Pathways - Lent V
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Love is one of those virtues we think we know really well. We know the love of our mothers and family members as a baby. We discover what it means to love a pet as a young child. We fall in love for the first time as an adolescent. As we grow older, we notice that we can love more than just living things. We can love our country, our ideals, our progress. We love what we are able to create. We love music, food, and art. We love solitude. We love crowds. The list goes on and on. With so many experiences of love it is easy to think we know that feeling very well.
But is there more?
For Christians, love is more than a feeling. Feelings come and go. The love that Jesus teaches us about does not come and go. It remains, for God in God's self is Love. The only thing that may ebb and flow is our understanding of God's unchanging love.
Jesus commands us to love God with all of who we are: with our hearts, our minds and our bodies. Loving God with heart, mind, and strength allows us to experience the real depth and fullness of love. It is in this way that we can come to know and experience that Love is much more than a feeling. It is a way of living freely. We practice love of God in our prayers, at the Eucharist, when we walk in nature, or any time we pause and tune into God's presence within and around us.
The second half of Jesus' commandment is equally as important: "Love your neighbor as yourself." It is in loving neighbor and self that we learn that love is both a giving and receiving act. We cannot be the only ones to love. Others are called to love too. When we allow others to love us, we experience a side of love that is different than when we are the giver. Both sides involve risk and intimacy. It is also critical that we remember that self love is as important as loving another. The love of neighbor and self must stay in balance; otherwise, the relationship is thrown off its center.
Love therefore is communal and tri-directional. We are called to love God, neighbor, and self. The communal nature of the virtue of love is easy for us to remember as Christians for we know God in the communal nature of the Trinity.
This may all sound really "heady." It may not sound like love as we know it at all. Where is the romance? The bliss? The inner smile? The warm fuzzy feeling? The reason we dare to get up in the morning? It is all there. All of that sweetness can be found in a life devoted to loving God, neighbor and self. In fact, such a life is the only way all the "good stuff" jumps off the plate and is worth tasting. Look at Jesus and how he lived. He loved God, neighbor and self, and as a result fell in love with all kinds of people, experienced many aspects of life, and dared to live completely without shame or guilt or fear. Then he asked us to do the same. In so doing, all the "good stuff" is really worth tasting. I promise.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength...and love your neighbor as yourself." [Mark 12:28-30[
"Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love." [Madeleine L'Engle]
The first quote is a commandment about the width and breadth our love is to take; the second is a radical redefinition of what constitutes success.
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