“Oh yes”, we may say of the Gospel today (Mark 12:28-34) “I know I am supposed to love God, but what does that really mean? It is hard enough to love other people, especially the ones that irritate or even infuriate me, but loving God – an invisible and unbelievably strange power underlying the Universe – how can I know how to do that?”
Well, our first mistake here is to think of love as a feeling. We are called to love everyone, but we can hardly feel love for everyone. Already I’ve mentioned the difficulty here with those we don’t like, but there are also all those millions of people we do not even know. How can we feel love them? The answer is that although we cannot feel love for them, we can choose to act in ways that show that we care for them whoever they are – and that is love. This will mean activity of various kinds, from just being friendly and polite to people at work, in the streets or in the shops, to the much more dramatic moment when someone we do not know has an accident or is taken ill, and we just happen to be there.
It also means concern for other in the wider world. Choosing to send money or help to the poor, as we do through many of our 2nd Collections and our support for Charities ; and it means deciding to vote for a politician who puts caring for others before simply trying to please us with promises of tax cuts – Americans take note!! All these actions and more are part of what it means to love others with all heart, mind and soul.
Once we think of love of others like that, it becomes easier to work out how to love God. Sometimes we may have moments when we do feel very close to God – when something wonderful or moving happens to us, or we see or hear something so beautiful that tears of joy well up. But other times we are faced with the same problems we have when we try to love people.
First there are the times when God appears to infuriate us, as some problem messes up our lives. Then to carry on loving God is as hard as loving that infuriating person. The answer is twofold. First, we just have to do the best we can, to somehow share with God in prayer why we feel so angry or sore with him, and as we share to come back into some kind of a relationship. That is surely what we have to do with people too. Second, is just to do the little actions that show care, even when we don’t feel much. With people it is little actions or words in which we try to rebuild the relationship and surely with God it is the same. To say a prayer or come to Mass when we feel angry with God may be very hard, but it is the only way back.
More often of course, it is not that people are angry with God, more that people view God as so far away and different that they just find it hard to relate to him at all, let alone love him. Surely that is why so many people will say that they believe in a power of some kind underlying the Universe, that they believe in a God, but it doesn’t actually make any difference to their lives. Think back to what I said about loving people we do not know. In the end it is a matter of choosing to care about them whether we feel anything for them or not. And why? Not least because we hope that they would care for us in the same way if we faced troubles. But further because the fact that we humans do care for one another is an essential part of being human. Think of that every time you hear or see a Fire Engine or an Ambulance. Be moved by the way we care for people we do not know, and that the way they care for us.
It is the same with God. It is only by actively thinking about how much God cares for us that we can begin to care for him. At our Course last Tuesday we heard one of our parishioners share how much God’s love helped her when her husband was killed in a road accident. The love she was talking about was the love of God when he became Jesus and faced death and suffering. So she knew in her darkest moments that God knew and understood what she was going through. We then heard words from the Catechism to remind us of this :- “By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part” and then it quotes 1 John4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.”
There it is then. Do not spend time trying to love God, simply think on how much God loves you. Think of the life that you have, and all the good things and remind yourself that it is all from God. So let us think of Jesus and his love, let us remember him and what he did, and when we do that we learn what love really is & so learn to love.