Reading – 1 Peter 1:22-25a
The Baptism of Christ #2, painting, Daniel Bonnell
The first Letter of Peter obviously ties in with today’s Gospel in its imagery of seeds and vegetation, but what stood out most to me was the exhortation to “love one another intensely from a [pure] heart” (22).
What does it mean to love intensely? Peter tells us that it must involve another person. Intense love cannot exist with one person or with a focus solely on oneself. Moreover, this love must be honest, real. It cannot have ulterior motives or again be ultimately directed toward the lover. Rather, it must simply and truly seek the benefit, the flourishing, of the beloved; only then does it become “sincere mutual love” (22).
Now, how does this love mentioned by Peter relate to his mention of seed and flowers and grass?
Intense, mutual love from a pure heart is imperishable and forms the core of our ideal relationship with God and with each other. God is the pinnacle of this love, giving and receiving God’s very self in the three Persons of the one Divinity. God, and thus this pure love, never fades or withers. It ignites, sustains, nurtures, renews, and grows itself, because it is always open to plumbing the depths of God’s love ever more deeply, no matter the challenges that come with doing so.
Intense love does not always translate into grand actions or energetic demeanors. It may come just as fully in small, unseen kindnesses and quiet presences. However, intense love is always profound, steeped in and flowing forth from the unfathomable abyss of God and God’s love. We may not constantly have this deep mystery in our heads as we participate in intense love, and that is okay. Continually contemplating the infinite wonder that is God is a vocation for some people but certainly not all people. For most of us, gazing to the Reality beyond reality is mind-boggling, staggering, and even exhausting after a little while. These encounters are necessary to remind us of the Source of our intense love, but we often cannot remain in them all the time. However, that love can still be with us, is still with us, when we accept it and act on it.
Intense love is simply another word for the agape love, the servant love, stressed by Jesus in the Gospel. Different names help us to recall the many aspects of this love, though, just as the many names of God help us to recognize the many different ways in which God is good. Of course, these names, no matter how many or how comprehensive, can never fully capture the essence of God or God’s love. To do so would be to limit God, put Him in a box and tuck Him away, thanking Him for His help that will no longer be needed. God will always be close to us and far beyond us, calling us infinitely to the horizon but always walking with us on the journey.
God is mystery, and this is good. God is good, and this is mystery.
Please, Lord, may we contemplate, embrace, and participate in your intense mutual love, serving and affirming each other with pure hearts, that we may born anew from imperishable seed into the eternal bounty of your life. Thank you. ~
(I’ve had a lot of trouble finding the patience and inspiration to write this past week, partly because of the start of the new semester and the resulting craziness. This reading and this evening, then, have been marvelous, truly a Godsend. Thank you, Lord.)