Willing the good of others

St Thomas Aquinas wrote a great deal about love and one of his most famous quotes is “To love is to will the good of the other”.

Inherent in these words is a recognition of the authenticity of real love. What does St Thomas Aquinas mean ‘to will the good of the other’?  I think it is important to take note of two words within this phrase: 'will' and 'good'.

To will is to authentically wish for, hope for and want something to be. When we direct a will towards another, we are expanding our capacity to live, not for ourselves, but for others. When we reach out in authentic love to another, we are recognizing the fact we are made to be in communion with one another. This attitude helps us live, not as isolated beings, but as relational givers and receivers of love: the greatest gift of all.

Authentic love is expressed beautifully in the example of married love, especially when romantic love grows into a deeper more intimate love where each person in the partnership live to ‘will' the good for the other – to live in a way that helps the other flourish holistically.

Speaking of loving our neighbour, Aquinas wisely ascertains, “We must love them both - those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject - for both have laboured in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.” We are relational creatures called to will the good of all people, even those we disagree and struggle with.

So, what about the good? Catholics often remind themselves of the importance of what is true, good, and beautiful. We see that good is what gives us life, gives us hope, gives us strength and gives us assurance. To love what is good is to aim to live a truly higher existence. “The things that we love tell us what we are… self-improvement is intricately tied to our desires and affections by discerning our true passions and cultivating love for higher ideals we shape our character and chart a course towards moral excellence.” St Thomas Aquinas’ love for the ‘good’ of other fueled his devotion to leading others to truth and thus to God.

We often become so busy and distracted we forget to stop to ask ourselves: are we expressing authentic love in our everyday interactions, with ourselves, our family, our colleagues, our students? When we live for love we become more human, for love is the fundamental vocation of every person. Love leads to union with others and union with God for “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

“Grant me O Lord my God a mind to know you a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you.” - St Thomas Aquinas.

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