Meditations on Deus Caritas Est (Lent 2006)

Ash Wednesday

"God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 Jn. 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny." (Deus Caritas Est, 1)

The heart of my faith, Lord, is that You are Love, and that You live in me and I in You only if I love. You have created me because You love. You have created me to love. I am to come to You Who are Love. Thus to love is my destiny. During Lent, Lord, help me to understand this greatest of all virtues, Love, and to practice it as You would have me do. Amen.

First Thursday of Lent

We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. (Deus Caritas Est, 1)

The mark of a Christian is not belief in God's retribution or His holiness or His justice, because many faiths believe that their gods have these attributes. What sets Christians apart is a decision to believe in God's love. If we do not believe that God loves us and everyone else as well, we cannot claim the name of Christian. Lord, help me to truly love myself and to love others. I want to be fully Yours, and You call me to this love. Give me the grace to recognize, accept, and embrace Your love for me and for all. Amen.

First Friday of Lent

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. (Deus Caritas Est, 1).

Pope Benedict XVI gives a new breath to the phrase "you must be born again." We can't become a Christian because we decide to be one. We might have been born into our faith or come into it later, but unless we have encountered Christ, unless we have experienced His grace, we aren't yet a Christian. Jesus is a Person and we must have a Person-al relationship with Him if we are to be a real Christ-ian. 

Lord Jesus, how well do I know You? How well do I love You? Do I feel Your Presence in my life or, if I don't, do I know that You are near? Open my soul to You, Lord. Let me receive Your Presence and accept Your grace. Amen.

First Saturday of Lent

Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn. 4:10), love is no longer a mere "command'; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. (Deus Caritas Est, 1)

We do not love because we are commanded to. Love cannot be forced, demanded, cajoled, or even earned. It can be imitated, but it cannot be concocted. Love is freely given. Even in those who do not know God, love is a response to God's love for us.

Lord, You are Love. Help me this day to respond to that love in how I treat those whom I will meet. Amen.

First Sunday of Lent

In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. (Deus Caritas Est, 1)

Pope Benedict is emphasizing that God is not associated with violence, hatred, or vengeance. We need to be reminded that God is Love and, in light of that knowledge, frame our response. 

Lord, help me to avoid all forms of rejection of my neighbor. Let me learn, instead, how to love all in the way You would have me do. Amen.

Monday of the First Week of Lent 

God's love for us is fundamental for our lives, and it raises important questions about who God is and who we are. (Deus Caritas Est, 2)

In modern society, we think that food or shelter are fundamental for our lives, but Pope Benedict says that the real necessity of life is God's love for us. If He did not love us, He would not have created us. If He did not continue to love us, He would not keep us in existence. Because He loves us, we have eternal life. 

My Lord Who is Love, grant me insight into how vital Your Love is for my life. All that I am is framed by Your love for me. Give me the grace, my Lord, to pattern my life in that knowledge. Amen.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Let us first of all bring to mind the vast semantic range of the word "love"; we speak of love of country, love of one's profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbor and love of God. Amid this multiplicity of meanings, however, one in particular stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. (Deus Caritas Est, 2)

We begin to see the depth and range of love when we consider all the various meanings this word has. Certainly the love of country is not the same as the love of profession nor that love the same as the love people bear each other in their various relationships. Each of these loves involves an attraction toward and loyalty to someone or something. It stands to reason, then, that some loves could be disordered--loyalty and attraction toward an evil rather than a good. 

Lord, open my eyes to the true meaning of love, You Whose name is Love. Amen.

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

That love between man and woman which is neither pre-planned nor willed, but which somehow imposes itself upon human beings, was called eros by the ancient Greeks. (Deus Caritas Est, 3)

Pope Benedict makes a clear, obvious, but frequently overlooked comment about love. It's not planned or willed. It "imposes itself" upon us. We see a type of this love in other mammals whose mothers will nurture and fight for their young and who mourn if they die. We've called this love "bonding" but could it be more? Could it be a gift from God Who is Love?

My Father, love is so strong that You told us to call You by that loving name of "Father." If You are Love, and Love imposes itself on us, then You are "imposing" Yourself on us. When we feel love, unplanned, unwilled, we are feeling Your Presence. Help us to find You in the love we feel. Amen.

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

The Greeks--unlike other cultures--considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a "divine madness" which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness. All other powers in heaven and on earth thus appear secondary. (Deus Caritas Est, 4)

Anyone who has ever been in love knows the power of eros. The saying "love is blind" is a testimony to eros' ability to overpower our reason. The sweetness of love and the beloved's infatuation with the lover do seem to bring supreme happiness when that love is returned. If such love is rejected, the lover falls into terrible depression. The Greeks considered these uncontrollable and overwhelming emotions as above our human power to produce, hence coming from the Divine.

Dear Lord, You Who are Love, created eros. The love between a man and a woman is so powerful and so sweet because You ordained it so. What do You wish to teach us, Lord, through this love? Help us to learn. Amen.
 
Friday of the First Week of Lent

The Old Testament firmly opposed this form of religion, which represents a powerful temptation against monotheistic faith, combating it as a perversion of religiosity. But it in no way rejected eros as such; rather it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of eros actually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it. (Deus Caritas Est, 4)

Pope Benedict calls our attention to the corruption of Greek thought regarding eros. To elevate eros to a divine power to which "all other powers on heaven and earth are secondary" is to "dehumanize" it. In other words, eros is not a power (god) above all other powers (gods) but a being whose traits are the origin of our own. 

Lord, You have told us that You are Love. How can I understand the power and the breadth of this statement? Let me look to Jesus and give me insight. Amen.
 
Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns. (Deus Caritas Est, 4)

Pope Benedict points out that it is possible for eros, that powerful love between man and woman, to be more than intense sexual attraction and pleasure, but to actually give a "foretaste of the pinnace of our existence." What is that "beatitude for which our whole being yearns?" Isn't it to be loved totally, eternally, without reserve, just because we are? The human spirit craves and needs love, because Love created it.

Lord God, You Who are Love, my being longs for You. When I seek earthly loves and lovers, You are the One I am really longing for. Only You can satisfy my longing to be fully loved. Help me to know and trust You more so that I may feel Your love. Amen. 
 
Second Sunday of Lent

First, there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity--a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

In our everyday existence, things we use that break or are "used up" are gone from our experience and soon forgotten. Not so with those whom we truly love. The first and obvious connection between love and the Divine is love's eternal nature. When we truly love, it is forever. If someone we love dies, we go on loving that person forever even though he or she is no longer in our physical life. 

Lord, true love does not die. We will love forever those whom we truly love now. Such a strong and powerful emotion sets us apart from all other created matter. Help us to see how the eternal nature of true love reflects You Who are eternally Love. Amen.

Monday of the Second Week of Lent

Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or "poisoning" eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

Purification and growth in maturity, the Pope says, are needed to restore the love of man and woman (eros) to its true grandeur. These pass through renunciation. Eros is not a matter of taking or receiving but a matter of giving up and this attitude can only come as we mature in our faith.

I look to You, Lord, and see all that You have given up for me. You renounced Your heavenly glory and power to become a human babe in His Mother's womb. You were mocked, beaten, and crucified for me, all because You love me. Help me to understand that the measure of my love is the measure of my renunciation for another. Amen.

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

This is due first and foremost to the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

Contrary to what some people seem to think, humans are not souls trapped in bodies. Humans are body and soul cojoined. Animals are bodies without souls. Angels are souls without bodies. To be human means to have a soul and a body, and both of these will live in eternity. (Thoughts expressed by Fr. John of the Trinity, Erem. TOCarm, Tiverton, RI USA, 11 March 2006)

Dear Lord, sometimes I think of my body as an impediment or an unfortunate part of me. But it is part of who I am, just as much as my soul is. Help me to understand the rich connection between these two realities which, together, shall live with you for all eternity. Amen.
 
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

The Pope reminds us that we are not body or soul but both and that these must be "intimately united" if we are to understand what love really means. Eros was primarily loving with the body. This is a corruption of love's meaning. Soul and body together will define how love is to be understood.

Dear Lord, You Who are Love, open my spirit to understanding how You wish us to understand love. How does my body fit into the picture? How does my soul? Help me to love purely and fully, O God. Amen.

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to the animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

Pope Benedict clearly reiterates the Church's teaching that humans are made of both body and soul, both of which have dignity and eternity. Without both, we would not only not be human but we would lose our dignity and our greatness. Body and soul together make us who we are.

My Lord and my God, I am sometimes quick to discount my body as being less worthy than my soul, but this is a great fallacy. You died to save both my soul and my body. Both of them make me who I am. Both of them were redeemed by You. Grant me a deeper insight into who I really am in Your eyes, my God. Amen.

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love--eros--able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

In these three, brief sentences, the Pope gives us so much on which to meditate. We are unified creatures--that is, body and soul are united in us. When we love then, it is with both body and soul. He mentions that love can come to maturity, which means that often love is immature. He mentions that man can come to full stature which implies that many of us are "under sized." We do not become fully who we are destined to become unless body and soul are unified perfectly and exercise love through that union.

My Lord, the Pope gives me so much to think about here. I begin to recall how I love. Are my body and soul united in my supposedly loving actions? How might I do better, Lord? I think, too, of my body in a new way--as an instrument meant to show the love I sometimes think belongs only to my soul. Help me to understand, my Lord, and to love better. Amen.

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

Pope Benedict XVI notes here that we have been formed by some erroneous tendencies in Christianity to pit the soul against the body. The statement reminds us that not everything a particular Christian teaches, even if that person is well known and honored, can be taken as the stance of the Church. It's important to see what the Church teaches on the matter to determine if an individual's teachings are doctrine or opinion.

Dear Lord, You have made both our souls and our bodies so how could one be worse than the other? You are all good and You can create only good. To create anything less than good cannot be done by One in Whom no less than good exists. Help me to understand You in relation to both my soul and my body, my Lord. Amen. 

 Third Sunday of Lent

Eros, reduced to pure "sex," has become a commodity, a mere "thing" to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.. . . . Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less regulated to the purely biological sphere. (Deus Caritas Est, 5)

Modern people do tend to think of the body as the vehicle for self expression and pleasure. Does the body exist to satisfy our human lusts for sexual gratification, food, sleep, exercise, and attraction? Pope Benedict notes that exalting the body in this way really demeans it by making it a purely biological reality when God intended it to be a "vital expression of our whole being." The Pope returns to the theme that man is both soul and both united. 

My Lord, how often each day do I try to gratify my body with food, touch, music, drink, or sights? How much attention do I pay to how I look? Where might my attitudes toward my body be changed to conform to Your purpose in giving me flesh? Help me to see, Lord. Amen.
 
Third Monday of Lent

. . . in the Song of Songs, an Old Testament book . . . two different Hebrew words are used to indicate "love." First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This word comes to be replaced by ahaba, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which . . . becomes the typical expression of the biblical notion of love. (Deus Caritas Est, 6)

Pope Benedict points out a new form of love, the searching, insecure, indeterminate love which is not sure of being returned or perhaps immature of its object. This contrasts with ahaba love which is certain, secure, and focused. As we reflect on our lives, we may find examples of these two loves and begin to think of love in a wider way.

My Jesus, Your love for me was always focused and secure. I was its focus--I and every other soul ever created and to be created. But my love for You, my God, is sometimes insecure and searching. I seek ways to love You better when the best way is to surrender myself to You. Give me the grace of loving You perfectly, my God. Amen.

Third Tuesday of Lent

By contrast with an indeterminate, "searching" love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. (Deus Caritas Est, 6)

Pope Benedict notes that ahaba love (agape love) is no "searching" but focused. The focus is on the other person, not on one's self. With this change of focus, the selfish nature in the dodim love is transformed into a selfless form.

Lord, You are Love, Love pouring from one Person of Your Trinitarian Self to the Other and pouring down upon us. In the most radically visible way, You showed Your Love by coming to us, teaching us, and dying to redeem us. What self emptying is this, my God! Grow my selfish loves into selfless ones that reflect Your Own. Amen. 

 Third Wednesday of Lent

Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing for sacrifice. (Deus Caritas Est, 6)

In these sentences, Pope Benedict gives one of the core teachings of Deus Caritas Est. Genuine love is concern for the other, a self-emptying for the sake of the beloved. The measure of love becomes the measure of how much we are willing to give to the beloved. 

Lord, against this yardstick of self-giving, I measure my own many loves. What am I willing to give up for those I love? What am I willing to renounce for You? My Lord, increase my love and make it like Yours. Amen.

 Third Thursday of Lent

It is part of love's growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being "for ever." (Deus Caritas Est, 6)

It seems here that Pope Benedict introducing a deeper discussion of marital fidelity by introducing a love that focuses on one person for ever. Yet the highest level of love, the most pure form of love, offers the same eternal fidelity to every human being, and most particularly those whom the individual personally knows. If one loves another truly, whether in friendship, family relationships, or marriage, that love is eternal. No matter what the other does or says, the love remains.

Lord God, real love is eternal. Help me to evaluate the love I express to understand better if it is self-seeking or self-giving, if it will last only as long as it benefits me or if it will last forever. Grant me the grace of real love, my God. Amen.

 Third Friday of Lent

Love is . . . a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: 'Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt. 10:39, 16:25, Mk 8:35, Lk 9:24, Jn 12:25). (Deus Caritas Est, 6)

How much insight is contained in this one passage! Love liberates itself by moving away from itself toward another. In doing so, love discovers its meaning and also discovers God. If we try to hold onto our own selves, in selfishness, we lose ourselves. But if we give ourselves totally to others in love, we preserve our lives--we become fully ourselves. Love is movement outward, not inward. Self gratification is not love. Acting for the good of the other is.

My Lord, You Who are Love, You have moved outward from Yourself in creation. You have given Yourself totally to us, even to the point of losing Your life to save ours. Grant me the grace of total surrender to Your Love and the courage to follow You by giving myself freely to others as You did. Amen.
 
Third Saturday of Lent

Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38). Yet, to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34) (Deus Caritas Est, 7)

We cannot give what we have not received. It is impossible to love if we have not been loved. Yet Pope Benedict assures us that we have been loved, if not by human beings, then by God alone. We must accept God's love of us before we can give love to others.

My Lord, the love I feel for others and for you is possible only because You love me. While I think that my love comes from me alone, it really comes from You. Any disordering of the love is mine, but not the love itself. My Lord, You Who are Love, grant me the grace to love more fully and more wisely. Amen.
 
Fourth Sunday of Lent

. . . this inseparable connection between ascending and descending love, between eros which seeks God and agape which passes on the gift received . . . (Deus Caritas Est, 7)

The Pope has explained that philosophers have frequently made distinctions between eros as an "ascending, possessive, or covetous love" and agape as a "descending, oblative love." He proceeds to explain that they are not separated but rather connected as were the ascents and descents of angels whom Jacob saw in a vision (Genesis 28:12). Love ascends toward God and descends toward man.

My Lord, all love is from You Who are Love. May my love rise up to You. May You purify it and return it to me so that I may pass on Your love and mine to others. Amen.
 
Fourth Monday of Lent

. . . the good pastor must be rooted in contemplation. Only in this way will he be able to take upon himself the needs of others and make them his own . . .'Within [the tent], he is born aloft through contemplation, while without he is completely engaged in helping those who suffer' . . . (Deus Caritas Est, 7)

In these words, Pope Benedict presents an insight of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In order to help others, we must be "rotted in contemplation." That is, we must spend time in loving communion with God and then go from there to meet the needs of others. This is love. Anything else is social work.

My Lord, all too often I think that I have no time to pray because I have too much to do. Help me to understand that I cannot do well if I do not pray first. The prayer will make my ministry fruitful and keep it love-filled. Give me time to pray today in a way that grants me union with You. Amen.
 
Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Fundamentally, "love" is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or the other dimension may emerge more clearly. Yet when the two dimensions are totally cut off from one another, the result is a caricature or at least an impoverished form of love. (Deus Caritas Est, 8)

The two dimensions of love are its ascending quality toward the Divine and its descending quality toward the other. Within these two realms are many different types of love--of our nation, our family, our friends, ourselves, even our pets and our planet. Yet Love is one. Consider yourself. At any one moment, you might be happy, sad, peaceful, frustrated, angry, ecstatic, despondent, indifferent, driven, or a host of other emotions. Yet you are only one you. You are one person. Love is one as well.

Lord God, is my love complete or impoverished? Am I aware of the other even as I pray or of God even as I tend to others? Do I focus my love on people or things instead of on the One Who gives them? Help me to love fully and well. Amen.
 
Fourth Wednesday of Lent

. . . biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe, or one opposed to that primordial human phenomenon which is love, but rather accepts the whole man; it intervenes in his search for love in order to purify it and to reveal new dimensions of it. (Deus Caritas Est, 8)

People who say that God is repressive of love are just plain wrong. How could He Who is Love be opposed to love? Scripture, the revealed word of God, deals with man as body and soul. Love must apply to body and soul and to every need of each. We are all looking for love. Scripture helps us to search in the correct places and in the proper way.

My Lord, let me never feel that You are holding me back from loving or expressing my love. Rather, You want to perfect my love so that it fully considers you, the other, and me. Grant me the grace to desire this purification and this higher calling, because, in this way, will my love be one of joy. Amen.

Fourth Thursday of Lent

There is only one God, the creator of heaven and earth, who is thus the God of all. Two facts are significant about this statement: all other gods are not God, and the universe in which we live has its source in God and was created by him. (Deus Caritas Est, 9)

In order to understand that God is Love, we need to understand, first of all, that God is. He's "the one and only," a term often applied to a human to whom we pledge our love. More than that, He created us and all other beings and materials in the universe. If it were not for God, neither we nor the universe would exist. So why did He do it? The answer to that question will bring us to the heart of Love.

Lord, God, I am little and insignificant, especially before Your infinite wisdom, power, and grandeur. Yet You created me and You love me. More than that, You want me to be with You forever, when I can give You nothing but my praise which You do not need. But wait. You ask for more than my praise. You ask for my love. Because love longs to be returned. You created me to love You and to be loved by You, forever. What great mystery is this, that You should love me? Help me to love You well, my God. Amen.

Fourth Friday of Lent

The one God in whom Israel believes . . . loves with a personal love. His love, moreover, is an elective love: among all the nations he chooses Israel and loves her--but he does so precisely with a view to healing the whole human race. God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape [7]. (Deus Caritas Est, 9)

Pope Benedict XVI points out how the true God of Israel differed from the false, pagan gods. God loved with a personal, elective love that chose one nation to heal all others as well. His love is both passionate, ascending, and possessive (eros) while at the same time being descending and altruistic (agape). God "has it all together" in regards to love.

My Lord, who can fathom your fabulous plan in which you chose one nation to heal al people? Who can understand a love that chooses to die for the beloved, that is totally passionate and covetous and yet totally altruistic and freeing? How true, my Lord, that You desire to possess me and yet grant me the freedom to totally reject You! My Lord, grant me the grace to draw nearer to you, to snuggle into Your embrace. Amen.
 
Fourth Saturday of Lent

The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel, described God's passion for his people using boldly erotic images. God's relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution. (Deus Carita Est, 9)

If we believe that Scripture is the inspired word of God, then we must believe that God's love for us is passionate. He desires to "marry" us, that is, to have a deep, personal, intimate union with us. The closest relationship we humans have to the spiritual marriage is the marriage between husband and wife. Scripture refers often to human marriage being a dim reflection of the divine union. 

My Lord, how You love us! So great is Your love that You desire our union with You! What am I united to, in my life, that is taking precedence over my union with You? Lord, help me to see and to discard the others "gods" in my life. Amen.

 Fifth Sunday of Lent

We have seen that God's eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. (Deus Caritas Est, 10)

The qualities of agape love, Pope Benedict points out, are that it is freely given and also freely forgiving. God loves us even though we may seem totally unlovable. He forgives us even if we are unworthy of forgiveness. These two qualities in the same being inevitably lead to the sacrifice of Christ. Because of His freely given love to us who are without merit, God sent His Son so that our sins could be forgiven, and we, even though unworthy, could come to live with God in love forever.

My Lord, I am awed by the magnificence of Your love. The All loves and forgives the nothing. All I can do is praise You and thank You for Your great mercy to us. Amen.

Fifth Monday of Lent

God's passionate love for his people--for humanity--is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. . . . so great is God's love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love. (Deus Caritas Est, 10)

Scripture tells us "It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) In the face of so total and so undeserving a gift, what is to be our response? The saints knew. They gave God everything, including their very lives if need be, to return His love. 

Lord God, Your Love is beyond my understanding. How can I praise You enough? You call me to love You and others as You have loved. Give me the grace to love unreservedly, to love the unlovable, to show Your great love to all. This is the way I can praise You.--by giving myself as You gave Yourself to us. Amen.

Fifth Tuesday of Lent

God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being; but this universal principal of creation--the Logos, primordial reason--is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love. (Deus Caritas Est, 10)

We see here the distinctive nature of God as Christians and Jews understand Him. God is not a self-centered, often sinful god of the pagans. Nor is God the indifferent "Force" Who set creation in motion and then let it run by itself as a watch maker does with the watches he creates. God creates but also loves totally and sacrificially. How can we fully understand this radical concept of "loving Creator?"

Lord, my God, You are the ultimate power source. You are the infinite Wisdom. You are the consummate Lover. Help me to grasp what these concepts mean when united in the same divine being. How powerful, Lord, is Your love for me! I praise You forever. Amen. 
 
Fifth Wednesday of Lent

Eros is thus supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape. (Deus Caritas Est, 10)

In God, love has no divisions or qualifications. There is only love, and Love becomes the name of God Who Is.

Lord, God, You are the perfection of love. You are Love. Order my loves so that they may become perfect in Your love. Amen.
 
Fifth Thursday of Lent

. . . man can indeed enter into union with God--his primordial aspiration. But this union is no mere fusion, a sinking in the nameless ocean of the Divine; it is a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one. (Deus Caritas Est, 10)

Union with God doesn't mean losing ourselves in Him. It doesn't mean that God loses Himself in us. The union is one of love, "a unity which creates love." When we are united with God, being totally ourselves, love springs forth between God and us and moves outward to all other human beings. Union with God is our "primordial aspiration." Man desires this union above all, whether or not he realizes it. It is this profound union that we are all seeking, and often in the wrong places.

My Lord, I do not lose myself when I love You. Instead, I find myself. To be one with You is to be totally me. Grant me the grace of perfect union so that I can fully become the person whom You created me to be. Amen.
 
Fifth Friday of Lent

. . . eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose. . . . Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love. (Deus Caritas Est 11)

In God's plan, the love between a man and woman typify the love between God and his people. While God's love is always constant, that between man and woman and humanity and God is not. Nevertheless, the ideal remains the goal. We are to love God as He loves us, and that is with the deep, passionate, exclusive, and eternal love a man and woman ought to experience in marriage. We are to be married to God.

Oh, my Lord, if only I could fully understand the depth of Your love for me and how You call me to that same depth of love for You! When I think of the love I feel for my human spouse, if that love be a deep and holy love, then I can find a hint of what my love for You ought to be like. How little love I have, Lord! Increase my love. Amen.

Fifth Saturday of Lent

[Jesus'] death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. (Deus Caritas Est, 12)

Pope Benedict XVI calls our attention to Christ, Who, by His passion and death, sought man's redemption by dying for man. This is eros and agape perfectly united. In Christ, all loves are one.

My dear Lord, as we are ready to enter Holy Week, I think of Your great love. Immerse me in Your love this week so that I may understand Your loving sacrifice in a deeper way. May I understand so that I may better love. Amen.

Palm Sunday

Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn. 6:31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man's real food--what truly nourishes him as man--is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us--as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. (Deus Caritas Est 13)

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives Himself to us in bodily form, as He did on Calvary. This form becomes our "spiritual food," a "new manna." The Eucharist is the Word of God--the Logos--enfleshed as love. How as love? As love because we are to consume, that is totally possess, the Eucharist so that our Eucharistic God and we become one. This is the union of love in its purest form.

My Lord, when I receive the Eucharist, help me to see it as Your great act of loving union with me. All that You are and all that You taught I receive into my very body, so that You unite with me. You do this, Lord, even if I am totally unaware of Who I am really receiving, so great is Your love. You unite with me even if I have no real concept of uniting with You. Oh, Lord, help me to understand this great mystery of Your Love! Amen.

Monday of Holy Week

The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. . . . The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. (Deus Caritas Est, 13)

The perfection of God's love is shown in the Eucharist where the perfect and infinitely valuable sacrifice of Christ -- His Body and Blood -- becomes one with our imperfect, finite, and worthless selves. Yet in that union, we are made perfect, given eternal life, and endowed with infinite worth because God bought us with His very life.

What a marvel is the Eucharist, my God! What a supreme gift! Can I ever cease to meditate on the meaning of this sacrament? Will I ever exhaust Your Love shown me in it? Lord, increase my love and sacrifice so that I may more worthily receive Yours. Amen.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself: I cannot possess Christ just for myself. I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. (Deus Caritas Est, 14)

God, in His love, unites us to Himself, but He also unites every other human being to Himself as well. Whether they accept that union and reciprocate that love is another matter. Nevertheless, if we are all united in God, then we are all brothers and sisters in Him. We cannot be united with God and estranged from another human being.

My Jesus, here I see why I must love all other human beings. They are loved by You! How can I accept Your love and not accept them when You love them? My Lord, in this profound union in You, help me to love all for they, like me, are part of this union. Amen.

Wednesday of Holy Week

"Worship" itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented. . . . . the "commandment" of love is only possible because it is more than a requirement. Love can be "commanded" because it has first been given. (Deus Caritas Est 14)

When we receive the Lord in the Eucharist, we are being "commanded" to love God and neighbor and this we must do. Love is a requirement, not an option. God can require this degree of love from us because He gave us this degree of love. We need only look to His Eucharistic Presence to understand. Thus, the Eucharist becomes the key to understanding God Who is Love. As a sacrifice which re-enacts Calvary, the Eucharist is Love consumed by us who must love back the Lover and who are sent to spread our love and His to all others for He died for them, too.

What mystery, my God, in the Eucharist! What love! What grace! My Lord, grant me the fullness of Your Love so that I may share that fullness with all others for every Eucharist reminds me that to love is Your requirement for me. Amen.

Holy Thursday

Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbour. . . . "As you did it to one of the least of my brethern, you did it to me." (Mt. 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbour have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and In Jesus we find God. (Deus Caritas Est, 15)

"Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbour." Who does the Pope exclude from this simple yet utterly revolutionary statement? No one. Every single person alive and those in Purgatory awaiting entry into heaven NEED at least our prayers. Every single one is our neighbour. Love does not confine itself to kin, friends, those in our community, or even folks about whom we receive appeals in the mail. Our neighbour is the prisoner we never hear about, the child abandoned in a foreign nation, and the evil pimp in a large city. Some we can help with a kind word, a listening ear, our financial resources, or a helping hand. Others whom God knows, even if we do not, are reached by our prayers. Because God created all people and loves all people for all time, our love must extend to all. "Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbour."

Oh, my Lord, You have opened my eyes to see that everyone is my neighbour, even those I dislike or who dislike, yes, maybe even hate, me. You call me to help each one. Lord, show me how to extend this help, however I can give it, to all. Amen.
 
Good Friday

. . . to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbor or hate him altogether. . . . love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and . . . closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God. (Deus Caritas Est, 16)

Do we love God? The measure of our love of God is the measure of our love for our neighbor. Jesus explained this in the parable of the sheep and the goats. "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for Me." St. John wrote, "Whoever says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar." Jesus died for all people. Who have we excluded from our love? That person is not excluded from His love.

My Lord, I think of Your Passion and death for all people. I ask myself, "Who would I be willing to die for? Who would I surely never be willing to even help, much less die for?" Lord, how far I am from love. I love You only in as much as I love others. Purify and increase my love, my God. I cannot love without Your grace. Amen.

Holy Saturday

God has made himself visible; in Jesus we are able to see the Father (cf. Jn 14:9) (Deus Caritas Est, 17)

We can' see love, can we? Yes, we can. God is Love. Jesus is God. Love is enfleshed in Christ. If we want to see Love, we look for Jesus. He shows us Who Love is, what Love, how much Love is. Jesus is the textbook on how to love.

My Lord, You knew we could not really understand what You meant by love of God and love of neighbor. And so You gave us Jesus Who showed us. Give me the grace to read the Gospels daily and to meditate on them so that I might understand Your Love and so that I might know what my love ought to reflect. Then give me the courage to love without measure as You love me and all others.   Amen.

With this prayer and resolution, we end our Lenten meditations on Deus Caritas Est.  May we put into practice what the Pope, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, has taught.

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