God takes the first step
· At the General Audience the Holy Father explains the freely given nature of true love ·
“The first step that God takes towards us is that of a love that anticipates and is unconditional”. Pope Francis explained this concept to the faithful who gathered on Wednesday, 14 June, for the General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square. Continuing his series of catecheses on Christian hope, the Pontiff emphasized that “God is the first to love”, and he does so “because he himself is love”.
The Pope’s reflection began from the conviction that “None of us can live without love”. However, Francis specified, “a bad form of slavery to which we can all fall victim is that of thinking that love must be earned”. In other words, believing there must always be a rationale to love others, forgetting that “a world without freely given love” is truly “hellish”.
The Pontiff observed that “much of mankind’s narcissism conceals a feeling of loneliness and orphanhood”, and that there is an underlying question: “is it possible that I do not deserve to be called by name, that is, to be loved?”. He noted that “behind many forms of social hatred and ‘hooliganism’, there is very often a heart which has not been given due recognition”. He referred this thought to the world of young people, recalling that “there are no bad children just as there are no adolescents who are entirely evil, but unhappy people do exist”. But, he asked, “what can make us feel happy if not the experience of giving and receiving love?
Human life, the Pontiff said, is “an exchange of glances: someone who, by looking at us, steals a first smile. Thus, we who smile freely at those who are locked up in sadness, open a way out for them: an exchange of glances, looking people in the eye will open the doors of hearts”. God acts within this logic: indeed, he does not “condition his benevolence on our conversion”. Instead, his love is free and unconditional, because, Pope Francis noted, quoting Saint Paul, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”, and “out of love for us, God undertook an exodus from himself, to come and find us in this wasteland where it made no sense for him to pass”.
The Holy Father compared the Lord’s love to that of a mother or father. “I remember”, he said, the “many mothers queuing up to enter prison, in my previous diocese. And they were not ashamed. Their son was in jail, but he was their son”. Thus, he continued, “only this love from a mother or a father helps us to understand how God’s love is”, since, as a mother or father, he loves each “child even though a sinner”.
In conclusion, the Pope reminded the faithful that love is the “medicine” that “can change the heart of a person who is not happy”. And he recommended that, in order “make the person feel that we love them”, it is important to “embrace them. Make them feel wanted, which is important, and they will stop being sad”. Because, he observed, “love calls for love in a stronger way than hatred calls for death”.
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