I have been reading and re-reading one of the homilies that Fr. Cantalamessa gave this Lent to the Roman Curia. Here are the beginning paragraphs, followed by the link to the whole homily. In it he stresses–as I have highlighted below–the importance, the necessity, of our being permeated by the knowledge of God’s love for us before we can bring that love to others. I find in my own life, and in the lives of many of the women to whom I give spiritual direction, that the most challenging thing can very often be believing in the love of God for me personally. Sounds so easy, but so hard to do.
The first and essential proclamation that the Church is charged to take to the world and that the world awaits from the Church is that of the love of God. However, for the evangelizers to be able to transmit this certainty, it is necessary that they themselves be profoundly permeated by it, that it be the light of their life. The present meditation should serve this purpose at least in a small part.
The expression “love of God” has two very different meanings: one in which God is object and the other in which God is subject; one which indicates our love for God and the other which indicates God’s love for us. The human person, who is more inclined to be active than passive, to be a creditor rather than a debtor, has always given precedent to the first meaning, to that which we do for God. Even Christian preaching has followed this line, speaking almost exclusively in certain epochs of the “duty” to love God (“De Deo diligere”).
However, biblical revelation gives precedence to the second meaning: to the love “of” God, not to the love “for” God. Aristotle said that God moves the world “in so far as he is loved,” that is, in so far as he is object of love and final cause of all creatures. But the Bible says exactly the contrary, namely, that God creates and moves the world in as much as he loves the world.
The most important thing, in speaking of the love of God, is not, therefore, that man loves God, but that God loves man and that he loved him “first”: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10). From this all the rest depends, including our own possibility of loving God: “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). (emphasis added)
You can read the whole thing here.