MUST READ: Unconditional Love of God by Deacon AntonioSeptember 28, 2012 2 Comments
September 28, 2012 / MariaNews.com
Unconditional Love of God
By Deacon Antonio Sandoval
Thirty years ago my wife and I attended a RENEW conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. RENEW was a “program” in several dioceses in the United States for the renewal of faith. Memories tend to fade after several years, but I have never forgotten what one of the speakers said at that conference. Father Michael Himes, a theologian, in a talk about the Love of God related the story of a person who went to St. Thomas Aquinas and asked him, “If God is omnipresent, is he in hell?” St Thomas thought about the question for a few days; then came back with his answer: “Yes, God is in hell!” What is God doing in hell? St. Thomas answered, “He is loving the souls of the damned.”
Father Himes then explained that God cannot stop loving any of his creatures even when they don’t love him in return because his love is unconditional. If he stopped loving any one of his creatures, that creature would cease to exist. This triggered a memory I had of a philosophy class I took at Regis College in Denver in 1953. The professor was explaining that God did not only create us and the entire universe, but that he also sustains us in existence. He said that the universe is like a spot of light on a wall in a dark night. God is like a flashlight, the source of the light shining on the wall. If the switch on the flashlight is turned off, the spot of light on the wall instantly disappears. Likewise, if God stopped loving the universe, the entire universe would disappear into nothingness in an instant. This would also hold true if God stopped loving any one creature in his universe.
The other shocking statement that Father Michael Himes made in his talk was that God loves Satan just as much as he loves the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then he added. “The difference is that the Blessed Virgin loves God in return and Satan doesn’t”.
In time, I came to understand this shocking statement of Father Michael Himes. God loves his rational creatures with agape love. Agape love is not simply providing for the needs of the beloved. It is the gift of self of the lover to the beloved; God offers the gift of himself to each of his rational creatures. At the same time, God has a passionate expectation that all his beloved ones love him in return with the same kind of love, by each giving the gift of self to him. The passionate expectation that God has for our love is the “Eros” love of God for us.
When God loves angels and humans with agape love, giving them the gift of his very self, there is nothing more to give. God loves each one of us totally with the gift of his entire being. Saint or sinner, fallen or elevated, each one of us is offered the entire love of God. How we respond to God’s infinite gift is another matter. We all have the freedom to accept, reject, or ignore God’s merciful love.
We often think that God loves the saints more than he loves us who are still far from the ways of holiness, but that is not the case. Jesus, the God-Man, was criticized for dining with sinners and tax collectors. In response to his critics he said that it is the sick [persons], who need the physician, not those who are well. He forgave Peter for denying him on the night before his crucifixion, but he also offered forgiveness to his executioners, and even gave an excuse for their sin, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34).
In spite of our spiritual fickleness and our repeated transgressions, God loves each one of us as much as he loves the Blessed Virgin Mary. That is why Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12: 50).
Let us then go to Mary, the beloved daughter of the Father, the admirable mother of the Son, the faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the refuge of sinners to learn from her how to love God.
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