Over the last week, we have been reading from the beautiful first Letter of St. John as the first Mass reading each day. Today’s passage reminds us of something I think we sometimes forget: God loved us first.
Many of us were raised to think we had to do something to earn God’s love. If we love God enough, if we love other people enough, if we do enough good things, then God will love us. But, St. John tells us, we can love God because God “first loved us.” The starting point of our very existence is God’s love for us, for, as yesterday’s passage tells us, God is love. That love is something we can never lose.
But, it is not just about acknowledging God’s love and saying happily that we love God back. It does no good, St. John’s goes on to tell us to say “I love God” without also loving one’s brother or sister. “Whoever does not love a brother whom has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (Whenever I read that line, I’m always reminded of the comedic line, “I love humanity; it is individual people I can’t stand.”) If we don’t love each other – the manifestation of God that we see – then all we really love is the idea of God, not God.
So we need to get deeply in touch with the reality of God’s love for us so that that is the reality out of which we live, out of which we respond to all those who we meet.