IN desiring that we should love Thee, O Lord, Thou hast thought good to love us first; in order that by thus alluring us, we being thus forestalled by Thy grace, might not be able to fail in loving Thee. Thou hast found no better means than to love first those by whom Thou seekest to be loved. Thou hast first loved us, saith S. John[1 John iv. 19.]. For putting aside that Thy love is infinite and cannot be repaid, the fact of having first loved us is a favour so paramount that it is impossible for us to requite it.

David could never repay to Jonathan that first love with which Jonathan loved David, and that generosity which he displayed in giving him his own robes in token of the great affection which he entertained for him[1 Kings xviii. 3, 4.]. Wherefore David, feeling himself under such an obligation to repay the love which he owed to Jonathan, loved him as his own life, and not only loved him while living, but also exhibited the great attachment which he felt towards him on the occasion of his death[2 Kings i. 17.], when he wept over him with such profound grief.

I must love Thee, then, my God, my refuge and my strength[Ps. xvii. 2, 3.], for Thy great mercies. Although Thou art wonderful in all Thy works, yet in the disposition of mercy which Thou showest towards man I find Thee more wondrous still. "Thy tender mercies," saith the prophet, "are over all Thy works."[Ps., cxliv. 9.] Thou refusest no one. Thou castest away none, Thou despisest none, and those who offend Thee and fly from Thee Thou still seekest with perseverance, and callest upon graciously. Thou pardonest him that repenteth; Thou receivest him that returneth, and hopest for him that delayeth his repentance. Thou turnest the wanderer back again into the right way; invitest him that refuseth Thee, awakest the careless, embracest him that cometh to Thee, consolest the sorrowful, liftest up the fallen, and openest to him that crieth to Thee.

It is a strange thing that the sinner who forsakes Thee, Thou Summum Bonum and infinite Goodness, not finding any rest in the things which he loves, does not seek a remedy by returning to Him Whom he has offended. He cannot live without Thee, and by separating himself from Thee, he is necessarily compelled to return to Thee. The prodigal son, not finding anything but troubles and miseries in all created things, had no other remedy than that of returning to his father whom he had disregarded.[Luke 15.] Thou art our protection and shelter, and Thou hast so loved us that in order to gain our love Thou hast (as Isaias saith) borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.[Isa. liii. 4.] Thou hast bartered with us Thy good things for our evil ones; Thou weepest that we may laugh, and fastest that we may eat; Thou toilest for our rest, art poor in order to enrich us, and finally dost die that we might live. We have laid infirmity upon Thee, and Thou hast bestowed health on us. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich He became poor for your sakes; that through His poverty you might be rich."[2 Cor. viii. 9.]

However much husband and wife or brother and sister may love each other, they will always be distinct personalities. But the infinite love which Thou bearest to us has effected this, that Thy Divine Nature and our humanity should be united in a single Person. Solomon says that "he who is a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is proved in distress".[Prov. xvii. 17.] O true Friend of my soul, Who hast loved me at all times! in honour and dishonour, in life and in death; and since Thou hadst no other liberty than that of speech wherewith to do us a favour when Thou wast nailed upon the Cross, with that Thou didst gain for me the pardon of the Father, praying with tears, as Thy holy apostle saith.[Heb. v. 7.]

When we were least worthy of being loved, then didst Thou all the more declare the love which Thou bearest towards us, displaying it in greater works. Thou didst preach more often and perform more miracles in Capharnaum than in other cities of the Kingdom of Judæa or of the province of Galilee, in order that in that maritime city where there were more sins and vices, and the inhabitants were less worthy of Thy presence, Thy mercy should shine forth more brightly, according to that which Thy holy apostle said, "Where sin abounded grace did more abound."[Rom. v. 20.]

Who would not love so loving a God, Who does not disdain to love even where He is but little loved? Who could have a heart so horrible and full of sin as to despair of the mercy of God, seeing that He did not turn away His face from the idolatries, avarice, and infamy of Capharnaum? I know not who could have a breast so hardened or a heart so frozen, as not to be softened and melted by the presence of so great a love. S. Luke the evangelist in describing how, on the night of Thy Sacred Passion, Thou didst withdraw Thyself from Thy disciples about a stone's throw in order to pray in the garden, uses the word avulsus.[but, see note 1] This word avulsus is properly to root up, as when one puts forth great force in uprooting a tree with its root and the earth around it. Thy heart was so united in love to those apostles that Thou didst separate Thyself from them as if Thy bowels were being extirpated.

O great strength of love which even for so short a distance as a stone's throw could not endure absence without great pain, whereas thou, my soul, art separated from thy God so many years and art scarcely sensible of it! Thou art wanting in the love of God; thou canst not deny it. This great love did not suffer Him to detach Himself half a league from His own creatures, nay, not even so short a space as a stone's throw.

God is love. He is tender and most sweet: wherefore there is no greater delight than holy love. God is love, and is not faith, but the basis and object upon which our faith is founded. S. John says only that God is love; whence we may understand how natural it is for Him to love us, since we are the work of His Hands. Oh with what justice does He desire to be loved with all our strength and heart, seeking the homage of our soul alone, since to Him only is our entire choice and love due! O sweetness of holy love; and how well did the name — given to Thee by the special friend of God — suit Thee, when he said: "God is charity, and he that abideth in charity abideth in God and God in him".[1 John iv. 16.] O admirable companionship and barter of great gain, that being such as I am, Thou, my God, givest Thyself in exchange with me, and that as I love Thee Thou lovest me, to repay love with love.

Love is free, for it springs from a free source, which is our will. For this reason love is so precious and Thou cravest it in us, O Lord, as our jealous friend; for it is the richest jewel of our own that we can offer Thee. For that precious pearl and flaming ruby of love Thou hast given to man the whole creation, having made him lord of this universe, as saith the psalmist;[Ps. viii. 6.] whence in giving him all, Thou hast bound him to repay this with all the debt of love which he owes to Thee as to his Creator.

Thou didst place man first in the gardens of the earthly Paradise;[Gen. ii. 15.] Thou madest him lord of the universe, and didst prepare him[but, see note 2] with singular gifts and many blessings in order that he might love Thee. But since much wood usually extinguishes the fire, and ends in producing smoke only, so Adam loaded with so many favours went forth[Gen. iii. 24.] weeping, when, owing to his ingratitude, the Divine fire of love died out of his miserable heart. But Thou, my Lord and my Redeemer, like the Cherubim desiring to feed fire with fire, didst enter beneath the wheels of my afflictions, and taking live coals in Thy Sacred Hands, didst spread them over the city of Jerusalem, which is every one of our souls, according to what the prophet Ezechiel beheld in a vision.[Ezech. x. 2, 6, 7.]

1. Luke xxii. 41 (Vulg.). There is no support in the original Greek for this version, or for the comment which the author of these Meditations builds upon the term employed in the Latin Vulgate. The Greek simply means "drew away from "; the same verb being used in Matt. xxvi. 51, to describe the drawing out of a sword from its sheath. The Rheims translation, "was withdrawn away from them," is perfectly correct. [back]

2. "Prevent" him, Ps. xx. 4.[back]