"I love you" is an incomplete sentence. Those three words are but the beginning of an unspoken, complete sentence. There’s a “because” or “until” or “if” or “but” that follows the “I love you.” “I love you...because you make me happy.” “I love you...but I love someone else more.” “I love you...until you cheat on me.” “I love you...because you’re my son.” “I love you...if you love me.”
We love because we find in the beloved something that is lovable. We see, we know, and then we love. Or, at least, we promise to love.
Not so with God. God is the only one for whom, "I love you," is a complete sentence. He loves first, without finding anything worthy of love in us. He does not seek the lovable, the likable, or the one who will love Him back. Even before He found you, even before He created you, from the very foundation of the world, He loved you. Indeed, His love created you, formed you in your mother's womb, re-created you in the womb of the Church, and continues to love you even when you are mean, spiteful, and unmerciful. God loves you because God is love. He does what He is.
Men in search of a wife look for a woman who is attractive, appealing in many ways, one who will love them back. Not God. He found an ugly, unwashed, deformed, disease-infested prostitute whose life was littered with impurity, infidelity, and every manner of wickedness. This woman God made His bride. He washed her clean of every filth, forgave her past, clothed her in His own righteousness, and pronounced her beautiful. The one for whom God did this—she is you. His love transforms the beloved into something truly lovely.
He takes me, the most unlovable of men, and before I clean up my act, before I show signs of repentance, before anything, God loves me. He loves me in the very embodiment of His love, Jesus the Christ. He is love made flesh. And in His flesh, made one with His body, I partake of the love of God.
God is the only one who can say, "I love you," and no more. For He speaks truth, the full truth, and in that full truth we receive the full love of God in Christ.