Love and beloved: That is Jesus Christ to me. His love is how I want to approach the world, and the way I am the beloved of Jesus gives me the power to love.

Jesus changes how I live with others and myself. There is no moment, public or private, where He does not abide.

As Jesus said, love is to lay down one's life. We brush against the idea of divine love when we say that someone counts more than I do. That my heart might be given away - was meant to be surrendered - is a miracle. All the foolish and unreasonable demands of love would be counter-intuitive were it not for the fact that they work: The lover discovers nothing else mattered but for how we loved.

If only I filled myself with the grace to be about no other business but love.

Jesus took the same stuff that I am made of - flesh, bone and blood (and, I like to think, a large nose we proud Mediterranean people share) - and made it a vehicle of perfect love. He defeated the enemies of pride, jealousy and fear that limit me.

He gave no quarter. He told us we could love as He did, as His Father had commanded. His greatest eloquence was the perfect silence of the cross.

I want to love as Jesus loved. I want love in the wild extremes which perfect humanity brought together. I want to love with gentleness and authority, to be meek and a leader, to reconcile and challenge. I want to live with passion and rid myself of violence. Like Jesus, I want my anger only to be righteous and my thirst for justice to melt into mercy. I want to love as Jesus loved and dare to give it all away.

Such Christ-love seeks a new heaven and a new earth. Christ-lovers champion the helpless, favor creativity over the crass solutions of fear and violence. The love of Christ is a wind that misses no blade of grass. Everyone is made aware of the awesome dignity of every human life. Even the poor have the good news preached to them.

The example of Jesus Christ has inspired Christians and non-Christians. He is eminently admirable and heroic in word and deed. His life has led Gandhi and countless others to seize the human imagination. But that is not enough to me. Jesus shapes my life as my Savior. I am a Christian because I am the beloved of Christ.

I believe the world bends toward love because of the God who made it and the Son who redeemed it. The incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus were both cosmic events which set the world on the path to salvation and personal events that shaped my being.

Such talk might seem naive - yet, we all have experienced the revolution that one person's incomplete, error-prone love can have upon us. Perfect love simply had to change the world.

I dare to call myself beloved not for any achievement or worthiness I have attained. I am beloved because God loves me. Were I to waver in that belief, I know the unfathomable depth of that love because Christ, who did not have to die, chose to die.

I have been greatly blessed to have been loved by many people over the years: family, friends and parishes. They are an echo of the one perfect love. That does not diminish the real human love I have known. It is enhanced because it flows from the divine.

I love the fact that I am saved. Being saved by Jesus is the gift that breathes peace into my life: an incarnation to show me we are never abandoned, the gift of Eucharist to allow that perfect love to settle in me once more, the cross as proof that I am loved and the resurrection to give me hope that can never be taken away.

Jesus made me who I am. I love and I am beloved.

(Father Longobucco is pastor of St. Helen's parish in Niskayuna and sacramental minister for Our Lady of Fatima parish in Schenectady.)

Editor's note: "The heart of Christ" is the theme for the second year of the Albany Diocese's "Amazing God" evangelization initiative. To submit your own reflection of about 700 words on what the heart of Christ is to you, email kate.blain@rcda.org.