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May 25, 2018

CRAVING FOR LOVE

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe
Swift Share!

 


Intrinsic to the human being is the craving for love in its multifarious dimensions – attention, acceptance, direction, inspiration, affirmation, consummation, etc. As a corollary, there is also an inherent desire to show love and affection to others. The essence of true love is central in the life and teachings of Jesus, and today, he states it in one sentence that encapsulates everything he taught: “Love one another as I have loved you.” He then explains exactly what he means by “love,” a word that is often distorted, by saying that a man “can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus’s idea of love is self-giving, such that the greater the self-giving, the greater the love. When we put our lives at the service of others, living to give and not to take, living simply that others might simply live; when we are willing to suffer so that someone else may rejoice, and willingly give our “today” for someone else’s ‘tomorrow”, then we are practising Jesus’ model of love.

Jesus did not stop at just explaining the meaning of true love but demonstrated it with his own suffering and death. He accepted mockery, humiliation, torture, rejection, injustice, misunderstanding, betrayal, and finally death – death on a cross; not because he was too weak to resist, but to prove that the kernel of true love is self-giving, self-forgetful generosity. Jesus Christ hanging on the cross; bearing the weight of our sins; thinking not of himself but of those he came to save, even pleading for their forgiveness up until the very end; giving without counting the cost, even without asking for something in return – this is God’s idea of love.

“Love one another as I have loved you”: The “as I have loved you” is at the core of this commandment, for the love which Jesus gives is the love which he received from his Father. It was the love of an obedient heart, a love flowing from grace. We could not have a genuine prayer life without obeying Jesus’ commandment of love! But what does it mean to love another? There is surely no love when we see the other person always as an extension of ourselves or as someone who fulfils our needs, someone we can easily micromanage. To truly love others, we must learn to respect them precisely as ‘another’, uniquely made by God and equally redeemed by Christ. To love another is to desire the very best for them, to work towards their spiritual edification while avoiding anything to the contrary. True love must be free, total and unconditional. The man who leaves his wife because she has become “fat and ugly” never truly loved her, and same for the woman who deserts her husband because he has fallen on hard times. What about the case of a brother who generously (or so it seemed) bought a bible for a girl in the same parish fellowship group; but when, a short while later, she turned down his marriage proposal, he asked for the bible back. We are also very familiar with the story of the people who ran after Jesus only because he gave them bread.

However, to love others as we love ourselves, we must first learn to love and accept ourselves. That way we learn to love others as they are and not as we want them to be. God himself loves us the way we really are! There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we have done will make him love us less. Nevertheless, true love does not mean turning a blind eye to evil, because we do not want to offend the other. True love does not mean shying away from constructive engagement because we want to appear “nice and gentle.” Rather, true love demands that we always “do the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). It is not about feelings but being oriented towards the genuine good of our beloved. Since God is love and God is truth, it follows that nothing can be loving unless it is true!

Truly loving the other makes us true followers of Christ bearing witness to the Gospel, and that bearing witness to the Gospel is the fruit that lasts. This is what Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:16). The ideal fruit consists of acts of self-giving towards others. It is more than a wish or good will toward another, but a concrete act of love. We are called to the spiritual and the corporal works of mercy, like passing on the faith to children and colleagues, or bending over backwards to care for those in need. Genuine love for others helps us to see our relationships from God’s perspective. From a merely human viewpoint, we tend to see relationships in terms of what we gain from them: “This person is fun to be with; that person buys me this or that; that woman rubs me the wrong way; this man is always asking favours.” But when we understand that the path to true wisdom and lasting joy is Christ-like kenotic (self-emptying) love, those sentiments begin to fade, and we start to see relationships in terms of what we can give.

This week, therefore, let us think of something we can do to relieve the burdens of someone around us. What can we do to make our colleague’s work a bit easier, or to bring some encouragement and joy into our spouse’s life? What can we do to bring comfort to that friend, relative, or stranger who is suffering? We all have the capacity to make the difference in our own little way. So, what is the Holy Spirit asking you to do now?


 

 

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