Anthony Esolen comments in this Canto that love is not tepid. He goes on in summation that every person mentioned in this Canto (and this is in the sphere of Venus–the god of love symbolically) that they were not pleasant, calm, or necessarily nice people. Love creates zeal. A fire that burns within you.
Love isn’t meant to be sentimental. It is meant to consume. Consume the entire person.
We are all sinners in the light of an all good God, all powerful God, all knowing God. Rahab is the highest saint in this Canto. The church fathers saw Rahab as a foreshadowing of the church. Tony Esolen reminds us of the symbolism: “Rahab’s questionable past is no obstacle against the symbolism, since the Church is ever in need of reform… [she] is a sinner redeemed and sacrificing herself in love for her Redeemer.”
In a similar way Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. She loved Christ so much, she was forgiven. She met her Redeemer. She met Love himself. Her whole being was transformed, she turned from her sin and did not continue the way she was going. Christ told her, “Go and sin no more.” Her love for Christ caused her to turn away from her sin, she sacrificed her sin.
Every saint has a past. But every sinner has a future. (An old line that I don’t know where it came from). It is the love for Christ that changes us. Really His love for us. But when we see and know His love; when we encounter Christ, we are changed. His Love consuming us. Love consuming us. (God is Love).
What of human love? It is good. It has come from God. But we love imperfectly. Either loving too much or too little. Distorted. (Thank you Guiseppe Mazzotta for reminding me of this).
Only God loves perfectly and transforms His beloved over a lifetime. Changing our wills and intellects. We have to have the bravery (fortitude) to follow Him.