Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, Eucharist, grace, love, neighbor
This past week, the Gospel readings for Mass were taken from the 14th and 15th chapters of John. These chapters are part of Jesus’ farewell discourse (13:31-16:33) to His disciples during the Last Supper. In addition to words of consolation, Jesus gives instructions for the time when He will be physically absent from them. First and foremost, Jesus commands the disciples – and us – to love one another!
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (Jn 15:9-12 emphasis added)
Jesus loves us with the same radical, self-giving love that the Father pours out on Him! He invites us to remain in this communion of love. We can only do this through loving obedience; by keeping His commandments. He commands us to “love one another as I have loved you.”
In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI reminded us of this call to love:
Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.
He explains that it is the experience of being loved by God that enables us to respond to this amazing gift:
He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has “loved us first”, love can also blossom as a response within us.
In the gradual unfolding of this encounter, it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go…Contact with the visible manifestations of God’s love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. 
If you are married, you know that “sentiments come and go.” It is only by uniting our intellect, will and sentiments that we can love others whether it be our spouse or our neighbor. Benedict XVI explains:
Love of neighbor…can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend…Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. 
But we cannot do this on our own. We need God’s grace. The ultimate source of grace is the Eucharist. Benedict XVI urges us to consider the example of the saints who “constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord.”
During these days when we cannot receive the Most Blessed Sacrament, we must feed on His Word. We must spend time before a Crucifix contemplating God’s love, and if possible, wasting time in front of the Blessed Sacrament every day.
God unites himself to us so that we can bring His love into the world that so desperately needs His love. The world needs what we can give as disciples. Look for concrete opportunities to do this in your home and in the world around you.
 Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2006), 8
 Ibid, 42
 Ibid, 45