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To love God

Third Sunday of Easter

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The Gospel passage proclaimed this Sunday presents us a triple confession of love by Peter. On three occasions the Lord asks him: Do you love me? He will answer three times in the affirmative. It is only logical to immediately associate these questions to the denial of Peter at the time of the Passion of the Lord. Yet this is also a teaching moment. The Lord reminds him and us that the love of God has practical consequences for our life and relationship with our brothers and sisters.

True love is always incarnate. It is always existential. It involves the totality of our humanity. Love of God is also expressed in the service of our sisters and brothers in whom we recognize the humanity of Christ, true God and true man.

That is why to live in the love of God necessarily entails practicing works of mercy, service to others in charity, truth, and justice. Love of God is nurtured and expresses itself in our relationship with Him, in worship and prayer but also in our relationship with His creatures, especially those who were created in His image and likeness.

Love of God impels us to love every man and woman. Christian charity is, therefore, quite different from humanism. To be able to live in the love of God, we must love our sisters and brothers and to be able to love them we must be united to Christ. If we want to transform the world, so that the love of God may reach every human being, it is imperative that we begin by deepening our familiarity with Christ, especially through prayer.

As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing” and then encourages us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age”. As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done, we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice. Paul VI recalled in Populorum Progressio that man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism. The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity. On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment. Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs. God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral, it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish. God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope.

Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if “hearts of stone” are to be transformed into “hearts of flesh”, rendering life on earth “divine” and thus more worthy of humanity. All this is of man, because man is the subject of his own existence; and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that is good, all that leads to salvation: “the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s”. Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as “Our Father!” In union with the only-begotten Son, may all people learn to pray to the Father and to ask him, in the words that Jesus himself taught us, for the grace to glorify him by living according to his will, to receive the daily bread that we need, to be understanding and generous towards our debtors, not to be tempted beyond our limits, and to be delivered from evil.”

Christians long for the day when we can all experience and live the love we have found, love incarnate, love victorious over sin and death, Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Fr. Roberto M. Cid