Christian love is not that of a soap opera but rather, characterized by its concreteness. This was the emphasis of Pope Francis’ homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.
The Holy Father began his homily by reflecting on the first reading from St. John’s first letter which states that “if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” This experience of “us in God and God in us”, he noted, is the fundamental characteristic of Christian life.
“To not remain in the spirit of the world, to not remain in superficiality, to not remain in idolatry, to not remain in vanity. No, no: remain in the Lord,” the Pope said. “And He reciprocates this: He remains in us. But, first, He remains in us. Many times we send him away and we cannot remain in Him. It is the Spirit that remains.”
Regarding John’s description of love, the Holy Father told the faithful present that this love is not what is depicted in soap operas. Christian love is known for one specific quality: its concreteness.
“Love is concrete,” he said. “When this concreteness is not there, one can live a Christianity of illusions, because it is not understood well where is the center of Jesus’ message. This love does not become concrete: it is a love of illusions, like this illusion that the disciples had when, seeing Jesus, they thought he was a ghost.”
Commenting on the Gospel, which recalls Jesus walking on the water towards his disciples. The disbelief of the disciples who at first thought Christ was a ghost, he noted, is born from a hardness of heart. Despite the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves which happened before, they still were surprised.
“If you have a hardened heart, you cannot love and you think love is something that is imagined. No, love is concrete,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded his homily by explaining the two fundamental criteria for this concrete love: to love with works and not words and the importance of giving rather than receiving.
“He who loves gives,” the Pope said. [He] gives life, gives of himself to God and to others. Instead he who does not love, who is selfish, always looks to receive, always looks to have things, to have advantages. Remain with an open heart, not like that one of the disciples, who was closed, who did not understand anything, remain in God and God remains in us; remain in love.” (J.A.E.)