Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: "God is Love"

God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est
by Pope Benedict XVI
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006

"God is Love," also known by its Latin title "Deus Caritas Est," was Pope Benedict XVI's first papal encyclical given on Christmas Day 2005. As the title suggests, it focuses on the nature and importance of love. The title comes from 1 John 4:16 which the Pope uses to open this letter. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." He states that he wishes to use this encyclical to "speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others." The Pope's writings are always well-thought out and rationally argued. He is a consummate theologian.

However, even he acknowledges (in an introduction he later added) that "at the beginning, in fact, the text may seem a bit difficult and theoretical. As you continue to read, however, it will become clear that I have only wanted to respond to a couple of very concrete questions about Christian life." Those questions are "Is it truly possible to love God? And again, can love be imposed from the outside?" The second question is "Can we really love our 'neighbor' who is unfamiliar to us or whom we may even dislike?" The final question is "With her commandments and her prohibitions, does not the Church turn to bitterness the joy of eros, of being loved, which urges us toward the other person and wants to be realized in union?"

The Pope succeeds well in his task of answering these questions. He explores the true nature of love in all its forms and how it should impact all of our lives.

Here are two important quotes from "God is Love" about how our love should extend to our neighbors:

"We contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and wherever we have the opportunity . . . The Christian's program - the program of the Good Samaritan, the program of Jesus - is 'a heart which sees'. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly."

"Those who practice charity in the Church's name will never seek to impose the Church's faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love. A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak."

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