4/1.1 God alone must be loved absolutely and unconditionally. Upright human affections are raised and ennobled when we love God above all other loves.
Over and over again Jesus teaches us that God has to be the principal object of our love. We must love creatures in a secondary, subordinate way. In the Gospel of the Mass. He tells us in words that leave no room for doubt: He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And He continues: He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
God alone is to be loved absolutely and unconditionally. Everyone and everything else is to be loved by us in the measure in which they are loved by God. Our Lord teaches us true love. He asks us to love family and neighbour, but not even these loves should we put before the love of God, which must always be given an overriding priority. All other earthly loves are enriched, purified and encouraged to grow when we love God. Our heart expands and our capacity for loving increases. We find ourselves able to overcome all the obstacles and limitations of self-centredness that are present in all of us creatures. The pure loves of this life are raised and ennobled still more when we love God first and most of all.
To love God the way He wants us to love him, we have to go so far as to lose our own life, that of the old man. We have to die to those disordered tendencies which incline and induce us to sin. We must die to that sometimes brutal egocentricity which leads man to seek himself in everything he does. God wants us to preserve all that is healthy and upright and truly human in our nature, all that is good and humanly characteristic in each unique individual. Nothing genuinely human, of the positive, of the perfectible, will be lost. The life of grace will permeate the whole of man’s nature and elevate it. In this way the personality of the Christian who loves God is richly enhanced. The more a man dies to his selfish ego, the more truly human he becomes, and so much the better is he prepared for supernatural life.
The Christian who struggles to deny himself finds he is living a new life, the life of Jesus. Grace respects what is characteristic in each one of us at the same time as it transforms us, so that we come to have the same attitudes and sentiments that Christ himself has concerning men and events. Seeing things as He does, we begin to imitate his deeds. In this way a new, simple, natural behaviour is born in us, encouraging us to be better. We are filled with the same desires as Christ: our one objective becomes that of fulfilling the will of the Father. That, then, is the real expression of love and its clearest manifestation. Remaining what he is, by the help of grace the Christian becomes identified with Jesus in so far, paradoxically, as he divests himself of himself. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, says Saint Paul.
Love of God cannot be taken for granted. If we do not nurture and take care of it, it dies. On the other hand, difficulties set it ablaze and confirm us in it if our will holds steadfastly in God. Love of God is nourished in prayer and in the reception of the sacraments, in the constant struggle against our defects, in the unceasing effort to maintain a living presence of God throughout the whole of our working day, in our relations with others, in our times of rest ... The Eucharist above all must be the spring at which our love of God is perpetually refreshed and strengthened. In a way, to love thus is already to possess Heaven on earth.