How Do We Will the Good of God to God?

It is well known that the Catholic definition of love is to “will the good of the other” (CCC 1766).  This is how love is not selfish because it is about the other person and helping them to be good, about giving good things to them (1 Cor 13).  Clearly, we must love God above all things, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment” (Mt 22:37-38).  But this should make us stop and wonder.  How are we supposed to love God?  Meaning, how can we will the good of God to God?  This should be a question, if not an outright contradiction, because God is the original source of all goodness—there is nothing we have that we did not receive from God as a free gift.  St. Francis de Sales says, “We cannot, with a true desire, wish any good to God, because his goodness is infinitely more perfect than we can either wish or think” (Treatise on the Love of God, V.6). 

Loving other people is much simpler: we do good things for them.  But we cannot really “help” God.  We can’t increase His goodness. He is radically transcendent and the source of everything that is.  Yet, we must love Him above all things.  There are several ways that we can, and do, love God. 

First, we will the good to God (we love Him) by praising Him and rejoicing that He is God.  God is already good; He cannot increase in goodness.  So, we can love Him by recognizing His intrinsic goodness and rejoicing in it by praising it.  We do this in two common prayers.  Most clearly in the “Glory Be.”  In this small prayer, we pray that God will maintain His glory forever, we do not wish new things for Him but that His current infinite goodness remains.  Secondly, we do this in the prayer Christ taught us: the “Our Father.”  We begin the “Our Father” by calling God Father, but then we move immediately into praising Him: “hallowed by thy name.”  The chief way we praise God is by worshipping Him.  This is done in the Mass where we unite our praise for God, our love for Him, with Christ’s praise and love for the Father. 

Secondly, we love God or will His good when we submit to His will and keep His commandments.  Christ says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).  St. John later writes, “And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says ‘I know him’ but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected” (1 Jn 2:3-5).  This is why in the Our Father we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” immediately after we praise God by saying, “hallowed be thy name.”  We first praise God and then we submit ourselves to Him.  So, we will God’s good by submitting to His will, by obeying Him. 

Thirdly, St. Francis de Sales explains that we can will the good to God by imagining a hypothetical scenario (Treatise on the Love of God, V.6).  In this hypothetical, you are God, and God is you.  If such a situation occurred, if you were God, would you want to become man in order to make God (who is a mere human person in this scenario) like you?  If you were God, would you want your creatures to share in your divinity?  This is precisely how God has loved us.  He made us and then became one of us in order to make us sharers in His own inner divine life.  We should be eager to return the favor if positions were switched.  This is an imaginary situation in which if we could help God, if such a thing were possible, we must be ready to give good things to Him.

So, we love God, we will the good to Him, by praising the goodness He already possesses and by following His will.  Since we were created precisely to do these things, they are the only things that can make us truly happy. 

Photo by Emmanuel Phaeton on Unsplash

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Matthew McKenna is a Ph.D candidate in Theology at Ave Maria University. He studies and teaches on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, G.K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien. His dissertation-in-progress explains the link between the masculine genius and the priesthood.

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