Easter 06, Year B-2009

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)

No sooner had they recognized the risen Jesus, and he had vanished from their sight, than the two disciples expressed to each other that their hearts were burning within them while he spoke to them on the way to Emmaus and opened the scriptures to them (Lk. 24:13-35). Their hearts were burning within them—here is a case, I think, of affective love on the part of the two disciples.

Affective love, as far as we human beings are concerned, does not always translate into effective love, of course, anymore than our acting always matches our doing notwithstanding the scholastic philosophers’ agere sequitur esse. With regard to God, however, there is no dichotomy between affective love and effective love; the two kinds of love are one and the same. God doing works of love follows his being love.

Being love, God revealed himself to us to be so by sending “his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” And the Son revealed God as love, and effectively loving, in the fullest and greatest manner that, true to his own teaching about love, he lay down his life for us. If God’s love is at once affective and effective, so is Jesus’ love.

And affective and effective indeed is divine love, for it “has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us,” impelling us and enabling us to love (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Jn. 4:19). For the true Christian then, as St. Vincent de Paul told his colleagues, love is not just a matter of repeated mantra-like recitations of acts of love for God, of disposition of kindness and good will and similar inclinations and interior practices of a tender heart, of being outwardly recollected and interiorly filled with lofty thoughts of God, of the outpouring within oneself of positive feelings or pleasure or fondness, of sweet conversations with God and talking like an angel (P. Coste, XI, 40-45). Rather, it is essentially about loving God at the cost of one’s arms and with the sweat of one’s brows, about showing up and having courage to work in God’s harvest as a laborer who really works, to suffer, to mortify oneself, to instruct the poor, to go out to look for the lost sheep, to like it when something is lacking, to accept illness or some other disfavor. A missionary, adds St. Vincent, deceives himself, if he does not think that his whole task, his whole mission, consists in work (Totum opus nostrum in operatione consistit).

Because of God’s love, the true Christian is enabled also to perform such amazing work as finding acceptable and lovable those one would otherwise consider unacceptable and unworthy of their love, and welcoming them as brothers and sisters, as friends. And all of them, in their fellowship, in their mutual love and service, in their embracing Jesus as a model, become recognizable as his disciples, just as Jesus makes himself recognized in his loving service and sacrifice, in his taking the bread, saying the blessing, breaking the bread and giving it to his disciples.