“Courage did not come from the need to survive, or from a brute indifference inherited from someone else, but from a driving need for love which no obstacle in this world or the next world will break.” ~ Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
We live in a time that has forgotten what heroic love looks like in the mainstream. Admittedly, we never truly forget because the memory of the heart and the spirit call forth the saints of the Kingdom. Yet, in the mainstream, love has been sanitized along with Christ, to be a reflection of all that is happy and feels good, romantic where romance is sexualized and sensualized, and something that requires neither sacrifice nor pain. Love is passion without the Passion. Love has become a drug, something to give us a high and when that high leaves us, so too does love.
In this age of tolerance, where the powers that be would have you believe that we are all okay and masters of our own destinies and universes, that we define ourselves as the moment hits us, to love heroically requires great courage. The time is coming, if it has not already arrived, when to speak out in gentle and loving correction of one another, to profess that there is a right and a wrong, a natural and unnatural, will require a willingness to sacrifice - relationships, reputations, careers, and possibly freedom.
In an attempt to "love" everyone, we have made a mockery of love. St. Paul's famous exhortation on love defines its many attributes - it is patient, kind, not arrogant, boastful, rude... It does not seek its own way. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. As we seek to live in love, we have to be intentional in remembering what love truly is, and who love is.
1. Love is not pandering. While it may temporarily feel good to have people accept all we are and do in our lives, to give that approval to simply make someone feel good is not love. Love rejoices in truth - pandering so as not to earn someone's disapproval or rock the boat does not celebrate truth. Truth must be spoken in charity and kindness, but it must be spoken.
2. Love desires healing. We are broken people. Broken people do not heal without exposing the wound. While it may be painful, the end result is healing and wholeness. To allow brokenness and wounds to fester in someone who desperately needs a remedy is not love. Love does not acknowledge the falsehood that "I'm okay and you're okay." As I heard Fr. John Riccardo preach, love requires us to admit that I'm NOT okay and you're NOT okay, but with Christ, there is hope for healing and wholeness.
3. Love seeks the ultimate good. As Christians, the ultimate good and purpose in our life is to be reunited with the Father in heaven at the end of our days on earth. As believers, we seek this not for ourselves only, but for those we are called to love (read: everyone). Scripture and Tradition are clear on one thing - not all who cry out will enter into heaven, but those who do the will of the Father. If we know people in our lives are not doing the will of the Father, it is our duty to speak out in love and kindness. Not to cast stones, not to condemn, but to lovingly pull them back into right relationship with God and neighbor. I certainly hope that if I were drowning, someone would pull me back onto shore before I went under. I know that those who have done so in the past are those for whom I am eternally thankful, even if it is in hindsight.
4. Love requires sacrifice. Jesus tells us true friendship is the willingness to lay down one's life for a friend. Love Himself sacrificed his life for us. How is it that we have come to a "feel good" understanding of love that divides it from pain and sacrifice? Love is action, or as DC Talk told us back in the day, love is a verb. It requires action, not feeling. It requires us to seek the good of the other before ourselves. It requires us to leave our desires behind and attend to the need of the ones we love. Which leads me to...
5. Love requires us to think and trust beyond ourselves. Love is not about what we can get, but what we can give. God, who loved us first, gave us that love so we might pass it on to others. God's love is forgiving, correcting, timeless and endless. That is what He asks us to share - not sappy and meaningless colloquialisms and platitudes that shift and change like the sand after a tide. There is a story of a banquet I seem to recall being in one of CS Lewis's Narnia books (but can't now recall or find for the life of me). In it, the table is set and food is abundant, but the spoons to eat are too long to be able to fit into your own mouth. The only way to be able to reach the food and eat is to feed one another. Our humanity tempts us to disbelieve that we will be provided for if we look to others and not ourselves. Yet, if everyone were to look after their neighbors' needs, then how much better would we all find provision?
In this "love"-obsessed, but Love-starved world, we need to drink from the source of Love until we overflow. We need to rekindle the flame of the Spirit in our hearts to remind us what authentic love looks like. We need to recreate a link between love, courage and sacrifice. We need to live our lives as models of heroic love and lift up into the limelight those people in our midst that have made their lives a testimony to Love Himself. We have to turn the tide away from shifting the sand to redefine Love and Christ in our image. We must allow Christ to remake us, all of us, in His image alone.
"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom."
~ William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
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