In his daily Mass today, Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of Christian love, explaining that it is not a form of selfish romanticism, but rather something “concrete” that requires sacrifice.
“The love John speaks of is not the love of soap operas! No, it is something else. Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness,” the Pope emphasized in his Jan. 9 homily, referring to the words of the Apostle John in the first reading.
Beginning by reflecting on the passage of John’s First Letter in which he says “if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us,” Pope Francis highlighted how the experience of faith is found within this double “remaining.”
“We are in God and God is in us: this is the Christian life,” the pontiff affirmed, “not remaining in the spirit of the world, not remaining in superficiality, not remaining in idolatry, not remaining in vanity.”
“No, no, remaining in the Lord,” he repeated, adding that “He reciprocates: He abides in us. But He remains in us first.”
“Many times we push Him out and we cannot remain in Him. It is the Spirit that remains.”
After examining this dynamic of remaining in the spirit, which impels the love Christians, the Pope turned his reflections to how to apply this love, saying that “Remaining in the love of God” is not like an ecstasy in one’s heart or a nice feeling.
“Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness. Christian love is concrete,” observed the Pontiff, “Jesus Himself, when He speaks of love, speaks to us about concrete things: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many concrete things.”
“And when this concreteness is not there, you can live a Christianity of illusions,” he continued, “because you don’t understand where the center of Jesus' message is.”
“This love does not arrive at concrete being: it is a love of illusions, like the illusions the disciples had when, looking at Jesus, they thought He was a ghost,” the Pope went on to say, recalling how in the day’s Gospel the apostles mistook Jesus for a ghost when he approached them on the water.
Their surprise, reflected the Pontiff, arose from a hardness of heart because, as said in the Gospel, “they had not understood” the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves which took place shortly before.
“If you have a hardened heart,” Pope Francis explained, “you cannot love, and you think that love is to imagine things. No, love is concrete,” he affirmed, adding that this concreteness is based on two criteria.
“The first criterion: to love with deeds, not words. Words are taken away by the wind! They are here today, tomorrow they are not.”
“The second criterion of concreteness is: in love it is more important to give than to receive,” Pope Francis revealed, adding that “the one who loves, gives...Gives things, gives life, gives oneself to God and to others.”
“On the other hand (is) the one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages,” urging those present to “stay with an open heart.”
“Not like that of the disciples, which was closed, which did not understand anything: remaining in God and God remaining in us; remaining in love.”