Real Love

elderlycoupleHuman beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, the mind of the human person is considered to be good. “And because the mind is regarded as praiseworthy, not only as being learned, but also as being good, one gives heed not only to what he remembers and what he understands, but also to what he wills” (de Trinitate X, xi). A mind that loves knowledge of the truth loves what God loves; and is transformed into a reflection of God. “For the mind that loves eagerly is then to be praised, when it loves that which ought to be loved eagerly” (de Trinitate X, xi ).

In order to love someone, you must have knowledge of them. As you come to know someone better, your love for them grows deeper. For example, an elderly married couple who has spent a lifetime getting to know each other intimately has a level of unconditional love for each other that is much greater than the love of twenty-something newlyweds. This connection between knowing someone and loving someone also applies to the relationship between God and the human person.

The more a person comes to know God, the more they love God. God already knows the human person intimately. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). His love is already poured out for us. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). God does not need to work hard to come to know and love humanity because God is completely omnipotent. It is us who must seek to know Him so we can love Him as He has loved us. Love follows knowledge. Knowledge is based on memory. Out of love that is rooted in a pure memory and combined with truthful knowledge, a human person is finally free to act according to the will of God. Without love, actions and knowledge are worthless.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

The Holy Trinity consists of three persons who already know and love each other perfectly. The human person’s relationship within themselves is not a relationship of perfect love and knowledge. There is always some untruth, some stained falsehood, some broken memory that requires the gift of God’s grace in order for the human person to be able to love and act according to God’s will. This is true when it comes to interpersonal relationships as well. For example, the elderly married couple knows that they are dependent on the gift of God’s grace to maintain their loving relationship. They know that their union is not maintained due to their own power or ability to act lovingly.

All relationships depend upon being connected to the vine of life which is the gift of grace given through one’s union with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is both the sacrificial lamb and the word of God. The lamb is love. The word is knowledge of the truth. Both are necessary for a person to love fully without disowning or detaching from the truth that lives within their own hearts.

One may come to a superficial false love by choosing ignorance of the truth. But such ignorance inhibits action that is aligned with God’s will. God knows all truth and loves anyhow. The trinity that lives within the human person must come to know oneself, including one’s gruesome selfish details and painful memories, before having the capacity to fully love oneself.

St. Augustine understood the difficulty in discerning how the self-centered trinity living within oneself must grow to recognize its unity with all of creation in order to become a reflection of God’s love to the world. A person cannot always think of themselves as separate from others. A person’s mind may think that it understands itself and one’s motives but such understanding could be based on memories that do not portray the truth. It is through interactions with others that such memories are challenged and truth is revealed.



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