Three Degrees of Loving God

Christ most perfectly fulfilled charity through humiliating death of a criminal; love not only toward us, but for God the Father. He experienced in his human nature the suffering and death as acutely as any human being, yet accepted his fate in resignation: “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

St. Francis de Sales’ Treatise on the Love of God mentions three degrees of loving God, which are quoted below. Often we may fail to attain even the lowest, by loving the consolation more than the consoler. Nevertheless, as we are commanded to be perfect (Matthew 5:48), we are to model the supreme degree of love for God as demonstrated by Christ:

To love God’s will in consolation is a good love when it is truly God’s will we love and not the consolation wherein it lies. Still, it is a love without opposition, repugnance, or effort. Who would not love so worthy a will in so agreeable a form?

To love God’s will in His commandments, counsels, and inspirations is the second degree of love and it is much more perfect. It carries us forward to renounce and give up our own will, and enables us to abstain from and forbear many pleasures, but not all of them.

To love suffering and affliction out of love for God is the summit of most holy charity. In it nothing is pleasant but the divine will alone; there is great opposition on the part of our nature; and not only do we forsake all pleasures, but we embrace torments and labors.

[excerpted from Finding God’s Will for You]

As Thomas Kempis proclaimed in The Imitation of Christ:

“Oh what power hath the pure love of Jesus, unmixed with any gain or love of self! Should not all they be called mercenary who are always seeking consolations? Do they not prove themselves lovers of self more than of Christ who are always seeking their own gain and advantage? Where shall be found one who is willing to serve God altogether for nought [without reward]?”

A high and holy calling indeed – and the aim and purpose of this life for all of us.

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