Pope Benedict XVI wrote the encyclical Deus Caritas Est in 2005 about God’s love for humanity. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even hatred, Benedict seeks to speak of the limitless love that God lavishes on humanity.
The encyclical is divided into two parts. The first section discusses God’s love and the reality of human love. In the second part, Benedict focuses on the commandment to love one’s neighbor especially the laities role in creating a just society.
Love is one of the most frequently used words to express one’s emotions, yet the word has several different meanings. Love between a man and a woman is known as eros, an ancient Greek term used only twice in the Old Testament and never in the New Testament. The Gospel writers preferred the term agape to describe Christian love demonstrated by Jesus.
In contemporary language, eros is often reduced to pure “sex” as a commodity. Society has relegated eros to a simple biological function rather than as a component of overall existential freedom. In contrast, agape is used to describe a “searching” love – one that involves the real discovery of another and moving beyond selfish character.
These two forms of love, eros and agape, can never be completely separated. If one wishes to give love, they must also be able to receive love. These two concepts represent two different dimensions of love and when completely separated from one another the result is an incomplete notion of love.
The Church is called to proclaim the word of God, celebrate the sacraments, and practice the ministry of charity – all of which are equally important. The Church and Christians are called to join in the struggle for justice and love in the world today. As believers it is our responsibility to show our love of neighbors grounded in love of God.
Pope Benedict XVI points out that it is the role of the laity to create a just society in their communities and nations. It is the role of the Bishops, he says, to teach the laity what a just society looks like.
The Church’s charity is independent of parties and ideologies, and is a concrete way to show the love which humanity needs. Charitable activities ought to be guided by faith and a mission of love.
Jesus is the ultimate example of love. “His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him.” (Paragraph 12) God loved humanity first, and in loving our neighbors we demonstrate our love for Him.