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God is love – he reaches out for us when we are far off; he loves us though we dead in sin; he loves us though we reject him. The root of Christian love lies here – not in anything we do, but in the knowledge, through faith, that we are loved by God. I am not worthy of this; none of us is worthy of this. What wondrous love is this my soul perceives, that although I am in chains, his love frees me?

Christian love is not simply an absence of hate, or a generally benign feeling toward others – although these can be a part of it. But if we believe it is merciful not to hate, or that by our nature we are kind, then we deceive only ourselves. We are in no position to be worthy of dispensing mercy – until we know ourselves to be its unworthy recipients.

Working with refugees from Syria is giving me a second-hand but vivid insight into the nature of hate – it seeks to cure division within society by annihilating those who are different, those who will not go along with the consensus; its version of peace is the silence of the graveyard. When only those who think – or say they think – alike are left, then comes union, then comes peace.

Christian love accepts the pain of disunion. If we can love, even as we know we are loved, then there is a beginning of healing. We speak much of what we seek – the will of God – and we seek to do his will because he loves us and we love him. That love is, as Paul tells us, long-suffering and full of charity, it is not proud, it is not self-willed, and it seeks peace not through suppressing or eliminating those who think differently, but through its essence – through loving them – even when those we love do not love us. Prostitutes and tax collectors were, the Lord said, getting to the kingdom sooner than those who thought themselves righteous. For which of us can deem herself righteous in the eyes of God? Which of us can say to God that she is worthy of his great love, that she has deserved it by her merits? Not even Our Blessed Mother Mary – who if anyone deserved it – said, or could say that. She submitted herself to the will of God. She loved utterly, and she suffered great pains for that love – as all mothers do – and she, the greatest of mothers, suffered greater pains than anyone else. She is the perfect example of what Paul says about Christian love.

If we let ourselves be loved, if we open our hearts to that love which God has for each of us, then our hearts will be softened, and into that tabernacle the Spirit of the Lord will come and guide us into all righteousness – through His name’s sake, that Christ Jesus who died for us, and who rose that we should have life, and life eternal.