This is the eighth and final part in a series of short reflections on the eight general attributes of God that can known by reason, as set forth by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. I've been learning about St. Thomas and the Summa from Dr. Taylor Marshall and the online classes he offers at the New Saint Thomas Institute. These reflections are the result of my meditations on each individual attribute during prayer. As such, they are not meant to be deep theological discussions, but simple spiritual thoughts on the majesty of our God . I pray you find them beneficial in your walk with Christ.
"This I command you: love one another." (John 15:17)
"God is One." Thus, unity is the eighth attribute of God. As St. Thomas explains, God's unity--His oneness--is evident from His simplicity and infinite perfection. Moreover, quoting St. Bernard of Clairvuax, St. Thomas tells us that "among all things called one, the unity of the Divine Trinity holds the first place." (Summa Theologica, Prima Pars, q. 11, art. 4) In other words, the unity of love among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveals God's oneness above all else. "The highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit." (CCC ¶ 813)
We share and participate in the Triune God's unity of love by following the two commandments Jesus gave us: 1. Loving God; and 2. Loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36 - 40) One doesn't have to look around very long to realize that there isn't a whole lotta love in today's world. Perhaps that is why, for me at least, practicing the second commandment can be so difficult sometimes. But as Christians, our primary job in many respects is to bring forth the love of Christ into a fallen and loveless world. Indeed, as Jesus tells us, "[t]his is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) It was this other-wordly, agape love that the pagans noticed when the early Christian's were being martyred for their faith: "See [ ] how they love one another . . . how they are ready even to die for one another." (Tertullian’s Apology, Chapter XXXIX.) When we, as Christians, fail to love one another, we make ourselves indistinguishable and no different from the world at large.
In His prayer to the Father just before entering into His Passion, Jesus expresses his utmost desire for all those who believe in Him to be united in love:
"And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me." (John 17:22 - 23)
Let that sink in for a moment. We must love one another, not only to identify ourselves as Christians, but also so the world will know that God the Father sent Jesus the Son to die for us. By loving one another, we show God's love for all. As St. Thomas states in his commentary on this passage, "nothing shows the truth of the gospel better than the charity of those who believe." As such, "we must try to live holier lives according to the Gospel; for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ's gift which causes divisions." (CCC ¶ 821) Pretty high stakes.
I've been praying a lot lately asking God to give me a greater love of neighbor and to fill me with His supernatural love in order to do the same. During this time, I came across this quote of Father Basil Maturin from his book Christian Self-Mastery:
"The more we love God, the more we shall love man; the less we love God, the less we shall, in the true sense of the word, love man."
Simple enough. More love for God = more love for neighbor. But I needed something more practical and concrete. Leave it to C.S. Lewis to come to the rescue. In Mere Christianity, Lewis offers two practical pieces of advice I will leave you with. First, with respect to loving God, he says:
"Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, 'If I were sure I loved God, what would I do?' When you have found the answer, go and do it."
Then, with respect to love of neighbor, he explains:
"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."
During this Holy Week, opportunities abound to do something for love of God and love of neighbor. By doing so, Jesus will infuse us with His "joy" so that our "joy may be complete." (John 15:11) And who know, maybe you will hear someone say, "See how they love one another."
God love you.