Pope Francis: Do You Know What ‘Love’ Really Means?

The Holy Father reminded the faithful Jan. 8 that ‘God is love’ and waits to embrace us with his divine love.

Pope Francis venerates the cross at the liturgy of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday in St. Peter's Basilica on April 3, 2015.
Pope Francis venerates the cross at the liturgy of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday in St. Peter's Basilica on April 3, 2015. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — Love was the center of Pope Francis’ second daily homily after taking a break for Christmas.

He said “love” is a word whose meaning society no longer knows.

“This word ‘love’ is a word that is used so many times; and when we use it, we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love?” the Pope said during his Jan. 8 daily Mass in the Vatican’s St. Martha guesthouse.

He focused today’s reflections on the passage in the First Letter of St. John, when the apostle tells his readers that “God is love.”

At times, the Pope said, we can think real love is the kind we see in soap operas, “but that doesn’t appear to be love.”

For others, love can seem like having a crush on someone, but that feeling eventually fades away, he noted.

“Whoever loves has been created by God, because God is love,” he said, and he cautioned against a mistaken notion that “every love is God. No — God is love.”

Francis went on to describe how God is the one who loved us first. John the Apostle provides numerous examples of this in the Gospel, he said, pointing specifically to Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish and to the parable of the Prodigal Son as examples.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s he who is waiting for us – to forgive us,” the Pope said, explaining that the current Jubilee of Mercy is a means of being assured that “Our Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.”

The reason, he said, is “to embrace us — nothing more — to say to us: ‘Son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you. This is the price of my love; this is the gift of my love.’”

Pope Francis then noted how God is waiting for us to open the doors of our hearts to him and said that we must have the certainty that God waits for us as we are, not as we are told we ought to be.

He encouraged attendees to go to the Lord and tell him how much they love him. If a person feels that he is unable to say that, Francis said to say something to the effect of “You know, Lord, that I would like to love you, but I am such a bad sinner.”

When God hears this, the Pope said, “he will do the same as he did with the Prodigal Son, who squandered all his money on vices: He won’t let you finish your speech — and with an embrace, will silence you [with] the embrace of God’s love.”