fruitful link between evangelization and works of charity."For the Christian carrying out works of charity, it is most natural to communicate the source of his charitable works in God, in the faithful and enduring love of God the Father for us in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Pope Benedict XVI takes the occasion of the encyclical letter to renew what our late and most beloved Pope John Paul II had declared, namely, the Catholic Church’s disposition "to cooperate with the charitable agencies of these churches and ecclesial communities, since we all have the same fundamental motivation and look toward the same goal: a true humanism, which acknowledges that man is made in the image of God and wants to help him to live in a way consonant with that dignity."

Pope John Paul II had appealed to all Christians, asking them "to speak with a united voice," to promote the common good, especially the respect for the inviolable dignity of the "the poor, the lowly and the defenseless" (n. 30e).Pope Benedict XVI expresses his "satisfaction that this appeal has found a wide resonance in numerous initiatives throughout the world" (n. 30e).

Certainly, the Archdiocese of St. Louis readily works with the other churches and ecclesial communities in addressing the needs of our brothers and sisters.The collaboration of the archdiocese is always predicated on the respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenseless human life.The Church cannot join in any initiative which does not respect fully the dignity of every human life, from its inception to its natural death.

‘Be not afraid!’

Charity and justice

How does the Church understand the relationship between "the necessary commitment to justice and the ministry of charity"?Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)" gives a twofold response.

The first response has to do with the service of the faith to politics.The "just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics" (n. 28b).The Holy Father recalls the Church’s teaching on "the distinction between Church and State," and the proper autonomy of the State.Church and State, however, are related to each other.The State safeguards the practice of religion, and the Church is a significant free community within the State, contributing to the good of all.

The State has the purpose of serving justice, "which by its very nature has to do with ethics."The State must constantly seek what is just, purifying itself of "a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests" (n. 28c).

Politics and faith

In the State’s pursuit of justice for all, in accord with the demands of ethics, the Church provides an essential service.The State strives to know what is just by means of human reasoning. Faith in God necessarily leads to the purification of human reasoning, to the enlightening of the mind clouded or darkened through the commission of injustices.The Church’s social teaching, which is the fruit of faith in God, helps the State to purify anything in its policies and law which is unethical and, therefore, unjust.The Church does not attempt to impose its properly internal teaching and discipline upon others but to present its teaching on the natural moral law as a fitting means of pursuing justice (n. 28d).

It will be helpful here to remind ourselves that the autonomy of the State does not mean autonomy from ethics, from the natural moral order.The Church calls the State, as she calls herself, to respect and uphold, in all things, the order with which God has created us and our world.

The Church presents her teaching which is founded on right reason, that is, "on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being."She does so, to assist those responsible for the political order to form their consciences, in accord with the common good, and so to act ethically.Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest" (n. 28e).

It is clear that the Church does not invade the proper autonomy of the State, but she serves the State by advancing what is right and good for all."She has to play her part through rational argument, and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper" (n. 28f).The Church, by her very nature, must tirelessly work so that the common good is served by the State, in accord with what is the proper responsibility of the State.

The necessity of charity

The second response of Pope Benedict to the question regarding the relationship of justice and charity is the reminder that charity "will always prove necessary, even in the most just society."In other words, we must remember that the ordering of the State, in accord with the requirements of justice, will never take away the need for us to care for each other with love.The State cannot respond to the multiple situations of suffering, in which what is most needed is "loving personal concern."When the State attempts to provide by itself for all of the needs of its citizens, including the love of neighbor for neighbor, it fails and devolves into a bureaucracy.

Regarding the relationship of the State to the need of charity, Pope Benedict XVI declares:

"We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives which arise from the different social forces and in which are united free will and closeness to those needing assistance" (n. 28g).

The Holy Father points out that our care for one another in need must address, not only our material needs, but, more importantly, our spiritual needs.Here the Holy Father notes the fundamental error of Marxist philosophy, which reduces man to material reality only, thinking, as Pope Benedict writes, that man lives "by bread alone" (Matthew 4:4).By so thinking, Marxism "demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human" (n. 28g).

‘Be not afraid!’

The Church and charity

Pope Benedict XVI underlines two "essential facts" about the Church and works of charity in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)."First of all, charity is inherent to the nature of the Church.The nature of the Church is understood from her "threefold responsibility" of "proclaiming the Word of God" (evangelization and catechesis), "celebrating the sacraments" (Sacred Liturgy) and "exercising the ministry of charity."The Holy Father notes that the three responsibilities all relate essentially to each other and cannot be separated from each other.He concludes: "For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (n. 25a).

Secondly, the charity of the members of the Church toward one another extends to those who are not members of the Church.Within the community of the Church, "no one ought to go without the necessities of life." Charity, however, knows no boundaries and, therefore, "extends beyond the frontiers of the Church."Pope Benedict XVI recalls to mind the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), by which our Lord Jesus taught us the universality of charity.Our love is to extend to whomever we meet in need, including those strangers whom we do not know but meet along the way. Regarding charity toward all, it is our particular obligation to care for those who are united to us by bonds of faith, "to those who are of the household of faith,"as St. Paul most clearly teaches us (cf. Galatians 6:10) (n. 25b).

The objection of Marxism

The Holy Father next addresses the objection to the Church’s understanding of charity, which has been raised especially by Marxist philosophy.The objection claims that the poor "do not need charity but justice."According to the objection, the Church’s works of charity only provide an excuse for the failure to advance the cause of justice for all, permitting us to claim a clear conscience, while safeguarding our own privileged status and denying the poor what is their right.In other words, according to Marxism, if we would work for justice, assuring that every person has his share of the goods of the earth, then there would be no need of charity.

The Holy Father admits to a certain truth in the objection but quickly notes its fundamental error. In accord with the perennial social teaching of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI observes:"It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principal of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods."He goes on to note how the Industrial Revolution has centered the issue of justice in "the relationship between capital and labor."With the Industrial Revolution, money and "the means of production" began to be controlled by a few, leading to the violation of the rights of workers.It is not surprising that, with time, a rebellion occurred (n. 26).

The response of the Church

The Holy Father acknowledges that, in the face of the radically changed social and economic conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution, the Church was slow in addressing her teaching on the just ordering of society to the new situation of capital and labor. On the other hand, within the Church, various groups and associations worked to assist those who were suffering economically.At the same time, a number of new religious congregations were founded for the care of the poor and the sick, and to provide education for all children and young people, without regard to their social or economic condition (n. 27).

Beginning with the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s famous encyclical letter "Rerum Novarum, (On the Condition of Labor)," on May 15, 1891, a series of papal documents have addressed consistently the issues of justice in the new situation of society and of the economy.An excellent summary of the official teaching of the Church in response to the changing social conditions, especially of workers, is found in the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church," published on April 2, 2004, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Basing himself on the perennial social teaching of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI points out the grave error contained in the Marxist objection to the Church’s teaching on charity.In fact, the fundamental error of Marxism, with its call for "revolution and the subsequent collectivization of the means of production," has become evident.The Holy Father observes that "the Church’s social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church" (n. 27).Before the situation of increasing globalization of the economy in our time, it is the Church’s responsibility to give voice to these foundational moral principles.

‘Be not afraid!’


I interrupt briefly my reflection upon Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)," to comment on the recent approval of a new translation of the Order of the Mass by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at our meeting in Los Angeles June 14 to 17. You have, no doubt, read about changes in the secular or Catholic press.Some of the faithful have expressed to me their concern about the reason for the changes and about the number of changes.I understand that the prospect of change in those things which are dearest to us is always viewed with some skepticism.

Before commenting on the changes, I note that they are not yet final.The text which the conference of bishops approved June 16 must now be reviewed by the Holy See for final approval.

Why the new translation?

The translation of the Order of the Mass, which we are presently using, was prepared in the early 1970s, according to principles of translation which have, in recent years, been carefully and thoroughly reviewed and revised.Here, it is helpful to remind ourselves that Latin is the language of the original text from which all of the translations of the liturgical texts into the various languages of the Church are made. Latin, the official or mother tongue of the Church, provides an important service to the unity of belief and practice throughout the world. The Latin text is the standard by which the accuracy and beauty of a translation are measured.

The key principle of our present translation, known as "dynamic equivalence," permitted the translator to interpret the content of a text, apart from the actual content of the words. As a result, texts which were very rich in scriptural and theological meaning were often rendered in an English version which stripped them of their richness."Dynamic equivalence" is an inadequate tool for all translations and especially for texts of the Sacred Liturgy.The revision of the principles of translation of liturgical texts can be found in the document of the Holy Father’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Liturgiam authenticam, "Fifth Instruction on the Use of Vernacular Languages in the Publication of the Books of the Roman Liturgy," issued on March 28, 2001.

Some examples

One translation which has struck me as particularly impoverished is our response when the priest holds up the Sacred Host before Holy Communion.Presently, we respond: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."From the time of my childhood, I was impressed by the scriptural allusion to our Lord’s cure of the Roman Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:6-7) in the Latin text, which, of course, I knew through my St. Joseph Missal: "Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea."In the new translation, the richness of the Latin text is restored, with the beautiful reference to the healing presence of our Lord: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

Other changes reflect important realities of our participation in the Holy Mass. For instance, the word Credo, at the beginning of the Profession of Faith after the Gospel and Homily, is now accurately translated as "I believe" instead of "We believe," to make the Profession of Faith a proper personal and individual act, done in communion with our brothers and sisters present.

It is not possible for me to comment on all of the changes, but, when they are finally approved by the Holy See, care will be taken to explain each change. The changes are not that numerous and, I can assure you, no change was made for the sake of change. All of the changes have a sound foundation in our greatest treasure, the Catholic faith, and its most perfect expression, the Sacred Liturgy.

Change as a time of grace

The changes in the responses of the faithful are not numerous, nor are they difficult.While some have expressed frustration at having to learn a new version of their responses, I believe that the new translations, because of their greater fidelity to the original text, will actually assist us to enter more fully into the profound reality which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice.For my part, I have been inspired by studying the new translations.They reflect much more the great beauty of the Sacred Liturgy and invite us to a deeper participation in the action of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Some experts and commentators on the matter have suggested that the "rank and file" faithful will not understand the changes in translations or will resist them.I do not share their opinion in any way.From my pastoral experience, I can only imagine that the new translations will be welcomed with gratitude and attention, and that any initial awkwardness in adapting to the changes will be rapidly overcome. At the same time, if I as archbishop and our good priests provide a careful explanation of the changes, they will be more than understandable and, in fact, will be an occasion for our growing in eucharistic faith.


A month or so before the meeting of the conference of bishops, I received a letter from a young Catholic who was received into the full communion of the Church some three years ago.He has literally fallen in love with the Catholic faith and, above all, with the Holy Eucharist.
He is now a daily participant in Holy Mass. Reading about the proposed new translations, he wrote to assure me that he welcomes the prospect of a more faithful and, therefore, richer translation of the liturgical texts into English: "I only write this letter because I thought it would be good for you to have on record the thoughts of at least one lay Catholic, unworthy as he is to receive Our Lord’s Body and Blood every day, about what he thinks of the new proposed translation. I love the liturgy, and I feel particularly blessed to be in such a fine Archdiocese as St. Louis where both the old and new rites are celebrated with reverence."

May we all accept the new translation of the Order of the Mass, when it is finally approved, with a deep faith in the Holy Eucharist and a deep love of our eucharistic Lord. May the changes in the translations be the occasion for us to deepen our eucharistic faith and practice.

‘Be not afraid!’

Union of our hearts with the pierced Heart of Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI begins part two of his first encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)," by summarizing the fruit of his reflection on the one reality of love, revealed in nature and in the Word of God, in part one. The summary is found in the focus on the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, in which the one reality of love is fully revealed to us.Through the piercing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the soldier’s spear, Christ, God the Son made man, poured out His life for our salvation and revealed God the Father’s love to us in all its richness. From His glorious pierced Heart Christ never ceases to pour out the grace of the Holy Spirit upon all believers, giving us divine love and inspiring us to live in divine love.

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the promise of our Lord Jesus that "rivers of living water" would flow out from the hearts of those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.The source of our charity, of our love of others and the world, is the Heart of Jesus.Our Holy Father declares:

"The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes their (believers’) hearts with Christ’s heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when He bent down to wash the feet of the disciples (cf. John 13:1-13) and above all when He gave His life for us" (cf. John 13:1; 15:13) (n. 19a).

It is the union of our hearts with the Heart of Jesus which produces in us the works of charity.

The Holy Spirit poured forth into our hearts from the glorious Heart of Jesus also transforms the whole community of the Church.The community of the Church is called to give witness to the love of God the Father for all mankind, drawing all mankind into one.All of the Church’s activities, whether it be teaching the faith or celebrating the sacraments, seek the good of all men, seek "to promote man in the various arenas of life and human activity" (n. 19b).

Charity is the responsibility of the Church

Once we have placed our hearts into the glorious Heart of Jesus, we accept the responsibility to love others as He loves them.Our love of our neighbor is indeed the love of Christ; we draw our selfless love of others from His Heart.The responsibility of love of neighbor belongs also to the whole Church, for the hearts of all members of the Church, united to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, are, therefore, united with each other.The whole Church has the responsibility to teach the faith, to celebrate the sacraments and to do the works of Christ’s love.

From the very beginning, the members of the Church understood the communal responsibility of love and organized the works of charity so that the love of Christ could reach all. Pope Benedict XVI recalls to our minds the famous description of the life of the first Christian community at Jerusalem, given in the Acts of the Apostles: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need" (2:44-45).The holding of all things in common, the "communion" of the Church, is constitutive.In other words, it is part of what it means to be the Church.

Our Holy Father comments that the "material communion," that is, holding all things in common, could not continue as the Church grew throughout the world.The "essential core" of "communion," however, has always been a fundamental part of the life of the Church.Pope Benedict XVI concludes that "within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life" (n. 20).

Early manifestations of communion in the Church

The establishment of the Order of Deacons is one of the first manifestations of communion in the Church.Seven deacons were ordained, in order to assist the Apostles with the works of charity, which are inherent to the teaching of the faith and the ministration of the sacraments.Our Holy Father reminds us that the service of the deacons was not simply "a mechanical work of distribution" of goods.It was required that the deacons be "full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3).The deacon exercised a truly spiritual ministry while providing direct material aid to others.The deacon was ordained to carry out the Church’s responsibility of love.

With the ordination of deacons, the ministry of charity or "diaconia," as it was called in Greek, was established in the Church.Regarding the life of the Church, from her very beginning, the Holy Father observes that "love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel" (n. 22).The Holy Father then provides several examples to illustrate his point.

Among the examples given by the Holy Father is the establishment of the diaconia in each monastery of Egypt in the fourth century, giving the service of charity a stable form in the Church.In each diocese in Egypt, and, in time, throughout the Church, the ministry of charity was juridically established.The life of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, shows that the Church at Rome had the ministry of charity from its first evangelization.When the Roman Pontiff and the other deacons had been arrested, Deacon Lawrence, the one responsible for distributing the Church’s goods to the poor, was ordered to turn over the goods to the civil authorities. In response, Lawrence distributed all of the remaining goods to the poor and "then presented to the authorities the poor themselves as the real treasure of the Church" (n. 23).

Pope Benedict XVI recalls the story of the Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate, to demonstrate further the truth that a well ordered service of charity marked the life of the early Church in its essence.While Julian abandoned the faith, he remained attracted by a constitutive part of the life of faith, namely, the ministry of charity.

Be not afraid!

Two Questions

Pope Benedict XVI concludes part one of his first encyclical letter, "Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)," by answering two questions. The first part of the encyclical letter is devoted to a reflection on "the nature of love and its meaning in biblical faith." The Holy Father’s reflection underlines the two great commandments, that is, the commandment to love God and the commandment to love our neighbor, which, as he illustrates, have, in Christ, become one commandment.

To complete his reflection on the two great commandments, which are truly one great commandment, Pope Benedict XVI responds to two questions. The first question is: "Can we love God without seeing Him?" The second question is: "Can love be commanded" (n. 16)?

We love God Whom we do not see

To respond to the first question, the Holy Father reflects on a passage from the First Letter of John:
"If any one says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God Whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).

At first, the scriptural passage seems to imply that we cannot love God because we have not seen Him. If we reflect on the passage, however, we see that the opposite is the case. What God is showing us, through St. John, is the path to love of Him by way of love of our neighbor. St. John's words should rather be interpreted to mean that love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God (n. 16).

Although we have not seen God, God has made Himself visible to us. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, He has come to dwell with us. God the Son united our human nature to His divine nature, that we might know God, and His faithful and enduring love. Earlier in the just-cited chapter of his First Letter, St. John, in fact, writes about the revelation of God's love for us (1 John 4:9-10).

The Bible and the Church, a love story

The Sacred Scriptures are accurately described as an account of the many ways in which we have seen God because He has chosen to make Himself visible to us. The Holy Father refers to the Bible as "a love story," the story of how God came to dwell with us, pouring out His love for us from the pierced Heart of Jesus. It is the story of how God continues to dwell us with through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit from the glorious Heart of Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father (n. 17a).

The history of the Church, in which we all participate, is the continuation of the story of God’s love. God has revealed and reveals Himself and His love to us in the lives of the saints down the Christian centuries; in His inspired Word, the Holy Bible; and in the sacraments. He has revealed and reveals Himself to us, most wonderfully of all, in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The moral of the story is that God has first loved us. In the presence of the mystery of His love, we respond with love. "He has loved us first and He continues to do so; we, too, then, can respond with love" (n. 17a).

Love, the communion of wills

What is the nature of our response of love to God Who reveals Himself to us? Pope Benedict XVI points out that it is not "merely a sentiment."Sentiment certainly plays some part in our love of God, for it stirs up in us a response of love. It is "a marvelous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love" (n. 17b).

Our love of God, as it develops, goes beyond the "feeling of joy of the experience of being loved" to the union of our wills with the will of God. The Holy Father reminds us that the fundamental nature of love is to will the same things which the one we love wills. Love, therefore, is a way of life. If love is faithful and enduring, as indeed it must be by its very nature, it grows and matures throughout a lifetime. In our relationship with God, God's will becomes more and more my own. More and more, we obey God's commandments, not as external constraints, but as the way to be true to God’s love of us and true to our love of Him.

The commandment of love

The answer to the first question actually provides the answer to the second question. When my will is united to the will of God, then I look upon my brothers and sisters with love, even as God looks upon them with love. When my will is one with God’s faithful and enduring love, then I truly love "even the person whom I do not like or even know" (n. 18).

The commandment of love of neighbor is not simply fulfilled by doing loving things for others. Christian love looks upon the neighbor with "the eyes of Christ," and gives them, therefore, "much more than their outward necessities." It gives them "the look of love which they crave" (n. 18).

The Holy Father provides a striking reflection on how the life of devotion and active love of neighbor are intrinsically related to each other. Devotion is necessary if we are to see in our neighbor the image of God. If our devotion does not issue in acts of love of neighbor, it becomes empty and cold. "Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much He loves me" (n. 18).

The Holy Father reminds us of how the saints, and, in particular, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in our time, "constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service of others" (n. 18).

Love makes us one

Pope Benedict XVI concludes part one of the encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est" by reminding us that, because God has first loved us, our love of neighbor is an expression of our love of Him. Yes, love is a commandment, but, when it is seen at its source in the faithful and enduring love of God for us, it is a sharing of the love of God, which we have first experienced in our deepest being. The Holy Father concludes: "Love is divine because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a we which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’" (1 Corinthians 15:28).

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