We know that God created man, male and female, in His own image and likeness. And, therefore, we find in our selves some of the same attributes that we find in God. The philosophers speak of all spiritual beings—God, men, and angels—having both the ability to know and to love; “intellect” and “will” are the terms they often use, but knowing and loving are fine words in themselves.
A few months ago, on Trinity Sunday, I mentioned very briefly that the great Saint Augustine speculated that—even before the creation of the universe and the beginning of time—God’s infinitely powerful intellect, in knowing Himself gave rise to the relationship of Father and Son. God’s knowledge is not abstract as ours is; but rather, God’s knowledge is real; His knowledge of Himself is the Son. And, likewise, Augustine speculated that the love of the Father and the Son was so powerful and so real that it gave rise to the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost. I would ask you to note, that knowledge came first, and then the love—this seems to be an enduring pattern: first intellect, and then will.
On most days, we hear the first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel at the end of Holy Mass:
When we refer to the “Word” (the Λογοσ, as saint John wrote in Greek), we are referring to the expression of God’s knowledge of Himself—not a group of “words,” but the “Word,” the expressed reality of all that God is. And note that the activity of the Father with Son is also productive, bringing the universe and time into existence, for what is known in the divine intellect exists in reality. This is why we are able to say that “truth” is the knowledge of reality as it is known in the mind of God—and why our Lord refers to Himself as “the Truth” later on in Saint John’s Gospel.
Now, I know that this may sound a bit abstract, so please bear with me, for the next step is important, and probably a bit easier to understand. You see, God not only knows His creation, but He also loves His creation—intellect is again followed by will.
We know that God loves His creation and His creatures because, from the very moment they fell from Grace, He promised a Redeemer, the seed of a woman who would crush the head of the serpent who was the Devil. We know that God appeared to Moses and the Prophets, telling them about Himself, how He wanted to be worshipped, and how He wanted them to behave toward one another—He shared with them what was in His mind and in His heart; what was in His intellect and in His will. And later, Saint John tells us that
The Second Person of the blessed Trinity took upon Himself the flesh of the human creatures who held their reality from Him. He became what he had known. The Blessed Virgin Mary was overshadowed with the Holy Ghost, the Love of God, and God became man.
We have countless examples of our Lord’s love for us in the Gospels. Today’s account of the man being cured of the dropsy is but one of many recorded—and Saint John assures us that there were very many other miracles worked by our Lord that went unrecorded simply for lack of space to write about all of them.
Yet one demonstration of our Lord’s love for us—one that is absolutely unequivocal—is recorded in all four Gospels: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And that is precisely what He did—Our Lord allowed the Jews and the Romans to put Him to death, offering to the Father the ultimate Sacrifice of reparation for the sins of mankind.
But our story does not end with the Crucifixion. First of all, our Lord gave His Apostles the power to renew that Sacrifice of the Cross in time and place. That Sacrifice, offered once and for all, is not repeated, but it is re-presented to us each time we attend Holy Mass, even though we may be thousands of miles and many centuries removed from Mount Calvary. Christ, acting through His priest (“an other Christ—alter Christus,” we say) renews the offering of His gift of love on our behalf to the Father.
Further, God approaches each of us with the grace of Faith. That is to say that He makes it possible for us to know and to believe the truths that He has revealed about Himself. That is to say that He approaches us on an individual level, first of all though our intellect—He gives us the grace of knowing Him, and how He wants to be worshipped, and how He wants us to behave toward one another. That gift of Faith, sealed by the waters of Baptism, makes us “temples of the Holy Ghost.” Literally, we are filled with the love of God, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity. Once again, knowledge prepares the way for love—the virtue of Faith prepares us for the virtue of Charity.
God is not just some “Force” out there in the cosmos. He is not just some abstract principle of knowledge and love. With God these things are perfectly real, and they are extended to us personally and intimately. He asks us to know Him and to love Him in return.
He asks us, likewise, or rather, He commands us: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” That love may take a number of forms, but love is not an option for us. It may manifest itself in working for the physical good of those around us (among many others, we have a splendid opportunity to help in any number of ways to alleviate the suffering of our fellows devastated by the recent hurricane). Love might also take a more spiritual form, for again we are asked or commanded to pray for the living and the dead and for their eternal salvation, and to engage in the other Spiritual Works of Mercy.
And, sometimes, this love is a little bit more personal: the love of a husband and a wife; the love of parents for their children; the love of friends for one another. That sort of love is also positively good and commanded by God.
This morning we have a couple who will reaffirm their marriage vows at the end of Mass. They have been married for thirty-eight years, something to be justly proud of in the upside down world in which we live. For marriage too is God’s plan: “He who made man made them male and female,” and after an appropriate time of getting to know one another, “shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be in one flesh.” And again we see that knowing is appropriately fulfilled in loving. The family is an image of the Trinity Itself, for the knowing and loving of a woman and her husband brings forth new life. And, indeed, for the Christian it has been raised to the dignity of one of God’s holy Sacraments, both permanent and beyond reproach.
Very quickly, let us go back to Saint Paul’s words: “To have Christ dwelling through faith in our hearts ... to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge.” In all things we must strive to know God so that we may love Him and serve Him in this world. We must know Him in Himself, as He has revealed Himself to us; as He has given Himself to us in His Sacraments; as He comes to us in the quiet of prayer; and as we see Him in the faces of strangers, and neighbors, and family and friends.
Know, love, and serve God in this world to be happy with Him here and in the world to come!
 Epistle: Ephesians iii: 13-21.
 Cf. Genesis i: 26-31.
 John i: 1 and 3.
 John xiv: 16.
 Genesis iii: 15.
 John iii: 16, 17.
 Luke i: 30-38.
 John xxi: 25.
 John xv: 13.
 John xv: 12
 Matthew xix: 4, 5.