Persevering in Love
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Powerful words are announced in the reading from the Letter to the Romans today, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments… are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Love is probably one of the most overused and misused words in the English language. We love baseball, we love cheeseburgers, we love our pets and we love our spouses. The use of the word “love” is applied in a variety of ways, from a mere preference for one thing over another, to a certain fondness or affection, to passionate longing for another and even an all-encompassing commitment to another’s good.
The Gospel that Jesus announced, if it is anything, is a Gospel of love. Jesus’ entire ministry is about revealing God’s love for us. His passion, death and resurrection was embraced out of love for us. The Lord calls us to love others as He loves us.
I have often said that one of the main challenges of the Christian life is to learn how to love rightly, to love as Jesus loved. Because we are weakened by sin, we tend to put up walls, to be self-focused or defensive, which interferes with our ability to love rightly. We need the grace of God to love the way Jesus asks us to love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says what, I think, is a jarring truth about the necessity of love. It states, “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity [i.e. love] is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’” So, love is not optional, persevering in love is necessary for salvation according to the Catechism.
Jesus said all the Law and the prophets are fulfilled in the commands to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Gospel today emphasizes the need to reconcile with one another when love is temporarily lost or wounded. Jesus reminds us we are united through Him. “Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Life’s challenge is through grace and mercy to learn to love rightly.
Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,