MEANS OF ACQUIRING DIVINE LOVE
The fourth means to attain perfect love is to make frequent acts of love. As fire is kept alive by fuel, so love is nourished by acts.
He that loves, in the first place, rejoices at the welfare and happiness of his beloved: this is called love of complacency. Rejoice, then, in the infinite felicity of your God, and delight in it more than if it were your own; for you should love Him more than yourself, and your greatest joy should consist in the thought that your Beloved wants nothing, and will not for all eternity want anything necessary for infinite beatitude. Hence you ought to feel consolation in knowing that so many millions of Angels and Saints love Him perfectly in Heaven. You should also rejoice whenever you hear that any soul on this earth loves Jesus Christ with a tender love.
He that loves desires to see his beloved loved by all: such love is called the love of benevolence, which you should practise by desiring to see Jesus Christ ardently loved by all men. Hence you would do well to speak frequently to others of His love in order to kindle it in the hearts of all those with whom you converse. You should, moreover, desire to see Jesus known and loved by all who yet neither know or love Him. And to you the contempt with which He is treated by so many Christians should be the only source of pain. Would she be considered an affectionate spouse who should behold with indifference an insult offered to her husband, or a wound inflicted on him? You should grieve for the offences that you remember to have hitherto given your Jesus; for these you should constantly make acts of contrition–this is called sorrowful love.
He that loves prefers his beloved to all other objects, and this is the love of preference with which God principally wishes us to love Him. The first degree of this love consists in being prepared to lose all things rather than forfeit the grace of God. Does the Lord demand too much of us when He requires that we prefer Him to everything in this world? And what are creatures compared with God? The Emperor Domitian tempted St. Clement to worship idols by presenting to him as the reward of his impiety, gold, silver, and precious stones. The Saint heaved a deep sigh, and began to weep when he saw his God compared with earthly goods. We should be ashamed to say to God: Lord, I love Thee above all things. For to speak in this manner to God would be the same as if we said to a king: My sovereign, I esteem you more than chaff and mire! But our God is content with being loved above all creatures, which, compared with His sovereign Majesty, are infinitely less than chaff or mire is in comparison with the first monarch of the universe. Father Vincent Carafa, of the Society of Jesus, used to say that were the whole world in his possession he would surrender it in an instant at the bare Name of God. It is necessary, then, to live always in such a disposition of mind that we be always ready to forfeit property, character, life, and all things sooner than lose God. We must say with St. Paul: Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. (Rom. viii. 39). He that feels he cannot live without God possesses a great treasure; but He that aspires to His perfect love should not only be ready to die a thousand times rather than offend Him by mortal sin, or even by a deliberate venial sin, but should also prefer the pleasure of God before all self indulgence, and should be prepared to suffer every pain in order to please his Lord. Jesus Christ has preferred your salvation before His own life; in you, then, it is not much, nay, it is nothing, to prefer His pleasure to every personal good.
They that love, refuse not sufferings; on the contrary, they rejoice to suffer for their Beloved in order to give Him proof of their love. It was thus that Jesus Christ showed His love for us. He that desires to suffer for Jesus, desires, or at least embraces in peace, the occasions of suffering. For loving souls tribulations are, as it were, the way to union with God; for in sufferings they unite themselves with Him by stronger love. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, “that he who in afflictions peacefully resigns himself to the Divine will, runs to God.” In a word, every event, whether it causes joy or sorrow, tends to unite the soul that loves more closely to her God. To them that love God, all things work together unto good. (Rom. viii. 28). It is certain that all His arrangements are intended for our good. Our Lord said one day to St. Gertrude: “With the same love with which I created man, I ordain for his good all the prosperity or adversity I send him.”