By Mark Gaylord
(Mark Gaylord works as an analyst for a Defense Contractor. A cradle Catholic, he lives with his wife, a convert, and four children in northern Virginia. He has served on his Parish Apologetics Committee. This meditation was originally part of an email to me. I liked it enough that I asked him to use it as a guest column, to which he agreed. – CJ)
Once when I was assisting at an RCIA class a question was asked “What is Love”. “God is love” the main instructor replied, as it states in the Bible (1 John 4:8 “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”). The lady continued along the line that God is not an emotion, and wanted more clarity on what Love is. An answer in the form of a definition came out of/through me, which was not from me or my intellect, and it is “Love is the active participation in the will of God.” I was amazed at the time what I heard come out of my own mouth and found it to be a beautiful statement.
I have spent a long time contemplating this and have found it has fascinating ramifications. For a while I thought this was something new (and it was for me), but it is consistent with what we already have from our faith, and is at best just a clarification. The idea is well expressed in Scripture as it turns out (and would be expected):
- 1 Samuel 15:22 “But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
- 1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
- John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
The definition has opened a greater depth and meaning to love for me rather than that of a simple emotion and of course it turns out the Church has well known and taught this. Pope Benedict IV stated “…it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvelous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love.” In deus caritas est 17.
Since God is always active in his own will, and it is action in his will that defines love, God is in fact Love. He is the absolute source and definition of Love. As such everything God wills and does is an act of Love by God. Anyone who actively follows and participates in the will of God loves. All that we purposefully do that is as God wills is a loving action. Jesus came to actively do the will of God and to Love “For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45.
Love is an act of free will. We choose to Love, by actively participating in the will of God, or not. God wants us to love him, just to love him (Baltimore Catechism), God does not coerce us, we decide by the way we conduct ourselves and live our lives if we love God. “Before man is life and death, good and evil, that which he shall choose shall be given him” Ecclesiasticus 15:18
Before I was given the definition for Love I thought that the opposite of Love was hate, and I was wrong, it is evil. Appling the definition the opposite of Love would be the “Active non-participation in the will of God”, and that is mortal sin, and mortal sin is evil. “Hate” is a sentiment often expressed from an Evil disposition (but not all hate is evil).
The “non-active non-participation in the will of God” is venial sin. This can be from ignorance, laziness, carelessness etc. but it is not the absolute willful separation from God that mortal sin entails. Original Sin is the separation from the will of God we are born with from the Sin of Adam.
“This act of disobedience, which is called his original sin, man lost nothing which was due to him or to his nature. He lost only gifts, and became as St. Augustine has said, ‘Just mere man.’ On Christmas day when you distribute gifts to your friends, a person with whom you are unacquainted would not dare come to you and argue because you had failed to give him gifts such as you had given your friends. Your answer would be: sir, I have done you no injustice. I have deprived you of nothing which is your due. I have even given to my friends that which was not theirs. And so it is with Original Sin.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Catholic Hour – Love’s Overflow)
This understanding of mortal sin explains much on the nature of sin, sinners and on the devil and demons. Evil is an active rejection of God and therefore a total lack of Love.
Actively choosing to oppose God (exist in a complete state of mortal sin) is demonic, this is why it separates us from God. If we actively cast ourselves totally away from God we land in Hell when we die since hell is the state of complete separation from and rejection of God. If we live in mortal sin we reject God and all that is good, so what is left when all that is good is rejected is horrendous, it is hell.
Since God created all, he is the source of all truth. Since Satan rejects all that is of God he also rejects all that is true and this is why he is the “father of lies”. He rejects God out of pride and all the attributes of God. Satan is the perversion of truth, he twists all things to away from truth. So with Satan we have things like: Homosexual marriage, abortion (the destruction of children made in the image and likeness of God), Lust, etc.
As people follow Satan they lose the truth and “For this is the property of Satan’s delusions, that the men seized by them do not suspect that they are delusions.” —John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, 6:335. When a person accepts lies, they live lies, and they lose the truth, and they lose God.
Since Satan has rejected all that is good, he has no good in himself. He has nothing positive. As such he has:
- No over-all truth, he is all lies (remember he is the father of lies, but he will accuse a person with the truth of their actions
- No genuine strength (just another lie)
- No wisdom (intelligence not a good on its own!)
- No Love – opposes all love!
- No Hope
- No Joy
- Rejected ALL that is good, so all that is left is Evil
- Corruption, ego, weakness, horror, hate, fear, coercion, foolishness, despair, lies, deceit, malice, Etc.
Not being God he:
- Cannot create, only destroy (God alone creates)
- Destroys Life (God’s creation) → abortion (Destroys the image and likeness of God), Euthanasia, Assisted suicide, Fetal experimentation, cloning and combining species DNA – all trying to play God
- Destroys individuals
- Destroys families
- Attacks all that is good
- Fosters terror and terrorism
- Tries (in vain) to destroy the Church (Body/Bride of Christ). Instills Ideas like: faith doesn’t matter… Sacraments are only symbols, Bible alone etc… (it is never alone, always comes with ideas and interpretation)
It is important to remember that:
CCC 395 “The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”
So we should remember that “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4:8). It is URGENT we choose well! Ultimately there are Only 2 choices: “God” and “wrong answer → (Not God)”!) So one again let me state from Ecclesiasticus 15:18 “Before man is life and death, good and evil, that which he shall choose shall be given him”. Choose evil and you get evil, choose real True Love and you get God!