Do You Love God?

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Here again we get one of the central messages of our Christian faith: It is not what we know, or say, but what we do with our faith that matters. When we come to the end of our lives, God will not ask us how much we have in the bank, or how famous we are, or how much power we wielded. He will ask us what he asked Peter on the shore of the lake after his resurrection: ʺDo you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?ʺ

ʺConsider this: whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things,m always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.ʺ (2 Cor. 9: 6-10)

It is not easy to live the Christian life. We will never be able to live it perfectly, but he knows that too. He wants us to learn to love him enough to be able to say to him every day, ʺThy will be done, in and through me, on earth as it is in heaven.ʺ This we do, of course, out of both hope, and a willing desire to do the hard work of growing in our faith and in our public living of that faith in our daily lives. There is so much to learn and so much to do as a Christian in the world. What Jesus asks of us is that we learn to be the means through which he can enter into the world and the lives of those around us. He want us to be his hands, not just his words. He wants our faith to become so real that we can live by no other way in this world, in our own time. It is the practice he desires, not the perfection. It is the heart that desires to practice and to grow in love with him that he will judge us by when we come before him at the end of our days.

Love is not a physical thing. It is not a passion. It is the deep desire in us to do the good for others, before we do so for ourselves. It is the emptying of the self to fill the other, which, in turn, allows the beloved to empty him/herself to fill us in return. Love is not about the self, but is always about the other. When we truly love, we are able to sacrifice without sadness, to serve without compulsion. Love makes all of our giving cheerful, rather than demanded. We do not love to serve ourselves, we love in order to serve others. This is the kind of love and action that Jesus taught us with his life.

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When we love this way we ʺsow more bountifully,.ʺ When we give and serve from our substance, not just from our surplus, expecting nothing in return, we find that we reap a bounty of joy. When we love as Jesus loved, we begin to experience the thing that all human beings desire most, happiness. That happiness is a gift of God’s grace. And its effects go far beyond ourselves. It is when we turn love into some variation of a quid pro quo that we ʺsow sparingly.ʺ When we act in this way, we give only in expectation of getting something of equal or greater value in return. The irony is that, in acting in this way, our reaping becomes spare too. For we are never satisfied. We always want more than we have given. This is not love, because it does not have the life of love in it. This kind of action is infertile, unproductive, and empty.

Here is the thing that we can count on: If we love God and others as ourselves, with our whole hearts, our whole minds, our whole souls, and our whole strength, he will give us every grace we need, ʺso that in all things…[we] may have an abundance for every good workʺ that we engage in at any time. Again, he knows that we will not be perfect, it is the desire to grow in love that makes all the difference.

Let us all pray for the graces we need to grow in our love of God, others, and ourselves, so that when we stand before Jesus and he asks us, ʺDo you love me,ʺ we will be able to answer him with a resounding and joyful, YES, Lord! I have loved you all of my life, but I can see now that that was only a hint of how much I love you now. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.