272. Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God; indeed, one who does not love others “walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:11), “remains in death” (1 Jn 3:14) and “does not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). Benedict XVI has said that “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God”,[Deus Caritas Est 16] and that love is, in the end, the only light which “can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”.[Deus Caritas Est 39]
Love is not a mere feeling, nor a practice that engages the surface of our lives. Love is a means of grace. One might also consider it a sacrament, given this description:
When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God.
Advanced spirituality seems not to be a matter of deeper piety or more perfect virtue:
If we want to advance in the spiritual life, then, we must constantly be missionaries. The work of evangelization enriches the mind and the heart; it opens up spiritual horizons; it makes us more and more sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and it takes us beyond our limited spiritual constructs. A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
These last descriptions are an interesting checklist for those in the mission apostolate, but also those of us in ministry, or who consider ourselves “good” or “devout” Catholics. And again, we need not be perfect and accomplished in a saintly way about this. Loving generosity is a choice. Then it becomes a process. When we are open, and when we ask for it, God will give and will draw us beyond “limited spiritual constructs.”
A sober caution:
We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide.
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is available online.