We say that God is love, that love pours out infinitely from the bosom of the Creator and Father of all.
We say that God’s love moves us to love, to think first of our neighbor and only secondly of ourselves. To let ourselves get lost, really, in the rough and tumble of paying attention to other people and how we can help them. We forget ourselves, lose our egos like a set of keys—and then we wind up finding ourselves again at the end of the day, when we’re ready for an honest night’s sleep after spending our strength doing our duty to others.
We disciples of Christ say that a bottomless spring flows with love. We drink from this fountain, and the invisible, spiritual water is holy and divine and makes us capable of doing things that the world deems impossible, like not being selfish all the time.
Now, how do we know all this? How do we know that the river of love never runs dry, because God Himself loves, and loves infinitely?
After all, someone might ask us: If God is love, why do people die, and when I don’t want them to? Why do good people get diseases? Why do liars and cheaters prosper, while the honest man can’t even afford to pay his taxes?
Okay. Honest questions. Let’s clarify a little bit. When we say that God loves, that love wins, that love outlasts evil, we do not say that evil doesn’t exist. Evil has its day. Love doesn’t mean coasting along with ease in a fantasy-land where no one ever so much as sneezes or stubs a toe.
To the contrary, we say: Because evil is real, nothing makes more demands than love makes. Nothing leaves a person more exhausted. Love costs. It costs, precisely because evil is real, because the devil is clever, and powerful, and more motivated than we are. Love means battling all this, tirelessly battling, until the sun sets on the battlefield and every ounce of strength we have is spent.
We Christians, who say that God is love, do not blindly stare out of rose-colored glasses at a fantasy world which we wish existed. No. We see the confusion, and the apathy, and the cruelty. We do not say ‘God is love. Therefore, everything’s just peachy on earth.’ What we are saying is something more precise, something true. What we are really saying is this: We know that love triumphs, that love is infinite, because the following events occurred:
The Source of our love called His beloved friends together in the Upper Room and consecrated Himself as a sacrifice—a perpetual sacrifice. In other words, all the violence and strife of the fallen earth, all the injustice and darkness—He made Himself the victim of it. He did this out of love, with nothing but love in His heart.
Tomorrow evening we will read in church the tale of human failure that has not grown boring after two millennia, because it always rings true. We read St. Luke’s account on Sunday; tomorrow we read St. John’s.
The narration of the Passion of Christ includes consummate examples of human cravenness: weakness in the face of injustice, petty jealousy of something innocent and good, disloyalty caused by panicky cowardice, and inhuman violent acts done by people treated all their lives as less-than-human slaves.
God took all this on Himself—the whole human ordeal of smallness and apparently meaningless suffering and death, all without a clear answer as to Why?—He took it all on Himself and said to us: I love you anyway. I love you through all this, and I don’t stop loving. Because the well of my love does not run dry, and all the evil in this world cannot consume it.
Then He rose from the dead. And the consecrated Victim Who gave Himself as a sacrifice became our holy food of undying love. All of history has been flooded with this gift of Holy Thursday night. Because He lives. He triumphed. In His very submission of love, His very abandonment of Himself to the buffetings of every evil. It killed Him, but did not end His love. His love won, and He rose again.
To feed us from the altar at every Mass, having sent bishops and priests and new popes marching down through time to us, to give us the sacred mystery, so that the holy days of Christ’s triumph never end.
That’s how we know that love wins: this most sacred mystery of our faith, the mystery of Christ’s living Body and Blood. He gave us this sacrament then, on the first Holy Thursday, the night God was betrayed. He gave it as a pledge of victory.
He still gives it to us. All the evil that ever was or ever will be cannot stop Him. Because He is God, and God is love.