Reflection from the ‘Soul Institute’ on first reading of the Day Jan 8 thought from St Thomas Aquinas

“Beloved, we love God because
he first loved us.
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates his brother, he is a liar;
for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen
cannot love God whom he has not seen.
This is the commandment we have from him:
Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.”

Francis Selman in his book, ‘Aquinas 101’ writes, “As the Great Commandment of charity is twofold, to love God and our neighbor, the question arises whether charity is one virtue or two when it has two objects: God and others. St Thomas replies that it is one virtue: its unity lies herein, that we love God for himself and everyone else as they as they are in God or capable of being in him. We Love God in loving our neighbor when we love others as they are related to him. It might appear that, if we love God first, I cannot love others wholeheartedly. Or we may worry that our love of others take away between the love of God. There need be no conflict, however, between the love of God and of friends. Love of God with out whole heart does not diminish but should enhance our love of other: because we will also want to share the greatest good for our friend, which is to share in the good that God has to communicate to us; and so ultimately in beatitude, second, because the love of God enables is to be friends with others all the more, as it is the source of those feeling that are a part of friendship. As Raissa Maritain has beautifully expressed this:

‘I was to learn through experience that these particular devotions to the saints came into being in the same way as admiration and friendship. And in no case can friendship, which is a very gentle virtue, diminish the love with which one loves God.'”

The same love that makes us love God is the same love that we love our neighbor. That is why St John can say, “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, but hates his brother, he is a liar;for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” The love of God and love of neighbor flow from the same font. That is why if we hate someone the love of God is absent from our heart.

Thought for the day: There is only one way we know whether or not we are drawing closer to God. The only way we know whether we are drawing closer to God is love. Do we love more? God is love and those who come close to God will love others more.

Question for the day: Think of someone who you have difficulty loving. Do you love that person more or less than you did last year? If you can say that you love them more than you are closer to God. If you say that you love them less than you further away from God. Also St John tells us that love proves itself by deeds not just by words.

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