Category Archives: Love

Love, Jesus Style

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:36-39

love-Triangle-Nouwen


There were constantly people who seeking to trip Jesus up in one fashion or another. Jesus was playing a high stakes game with the Jewish leaders. He was challenging their rules and about to bring a tidal wave of change to their lives. For so long religious life had meandered along just as these leaders had desired but Jesus came with a new revelation, new ideas, and most dangerously, with great power. He was confronted by a teacher of the law with this question. “Which commandment is the greatest?” He answered with two which have three applications.

His first was to love God. That seems like an easy one, especially if it could be done in a vacuum. Think about it, God created us, he gives us life and He sustains us every day. That not a hard one. We would be fools not to love Him. The real challenge is how do we express such love? A simple solution would be to get up every morning and just tell Him we love him and keep Him on our mind all day. That seems like love to me but it only begins there.

Secondly, we are to love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors brings a plethora of unanswered questions. All of these questions are summed up in one. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answers this question many times in His teachings. Similarly, it is answered in Hebrew scripture as well.

• Live generously towards the poor and alien (Lev. 19:9–10).

• Do not steal from anyone (Lev. 19:11).

• Do not be deceptive in dealings with people (Lev. 19:11).

• Do not oppress, rob, or exploit the poor by paying unfair wages (Lev. 19:13).

• Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind (Lev. 19:14).

• Do not be partial to the poor or show favor to the great but judge honestly (Lev. 19:15).

• Do not commit financial fraud. (Lev. 19:16).

• Do not hate your brother (Lev. 19:17).

• Do not seek revenge or hold a grudge but extend forgiveness (Lev. 19:18).

These verses are part of the Levitical law and point toward proper treatment of All people. That leads me to conclude that all of God’s people are my neighbor. There is a third caveat to this teaching of Jesus that may prove to be the most difficult of all.

Love yourself – There is no love without self-love. If we mistrust ourselves and think lowly of ourselves we will be a very dreadful person. Perhaps the real problem with these Jewish leaders was their inability to love themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.

I share a poem that is credited to the late Robert Schuller that can serve as a good model for self-love.

Love-triangle-mertonI may be young; I may be old, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be educated; I may be unlettered, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be black; I may be white, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be rich; I may be poor, But I am somebody,

For I am God’s child.

I may be a sinner; I may be a saint, But I am somebody,

For Jesus is my Savior. I am God’s child!

When we know to whose family we belong, we learn to esteem ourselves correctly.

Loving God, neighbor, and ourselves is not something that we perfect all at once. A woman once received a valentine card that said on the cover: “I love you terribly.” Inside were the words “But I’ll improve with practice.” It is not an easy task to be a loving person. Life is busy, filled with frustration, disappoints and exhaustion. In the midst of everything, we are often called to love the unlovable. While wading through such confusion we can discover the love triangle that points to loving God, self, and others – thus we find the secret of a fulfilling life on earth and a foretaste of the life to come.

Love-triangle


PRAYER

Lord, is difficult necessary that we learn of love from you. You created us out of love and you sustain us with love. You ask us to complete the triangle of love that will make us whole. This day, help me to love you, my neighbor and myself with a love that can only come from you. I cherish that love and seek it from you.

Amen


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This Thing Called Love

Loving TendernessHildeguard

Loving tenderness abounds for all

from the darkest

to the most eminent one beyond the stars,

Exquisitely loving all

she bequeaths the kiss of peace

upon the ultimate King.

– Hildegard of Bingen

Jesus tell us : Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ There is none greater. Many of us spend our lives searching for the best way to live a godly life but Jesus gives us a truly simplistic answer – love God , our neighbors and – just as important – ourselves. We are horrible at loving ourselves and finding neighbors to love is an almost impossible task.

Let us begin at the beginning – love God. If we are to love God we have to begin by acknowledging Him as our creator and the sustaining power of our lives. We must put aside the notion that was are masters of our own destiny and give Him credit for who He is. We love God by staying in touch with Him through prayer and listening His Spirit when He answers our prayers. That is a beginning of love for God.

Love our neighbors – We dream of the perfect neighbor and we never find them. That because we are looking in the wrong place. Our concept of neighbor is physical proximity but God has something much greater in mind. My wife told me a story about meeting a neighbor at McDonalds recently. She enter the restaurant and ordered food for herself and two of our grandchildren. There was a somewhat disheveled lady who later ordered a cup of coffee and a very small amount of ice cream. Soon it was evident that she was receiving her food out of the generosity of the restaurant staff. On her way out my wife asked her if she was hungry and needed help to buy a meal, her reply was “no.” as my wife proceeded to the car she noticed that she was followed by the lady who then approached her with these words, “Neighbor I didn’t really tell you the truth because I am hungry – Can you help me?” My wife accommodated and she replied, “Thanks, neighbor.” That is the kind of neighbor Jesus was talking about. A lady that is down and out by our standards understands God’s concept of neighbor. That lady is my neighbor as well and I didn’t say it was going to be easy to love your neighbor.

Love yourself – “..Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” People who cannot love themselves find it impossible love others. Did you know that suicide was the seventh leading cause of death among adolescents in 2013? (CDC stats) The National Institute Mental Health estimates that in the United States, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. Wow! We are not loving ourselves very much. The key to self is recognizing our worth in God’s eyes. He created us, He redeems us, and He watches out for us. That makes you and your neighbor worth loving.

The challenge is simple learn to love God because of who He is and what He has done and I believe the rest of the puzzle will come together.


Prayer

Lord give me the vision to recognize your loving tenderness in the beauty that surrounds me. Allow me to see it in the life giving nature of the morning dew and the majesty of the setting sun. Such a realization will lead me to love You more and to love and care for myself and my neighbor. Might I see the majesty of all your creation – especially we humans who are the crown of all creation. Help me to discover Your brand of love and make it mind.

Amen


Adam-and-Eve

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Love Without Judgment Is Worthy

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”

—–Thomas Merton

Our job is to love our brothers (and sisters) without stopping. That is not the entire context of the Merton quote, but I believe it is the heart of the matter. So much of our love, our service, our commitment is hinged on the worthiness of the recipient. When we think in this manner we spend a large portion of ourMerton-30 efforts judging our brothers and sisters. Christ never acted in such a way. He said: “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” As we learn to follow the example of Jesus it lightens our burden of judgment, assessment or whatever you may call it and makes us free to love and serve.

Today’s world is certainly one of wars and rumors of wars. The greatest war that most of us have to fight is a self-inflected war of harshness and unkindness to one another. We fail to help those who are in need because we are too busy trying to find out why they are in need and too selfish to give them the simplicity of God’s love. I can only imagine what the world would really be like if we were willing to carry one another’s burden without assessing the cost, risk and worthiness of the recipient of our kindness.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the monk when he says to us: “…love itself will render both ourselves and neighbors worthy if anything can.”

Lord help me this day to look upon my brothers and sisters as, just that, brothers and sisters. May I see them as fruits of your creation that are worthy of my love just as they are recipients of your love. In this ONE truth we find the peace and harmony that will fill the vastness of the void that lies in our souls. Amen

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Floating in Love

If we are to speak of a spirituality of ripening, we need to recognize that it is always (and I do mean always) characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them! I cannot imagine any other way of coming to broad horizons except through many trials, unsolvable paradoxes, and errors in trying to resolve them.

Without such a gradually-renewed mind and heart, we almost certainly will end with a whimper, not just our own but also the whimpering of those disappointed souls gathered around our sick bed or gravestone. Too many lives have indeed been lives of “quiet desperation” and God must surely rush to console and comfort all humans before, during, and after their passing. Many put off enlightenment as long as they can, and some, it seems, until the last five minutes of life! Perhaps some never do reach enlightenment, which is why most religions have some metaphor similar to “hell.”

Maybe this whole phenomenon of late stage growth is what Catholics actually mean by purgatory. Without such after-death hope, I would go crazy with sadness at all the lives which appear to end so unripened. The All-Merciful One is surely free to show mercy even after we die. Why would God be all-loving before death but not after death? Isn’t it the same God? I’ve not seen anyone die perfectly “whole.” We are all saved by mercy, “wound round and round,” as Merton said. Some do appear to float into pure love in their very final days among us. Heaven is an endless continuum of growth and realization

by Richard Rhor

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Hope and Love

The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.

—– Alphonsus Liguori

Love and hope are key ingredients in the Christian walk. When we allow these two factors to come together in our search for the almighty, our faith explodes and we emerge on fire followers of Christ. The Bishop says that our hope allows us to find peace in times of great adversity, and our love for Him permits us to see His unmatchable beauty. Upon arrival at this point we find ultimate rest and peace in God.

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An Honest Answer

Monk in Prayer

A brother went to Abba Mateos and said to him, “How is it that the monks of Scetis did more than the scriptures require in loving their enemies more than themselves?’ Abba Mateos said to him, ‘ As for me I have not yet managed to love those who love me as I love myself.’

—-Abba Mateos of the Desert

Everyone wants an honest answer to their questions, but they are not always pleased with the answers they receive. The brother went to his spiritual director and asked the age old question about loving our enemies. Somehow he had gotten the impression that the monks of Scetis were miles ahead of him in dealing with the spiritual dilemma of loving enemies. Abba Mateos speaks volumes in his answer. He says that he does not love his closest companions as much as he loves himself. True Christ-like love is a very difficult task. My read is that he was telling his brother not to believe everything he hears, but to work and pray for his own enlightenment.

This Abba’s word is as relevant today as it was 1500 years ago. We are surrounded by people that have arrived spiritually and are willing to tell us everything we must do and how much better they are than us. Discouragement is alive and well, and it is a plague of the church. Humility and knowledge of self is the foundation of all Christian maturity. Take the time to examine your love for yourself and others with the eyes of your heart and not the words of others. That’s my honest answer.

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Love and Vulnerability

Jesus is So Cool

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

——C. S. Lewis

No matter how much we try, it is impossible to love without vulnerability. Lewis points this out with his usual bold clarity. The reality is that all love relationships involve some hurt and pain. The high divorce rate and the overall lack of commitment that plagues our society are outward signs of our inward fear of the hurt that comes with love. We have tried very hard to establish a society that loves without vulnerability, and we have failed.

The ultimate example of love with vulnerability is Jesus. Over and over again He tried to tell His disciples of the cross He must bear. More than once He hesitated at His own mission, but in the end He submitted to the Father. How many times must it have occurred to Him how much easier it would be to just forget the cross and move on? Just let man get what he deserves. In the same way, it is easy for us not to love. Why should we?  It just hurts! Like Jesus, we are compelled to love and with that love to give ourselves to others. That is our Christian service.

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Love Is His Meaning

julian

I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For Love…. So I was taught that love is our Lord’s meaning.

—–Julian of Norwich

Love is His meaning. There so many things sent our way by God that are meant for love. Julian urges us to see God’s love in our circumstances, and find that love in all we experience.

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Cure for Loneliness

Mother Teresa 1985 cropped

Mother Teresa

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

–― Mother Teresa

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