We used to speak a lot about being in a state of grace. It meant being on good terms with God, being in a state of friendship with God and with neighbour. We hear the word more often now in its negative form. Those who have offended are said to be in dis-grace.
The friendship of God for us and the nature of that commitment on God’s part and on our part are some of the themes of the scriptures.
God’s love, we are told, is not based on who we are in terms of circumstances of birth or race or condition. The love of God is for all just as God is God of all. God has no favourites, rich or poor, powerful or weak. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. Those who respect God and do God’s will in their lives are the ones who are acceptable.
God’s love is a generous, sacrificing love. It is a love which is truthful, faithful, forgiving, and a love which communicates itself by being expressed in action and in word.
The gospel of John is the most reflective of the gospels, perhaps because it was written last. In John’s writings the word love is the constant theme. It might be better written as Christian love.
Christ taught that his love for people was a direct reflection of the love of the Father. He asked us to remain in friendship, in Christian love, or in a state of grace by imitating that love.
Christian love proves itself and shows itself by a life lived in imitation of God’s generosity towards us and respect for us. This is reflected in the sacrifice of Christ and the devotion of Christ to keeping God’s commandments and doing God’s will. To live in love is to have a profound respect for the things of God and to have room in one’s heart and in one’s life for others, especially those we don’t agree with or like, and those who are weak and despised in the eyes of the world. It means not being full of self.
Like any loving parent God wants only the best and the happiest for each one. I have told you this, says Christ, so that my joy may be in you and your joy be complete. You are my servants, my friends, my chosen ones, my commissioned ones. Remain in a state of grace, of friendship, by imitating the truthful love practised and taught by Jesus after the example of the Father, and then your life will not wither and die but will bear much fruit.
Saint Augustine described this life journey into Christian love as moving, ‘from the love of self which excludes God to the love of God which excludes self’.