True love comes from God and is expressed through his mercy and forgiveness, not through sentimental expressions that can easily vanish, Pope Francis said.
Although many people use the word ‘love’, “when used, it is not known what it exactly means”, the pope said in his homily on 8 January during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
“What is love? There are times we think of soap opera love. No, that does not look like love. Or love may seem like enthusiasm for a person and then it is extinguished,” he said.
The pope reflected on St John’s first letter in which the apostle explains the nature of God’s love while acknowledging that “whoever is without love does not know God”.
The origins of true love, he said, are from God. However, while God is love, not every love comes from God.
In distinguishing God’s love, the pope said, the one unique characteristic is that God is “the one who loves first”. The Gospel, he noted, offers countless examples, from the story of Zacchaeus to the parable of the prodigal son.
“When we have something in our hearts and we want to ask the Lord forgiveness, it is he who awaits us to give forgiveness,” the pope said.
“This Year of Mercy is also a bit like this: We know that the Lord is waiting for us, each one of us. Why? To embrace us; nothing more. To tell us: ‘Son, daughter, I love you. I let my son be crucified for you; this is the price of my love.’ This is the gift of love.”
Pope Francis said it is important for Christians to keep in mind the truth that God is always waiting for them, especially in those moments when one does not feel worthy of his love.
“He will do the same that he did with the prodigal son who spent all his money on vices: He will not let you finish your speech, he will silence you with a hug. The embrace of the love of God,” the pope said.