the demands of love
A Christianity which places no demands on our lives is no Christianity at all. When we mistakenly try to live out our faith without the demands love asks of us, we’re living a life that’s flaccid and empty, lacking and wanting; and it’s certainly not a biblical Christianity we’re living day-to-day. Why? Because scripture makes clear: Love is demanding.
This notion I’m proposing that love demands may come across as a bit unsettling to some. Today’s secular culture is more apt to declare love is letting people do whatever they want to do – celebrating a you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone point of view. Even Christian brothers and sisters reading this may consider it nonsense: The God of love is so loving, how could he possibly demand anything of us?
But, fellow sinners, I submit that view confuses what love truly is.
The question today’s Gospel message invites is this: What do I love? Who do I love? Who and what captures my imagination more than anything or anyone else? And is this love in right relation to everything and everyone else in my life?”
Today, in the Catholic liturgical celebration we call the Mass, on this thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear the story of the Pharisees asking Jesus which of God’s laws is the greatest? The apostle Matthew relates this story in the twenty-second chapter of his Gospel (Mt 22:34-40):
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Many commentaries have been written about this Gospel passage. Today, in his Sunday homily, Bishop Robert Barron encourages us to understand Matthew’s story as Christ’s invitation to place God at the center of our lives (see Word on Fire Homilies for great reflections). When we do, everything else can be set in right relation to the highest good; everything finds its proper place in our lives when we rightly order everything else in right relation to God.
In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1-13) we discover a concise, tender, and beautiful summary of what love is:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Let us consider what Paul is saying. Can I say I live my life in such a way that each day:
- I’m not jealous, pompous, inflated or rude?
- That I don’t seek my own interests?
- Rather, that I am patient, kind, and mild-tempered in each and every interaction with myself and others?
- In challenging moments each day, I bear and endure all things?
That is demanding, isn’t it? I think so. Yet, such is the demands of love. That is the demand our Christian faith invites us to live each day.
Therefore, let us submit to God’s invitation to place Christ at the center of our lives; and, in doing so, may we love as Christ loves. May we orient and order all things in right relation to God, in whose image we were made. That is God’s will for you and for me.
Peace be with you!
Disciple of Christ | Son of the Church
For today’s Mass readings see: Ex 22:20-26; Ps 18; 1 Thess 1:5-10; Mat 22:34-40
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Saint Jerome (ca. 347 – 420 A.D.), Father and Doctor of the Church
Jesus, WORD INCARNATE, help me to know you.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.