Saint Paul testifies to his suffering today, the suffering he is willing to endure as a servant of the Gospel.
These sufferings are the result of hardships, such as the rigors of travel- (remember, St. Paul is a missionary), but also a result of terrifying persecution. To be a disciple entails risk and sacrifice and to be a missionary disciple amplifies both the risk and the sacrifice.
St. Paul further testifies that he has discerned meaning and purpose in his sufferings in the sufferings of God in Christ. Christ’s sufferings indicate to St. Paul that wherever his followers go, Christ has gone before. Christ did not exempt himself from experiencing the hard facts of life, but placed himself in the midst of these realities so that when we face suffering and death, he is truly with us, present to us.
Christ did not have to experience suffering and death, he chose too, and his decision to experience these realities for himself exemplifies his love for us. Suffering, risk, sacrifice, these are things that only someone who is truly in love would do for someone else.
Christ loves us and the depth of his passion for us is revealed in the cross. For the sake of his love of us he is willing to give up his own life. It was St. Paul’s appreciation for Christ’s total gift of self that inspired him to give his all for the sake of the Church’s mission. What are we willing to endure for Christ, to risk for him, to sacrifice for him? He may not ask us for everything, but he will ask us for something. What will we be willing to give to him when he asks?
What will he ask? For some, he will ask that we go out on mission like St. Paul. But for most, he will ask us to love, and more often than not, to love what is difficult. This is never easy, but in our willingness to love what Christ asks us to love, we can be sanctified and redeemed.
Christ the Lord testifies that love of God and neighbor encapsulates the meaning and purpose of God’s commandments. Why must we obey the commandments: so that we might be perfected in love.
Our perfection in love has little to do with the construal of love as merely being emotional satisfaction or mere sentiment. Love is an act of the will- it is willing the greatest good for another. It is not giving to a person anything that they desire, especially those worldly things that impart merely the appearance, rather than the substance, of happiness.
Love is not giving a person what they want, but what they need the most- that which is really and truly good.
How can one know what is good?
Discerning what is really and truly good happens as a result of our relationship with God, who is goodness itself. Knowing God we can know what is good, not just for ourselves, but for others. Thus are the love of God and neighbor inextricably linked.
It is God in Christ who reveals to us the greatest good that our neighbor truly and really needs.