God chose us in Christ before the world was made. (Ephesians 1:4)
When God created the world, he had us in mind. Creation was not merely an exercise in his might and dominance, but principally an act of love.
Saint John Paul II, put it eloquently in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love. God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.
Love is inscribed in our very being as our Creator created us in love. This means that the only possible response is to love him in return and to participate in God’s ongoing mission of love and mercy.
One of the primary ways we can return that love that God has created us with is to love our neighbor. As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God; indeed, one who does not love others “walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:11), “remains in death” (1 Jn 3:14) and “does not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). Benedict XVI has said that “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God”, and that love is, in the end, the only light which “can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”. When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.
Loving others is not always an easy task, but it is the first step in the spiritual pathway, the “Way of the Heart.” It recognizes the love we have received from God and challenges us to give ourselves to others in imitation of God’s love for us.
As we prepare for the holy season of Lent, let us consider the ways we can recognize the unique love God has for each one of us and how we can live that love in our everyday lives.