What ‘God Is Love’ Looks Like

I’ve been thinking lately about what is means to say that God is love. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, “Love is willing the good of the other as other.” If God is love, then God’s very nature is to will the good of each of us, at all times and eternally. A couple weeks ago, the story of the hemorrhaging woman from St. Mark’s gospel struck me as a profound illustration of what this looks like in our world.

You’ve heard the story: Jesus is traveling with a large crowd of people to the home of Jairus, whose daughter is dying. With the crowd pressing from all sides, a woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years approaches Him from behind, with profound faith in who Jesus is and a deep hope that if she can just touch His cloak, she will be cured.

She succeeds in touching Him and is instantly healed.

Mark 5:30 tells us, “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who has touched my clothes?’” Unlike other gospel healings, there was no initial conversation between Jesus and the woman before the miracle takes place. So did she somehow heal herself by tapping into His power while He wasn’t looking? Of course not—the God of the Universe is not commanded or controlled by His creatures.

So what happened here?

I believe that God, who is Love, is constantly willing the good. When, through faith and hope, our desires align with His loving will, His love is manifested in beautiful, tangible, even miraculous, ways. As God, Jesus is actively willing the good of the hemorrhaging woman and everyone else in the crowd surrounding Him—but she alone desires the good He wills and reaches out for it. She does not command or control Him; instead, she is aligned and receptive—she is in communion.

I’ve told countless groups of teens and adults that we were created by Love, out of love, for love. It’s an easy and reassuring thing to say, but if we understand it to mean that the God gives good hugs, we are missing a harder truth: the reality of the Cross. The love of God is a long-suffering and just love—it does not ignore our desires or sufferings, but it also knows our shortcomings and sins. He knows what is good for us and longs to deliver, but His love demands a response.

The good news is that He never turns away from us. He is always right there, standing in our midst, willing the good and waiting for us to reach out for it.

This post appeared as a column in the February 20, 2022, issue of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

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