“Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us” (1 John 4:19)
In his lengthy biography of the life of Saint Pope John Paul II, George Wiegel includes a letter written by the then Father Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II) to Teresa Heydel. In this letter the future Pope shares with Teresa a profound insight of his into the nature of love, saying:
“After many experiences and a lot of thinking, I am convinced that the (objective) starting point of love is the realization that I am needed by another. The person who objectively needs me most is also, for me, objectively, the person I most need. This is a fragment of life’s deep logic, and also a fragment of trusting in the Creator and in Providence.” (Witness To Hope, p. 102)
George Wiegel comments that “Love, for Karol Wojtyla, was the truth at the very center of the human condition, and love always meant self-giving, not self-assertion” (p. 101). In this short note, I would like to make two applications of Saint John Paul II’s special insight into the nature of love – his conviction being that the objective starting point for love is the realization that I am needed by another.
The first application of the Pope’s special insight into the nature of love involves a person who is struggling in life and feels either unwanted or of little value. The psychological value of the Pope’s insight into the nature of love is not only to assure this person that you love him (consider, for example, a child who has been bullied) but, moreover, that you need his love. The child needs to know not only that he (or she) is loved but also that he is needed by you (that you need his love).
The second application of the Pope’s special insight into the nature of love touches upon the very mystery of your own existence. If love means that we are truly needed by another, then it follows logically that God has chosen to need your love! Stated in another manner, God truly desires and seeks your love. Does this not fill your heart with love for God!
Saint Therese of Lisieux, who was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II, received profound insights from the Holy Spirit about the nature of love. She says in her autobiography that in “1895 I received the grace to understand better than ever how much Jesus desires to be loved.” In another place in her autobiography she tells us that Jesus sought out the love of the Samaritan woman he met at the well (see John 4: 1-27). Saint Therese says, “[Jesus] did not fear to beg for a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was thirsty. But when he said:‘Give me to drink,’ it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love” (Autobiography, Clarke edition, p.189). Jesus truly desires and needs your love.
Father Faber, who died about ten years before Saint Therese was born, adds these words:
” That God condescends intensely to desire our love, there can be no possible doubt….Blessed, blessed God! Wonderful Father…this mystery of His desiring our poor love should of itself be a lifelong joy to us in our time of pilgrimage.” (The Creator and the Creature, pages 124-125)
A profound fragment of love’s deep logic – rooted in the Wisdom of creation – is that God loves you and desires your love in return. It is a fragment of Infinite worth.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Reference: The inspiration and material for this note comes from Consoling the Heart of Jesus (see especially page 58) by Father Michael E. Gaitley. In his book Father Gaitley explains how Jesus’ words, “I thirst,” were of profound importance in the spirituality of both Saint Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In considering, theologically, God’s need for our love we should reflect on the fact that God freely chose in Jesus Christ to become a human being, thus linking His life profoundly with the human race.