Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Love …is a four letter word

Father John J. Lombardi

The Buddha didn't do it. Neither did Mohamed, or Confucius. But Jesus did. He not only taught about Truth and Eternal Life but he actually gave up His life by dying for us! Jesus loved us so much did He wanted us to continue to experience what love is-by His own very radical example. In This Sunday's Gospel (Jn. 15: 9-17) Jesus gives two radical sayings: "As the Father has loved Me so I love you…This I command you: love one another" The infinite love God the Father has for His Son is the same love Jesus has for us! (Read that sentence again). And it is a commandment to love others. Christians are characterized by love, for "God is Love" (I Jn. 4:8).

Just what is love anyway? Love is many things, of course, but let's summarize in this sound-byte era, that Love consists of three elements: eros-is emotional-attractive love of passion; philia is friendship love; agape is sacrificial love. Hopefully we embody all three. Now let us meditate Top Ten List of Love…

  1. Sacrifical Love-implies there is a cost to love. Usually we think of love as pleasure, joy and happiness-all of which is true, in part. But there is uniqueness to the love of Jesus-unlike Plato or any politician, which is summarized by Mother Teresa: "Give until it hurts". The main symbol of Christianity is a cross. I know a lady-pilgrim who could put her middle-age son, who is beautifully and radically disabled and cannot speak or take care of his basic needs, into a care facility but doesn't. She rather brings him to daily Mass ("Joe needs the graces," she says) and spends 24/7 with him as a single mom and, believe me, he is constantly on the move (especially when food's around!) and requires constant attention. I see in them a radical, ongoing sacrifice of Love -the giving of self to God and others to the point of hurt--living out the Divine Master's commandment "Love one another". This has been one of the most beautiful and helpful sermons I've ever heard or seen. Ever.
  2. Choice of the will: Whether in your marriage or another commitment (to the single life, job, family obligations, etc) sometimes "love" is not all pretty and pleasurable; rather we encounter dark days and we get down. We're human-it's not always a honeymoon to love. It's precisely thru these troubled times we need to choose consciously loving and keeping our commitments. The sooner and younger we learn this Lesson the better, and we thereby form a virtue, a holy habit within ourselves. Think of the Three C's: Consciously Choosing Christ-and what He wants for us. The opposite of this is thinking that love is only a feeling or just pleasurable emotion; that love is not formed by choices (but merely "happens"-we fall in love), and becoming addicted to the love=pleasure syndrome. The Three C's help us against this I also remember the youth director who wisely observed: "Life is about choices." I recently saw a couple who chose to continue in marriage (after a lotta years and kids, even) thru ongoing work, effort, spiritual counsel and other helps. I admire them greatly for their original choice-marriage-and their ongoing choice of sacrificial Love!
  3. Affection: Catholics' are not drab disciples-they love loving, physically, spiritually and communally, and so love is also fun and pleasurable and passionate. While love is of the will-consciously choosing, it is also eros= passionate, affectionate, sentimental, and this is very Catholic because it is biblical. One of the most popular books of the medieval ages was the Song of Songs, which is the most erotic, passionate book of the Bible, and is often seen as a story of: two lovers; love between God and Israel, and God and a soul. All three are right, but the bottom line of each is passion, desire. When we combine these attributes with sacrificial and will-full love we are not only biblical and Christian but also whole and holy! Amor facit exstasans means: love produces ecstasy. Translation: when you love you stand outside yourself, you are attracted to others because you are free/er, you wanna give yourself to the other. Properly, divinized feelings and passions can be holy and lovingly expressed as Saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila showed us thru their beautiful, spiritual friendship.
  4. "Make Love not War" -especially in Europe: I was talking to my friend Billy and he mentioned how disappointed he is by Europe-with the loss of population, culture, Christianity-so any good things came from there-music, arts, architecture, painting, spirituality and now it is threatened by loss of population and practice of the faith. Essentially we both agreed people there-and elsewhere-need to make love, not war , and also accept the "organic fruits" (as he nuanced it) of their love within marriage and re-populate the continent. When the spouses in marriage love lots, they actually give their insides to each other in marriage, barring-contracepting nothing, and thereby the ecstasy becomes children!
  5. Do What love requires: is that a book title or something-a phrase I've heard somewhere. Anyway messiness or arduousness-this is agape love-loving when it is costly. Last week I visited a man who is sick and normally attends daily Mass, Ray, and his wife, Louise, is fondly taking care of him and told me he just turned 89! Then I asked them both-how long have you been married? They said 66 years. Marriage "requires" ongoing commitment and this couple demonstrated their love thru sacrifice.
  6. Conform to the will of God: What good is it if we say we love God and despise a brother or sister whom we can see (cf. 1 Jn. 4:20. Simply put this ain't no rocket science-we need to follow thru in our loving, just do it, make it happen. Bl Damien took care of lepers; Pope John Paul loves the world and the youth; Mother Teresa loved the poor. How will you respond to "The Requirement?"
  7. Real Presence: In the Eucharist and in every Mass Jesus shows He loves us so much He imprints Himself within the Eucharist, so the bread and wine actually become His Body and Blood, His soul and Divinity. Jesus didn't just love us once-He continues to love us in and thru every Mass, and every tabernacle we visit! Some people like to be remembered by a big statue or building or town named after them-so much for earthly ego. Jesus wants to love us and be remembered to us in that He feeds us-supernaturally, and sustains us by Himself the Bread of Angels. As an artist puts his creative flair into a painting, or like a legislator making his mark thru lawmaking, Jesus extends, communicates and divinizes His Real Love and Life into the Eucharist. This is the season when young girls wear beautiful white dresses and boys fit boyishly and clumsily into suits-they're getting dressed up for Jesus, so why not you in your soul and life as He loves you? When our Glass Chapel was decorated for Easter in lotza white and bows and lilies, one time a person asked: Is there a wedding here today? I thought for a moment and then said, "Yes-Holy Communion…" Get it?...Got Jesus?
  8. If you wanna keep it give it away: Jesus did so why not you. This is the opposite of selfish love-the "What's in it for me?" attitude. Christly- Love tends to diffuse itself-be outgoing and overflowing. I once heard some pilgrim say how much they love visiting the clients-junkies and drunks, as the call themselves-in a drug treatment center, to inspire them, learn from them and especially simply BE with them. This they do amidst rising kids, job and other duties, as well as attending Mass frequently. Their love naturally overflows to be given away, and help save souls. The Latin maxim summarizes it this way: Bonum diffusm est -good is diffusive of itself. The more we love the more we realize boundaries of love are artificial, they are barriers to God's Kingdom among His people.
  9. Deeds not Words: do acts of love .My dad-from the "old school"-often says, "Show me don't' tell me" or like-phrases. This can be as simple as picking up a piece of trash or emptying dishwasher or sending flowers or note card to a loved one giving a verbal encouragement to someone or volunteering at the soup kitchen or hospital. Actually, my own dad has for seven years volunteered by ushering here at our Grotto-and he's never charged me a dime for it! Many people say how much he enjoys it and we should all be thankful for him and all the volunteers that demonstrate love-in-action, to Our Lord , Lady and People of God! Also: Just Do It!: The Latin word sacre means to make holy . So you can make holy, sacred, sanctify, your marriage vows, your job, your friendships, your commuting to work and anything else-Just Do It thru Jesus, with Him and in Him, and do it with love!
  10. Meditate upon the Famous "Love Chapter" of St Paul which you may hear at weddings, I Cor. 13: "Love is patient, love is kind,. It is not jealous it is not pompous it is not inflated. It is not rude it does not seek its own; it does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (vs.4-7). One of the best penances I ever received was when the priest told me to replace my name with the word love in St Paul's list about love just quoted and to "measure" myself against this list, to perfect myself in this way and become more holy, loving and Christ-centered. Try it yourself and become more loving!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi