ROME — On Wednesday, Pope Francis said that God’s love isn’t something we earn or deserve by our good works, but that it is free and unconditional – no matter what.
“God’s first step towards us is that of an anticipated and unconditional love. God loves first,” Pope Francis said June 14.
“God does not love us because there is some reason that causes love. God loves us because He Himself is love, and love tends to spread and give by its nature. God does not even tie his benevolence to our conversion: if anything this is a consequence of God’s love.
“Saint Paul says it perfectly,” he continued: “‘God demonstrates his love for us in the fact that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rm 5:8).”
“Behind such seemingly inexplicable behavior arises a question,” he continued: “is it possible that I do not deserve to be called by name? That is, to be loved?”
Pope Francis reflected on this question during the general audience Wednesday, considering what it is like when we do not recognize that we are loved and cherished by God or the people around us, especially as children.
“Many people today,” he said, “look for visibility only to fill an inner void: as if we were people eternally in need of confirmation. But, imagine it, a world where everyone begs for reasons to attract the attention of others, and no one is willing to love one another for free?
“Imagine a world like this: a world without the freedom to love! It looks like a humane world, but in reality it is a living hell.”
How much selfish and narcissistic behavior comes about because of this loneliness? he asked. When a child is not loved or does not feel loved, he said, this is when in adolescence they can start to act out, or even become violent. Behind this behavior “is often a heart that has not been recognized.”
What can we do to help people know they are loved by God? Francis said that when love is given and received freely between people, even in just a simple look or smile, this is what transforms sadness and loneliness into happiness and joy.
An exchange of glance, of smiles, has the power to open those closed in sadness, he said. By looking someone in the eyes, we can open the doors of someone’s heart.
“What can make us happy if not the experience of love given and received?” he said.
Just like in the story of the Prodigal Son, fathers and mothers are often one of the greatest examples of a Christ-like love on earth, the pope pointed out, explaining how he has known many mothers with children in prison, who continue day after day to visit them, never ceasing “to suffer for her child.”
Parents love their children even when they are sinners and “God does the same thing with us: we are his beloved children! But is it possible God has some children he does not love? No. We are all God’s beloved children.
“In Him, in Christ Jesus, we have been loved, beloved, desired. There is Someone who has engraved in us a primordial beauty, that no sin, no wrong choice will ever erase completely.”
Because of the heat, Pope Francis began the audience by stopping to greet the sick and their families in the Pope Paul VI hall, where they could watch and hear the audience on screens, but inside the air-conditioned building.
“But we all remain together connected by the Holy Spirit, who is the one who always creates unity,” he said.
Concluding, Francis asked the crowd: “What is the medicine to change the heart of a person who is not happy?” “Love!” the crowd responded. “Stronger!” he said. “Love!” they shouted louder. “Very good, very good, everyone,” the Pope said smiling.