Love as He Loves

From time to time, someone will say to me, “After the Vatican Council everyone talks only about love and how God loves us. We don’t hear much about sin or God’s justice. All this talk about love is diluting our religion.” There may be some justification for their concerns. However, if we look closely at the Gospel message we cannot deny that love is at the heart of our faith. The first commandment demands that we love God with all our hearts, with all our mind, and with all our strength. 

In the New Testament it is John who is most eloquent about love. In his letters he goes so far as to declare, “God is love. He who loves, lives in God and God lives in him.” The gospel written by this evangelist gives us the final discourse of Jesus before His passion, death and resurrection. During His final address to His beloved disciples the Lord categorically orders: “Love one another as I have loved you.” He goes on to say, “I give you a new commandment. You will be my disciples by the way you love one another.”

In what way is this a new commandment? It is new for several reasons. First of all, it is new because there is only one commandment. In the Old Testament there were two: love of God and love of neighbor. The New Testament claims that it is in loving our neighbor that we demonstrate our love for God. Second, the definition of the term “neighbor” is expanded greatly to include even our enemies. Finally, Jesus proposes Himself as the model of how we should love. He says, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Jesus is our model, our teacher, our standard and our criterion of how we love. Our world and our society define love as they please. The way the Master was accepting, the way He was tolerant, the way He was forgiving, that is the way we must love. Certainly it is a tall order. Some people may ask, “How can we love as Jesus loves?” To answer that question, let me go to Paul. 

There is a reading from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians that is the favorite of many Catholic brides. You know what I am talking about. Probably you did that reading at your wedding. In that letter, the apostle waxes eloquent about love. He offers several powerful insights in this regard and I would like to call your attention to three important sentences from that Letter.

  1. Love is patient. With whom do we lose our patience the most? With those we love. Why? Because we spend a lot of time with them. Also because with our spouses and children, we have no brakes or filters. We permit ourselves to show our ugly side. We forget that it is by being patient that we show our love. The word, “patient” derives from the Latin word, “pati” which means to suffer. Patience is suffering. Jesus was patient with His disciples. So often, especially in the Gospel of Mark, we hear that the apostles did not understand the Master. He was really patient with them.
  1. Love is kind. To be kind means to be sweet. Love calls on us to be sweet and gentle towards those we claim to love. And yet it happens so often that we are sweet to strangers and yet we are not kind to our families. There is not one instance in the gospel where Jesus was unkind. He treated everyone with kindness and sweetness. To be kind, we must be affirming and appreciative. We cannot take others for granted. In Italian the expression for taking someone for granted is “dare qualcuno per scontato.” It literally means “to give someone away on a discount.” When a husband takes his wife for granted, he is saying, “My wife is for sale, fifty percent off!” We don’t anyone to say that.
  1. Love always forgives. We are broken, sinful human beings. Sometimes we hurt the people we love. Sometimes we do it without knowing, sometimes without wanting but sometimes we do it deliberately. We stand always in need of forgiveness. When our spouse or our children hurt us, they don’t deserve forgiveness. We forgive because we love. Forgiveness is pure gift. There is no more authentic, no more generous, no greater act of love than forgiveness. Our motivation to forgive is the Lord Himself because He never ceases to forgive us. The distinguishing characteristic of our Savior is His readiness to forgive. How can we forget the prayer that He uttered in His dying breath, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”?

There is a story told in the life of St John, the evangelist. No one has written more beautifully and clearly about love than John. When he was old, he lived in the Greek island of Patmos. Every day his disciples would carry him in a chair and put him on the beach. They would sit around him and make the same request: “Brother John, please tell us what the Master said.” He would respond in the same way every time, “My little children, love one another. That is all what matters.” Let us not forget that the heart of our faith is love. Our perfect knowledge of theology and our strict observance of the rules will not avail us if we do not do everything out of love

Let me leave you with the words of Paul from his Letter to the Corinthians:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

May the Risen Lord, Who laid down His life out of love for us, teach us how to love!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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