Last Friday we commemorated the 43rd anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II's instillation as Bishop of Rome on October 22, 1978. In his first encyclical letter, Redemptor Hominis ("The
Redeemer of Man"), John Paul wrote:
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself. His life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This is why Christ the Redeemer fully redeems man to himself.
We human beings, made in the image and likeness of the Triune God, are fashioned by love and for love, and love is so much more than what the world thinks it to be. Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote:
Love is not enjoyment and a feeling of fusion but an act of devotion, whereby the lover puts his heart at the beloved's service.
We all rush to receive love, or perhaps more specifically, the pleasures intimately associated with it. God in all his goodness will allow us to feel the pleasures of love even when we seek to experience them through sinful means, but only in this present age. The "feeling of fusion" we so naturally associate with love is a deeper thing than we can begin to understand in a thousand lifetimes.
Why does God permit even sinners to feel such pleasures? He does so because he imprinted in our bodies as well as our souls an unyielding desire to love and to be loved. The Lord will never willingly dull this impulse or its related senses even in the face of our distorted applications of them. He will never stifle the potential for true love.
In each human heart lies boundless potential, both for great sin and great virtue. Sin abounds through our insistence upon embracing a counterfeit love over true, authentic, sacrificial love. Virtue opens up to us the full and vibrant drama of experiencing this genuine love radiating through every fiber of our being. The One from whom our desire and capacity to love emanates will never neglect to grant us every grace required to journey ever more definitively into real love and to share it with others.