‘And some say love is holding on and some say letting go
Some say love is everything and some say they dont know’
Perhaps Love, John Denver/ Placido Domingo
One can only imagine the amount of songs that have been written about love. This is not to mention all the love poetry. Whilst he does not appear in the Church liturgical calendar, a few days ago there was a big focus on St. Valentine. The first Valentine was a priest martyred under Claudius, the second was Bishop of Terni, killed around the same time, and the third we
know nothing about, except that he died in Africa. The one that dominated this past few days is most likely to be the second of these. There was a lot of flowers, chocolates and cards bought, and a lot of money spent… and indeed money made! It has, as a celebration, become very commercialised. However before we slide into the holier than thou, or fall into the trap of cynicism, let us remember, for many, it remains about love. Perhaps that is the key question: is it about love? As the song says,
‘What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion’,
What’s Love Got to Do with It, Tina Turner
Is love much overrated, is it just a second emotion? The need to love and to be loved remains a powerful drive in our lives. Love is not always a sweet smelling rose, or if it is, it is not without thorns. Love comes at a price. Admittedly it is often a price that those who experience the joy of love are willing to pay. So are we saying that human love has it’s limitations? Well yes, in so far as it often fails to ‘stay the course’ and for those for whom it endures, there is indeed a price to be paid.
However for all it’s messiness, love can move from the ordinary to extraordinary. In fact love can be heroic. We see this in couples who encounter really difficult situations, such as serious illness, financial hardship and successive disappointments in life.
Sometimes they even surprise each other with the deep well of mutual love that they discover they have to draw on. Sometimes you see this heroic love in people caring for an elderly relative. Mother Teresa lived a life of heroic love, and indeed urged her Sisters to ‘love until it hurts!‘ The challenge for us is the fact that each of us are called to this heroic love. We are called to love until it hurts. Actually we should not be waiting for the big moment, the major call to duty, but rather practise heroic love in small ways each day.
I hope I have not been too hard on romantic love. Love is cuddly, and gooey and can be your last rolo!! Of course this is to be enjoyed. I will never forget, many years ago, walking out into early morning snow, the sky was full of stars, daylight was just beginning, I felt so alive, so consumed with love. Thankfully that feeling did not melt with the snow and continues to swirl gently within my heart. I am not arguing against romantic love, nor in any way diluting it It is beautiful. However I want to remind us, myself included, that we are called to at least try to imitate the love of Jesus. Of course this is a tall order. So here is a test I learned in my first days in the monastery:
Read 1 Cor 13: 1-13. Read it slowly and prayerfully, concentrating On the words
Love is patient, Love is kind, Love does not delight in evil… Love never fails..
Read the passage again slowly. This time substitute your Christian name for the word Love. It’s not so easy to read it this time,is it? This will remind you, as it does me, that we need the Holy Spirit to continue to work within us, gradually enabling us to love like Jesus.
Fraternally, Joe McD