Grace to you and Merry Christmas!
One of my most favorite saints is Theresa of the Child Jesus (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux). From her, I learned something simple, but profound, about love.
A fellow nun whom Theresa loved so much as a friend wasn’t hanging out with her, preferring the company of another nun. At first, Theresa felt neglected. However, she prayed about it and realized that if she truly loves this nun, the proof of that love would be to love to see the nun enjoy the relationships she (the nun) loves. It will be about that nun, not about her.
In other words, if what makes someone I love happy is to spend time in the garden, I should be able to feel happy myself that the person I love is happy doing what he or she loves. This is a simple but powerful way of looking at love. We see this in parents too.
Parents love to see their kids do what they love doing, especially if those things are good. Love is one of those qualities that make us go beyond ourselves. It’s the quality of otherness, the real opposite of narcissism. Isn’t it why users who claim to love are all out for their ego? Hardly love. Abusers are typical examples of the opposite of love.
Apply this principle to the Word of God we read today from I John 2:3-11. Here, Saint John introduces a theme that he says, isn’t a new commandment. It’s rather an old commandment, which is love of neighbor (see Leviticus 19:18). He connects this love with knowing God, explaining that knowing God is about keeping God’s commandments, one of which is loving our neighbor.
Often, we hear people claim they love. Yet, hardly do we see evidence of that love. Many times, we have worship songs echoing through the choir stands of cathedrals, but few hearts of love in real life as proofs of that worship. Often, we know so much about God and so little of Him as Our Lord and Savior, who loves and calls us to love.
The true knowledge of God is love-knowledge; it isn’t head-knowledge. It is the knowledge that makes us fall in love with what is pleasing to God too. It is the knowledge that orients us to feel happy when God is glorified, and to jump in when duty calls, in response to God’s commandment for us to love one another.
Humanly speaking, to love the seemingly unlovable is very difficult. To love someone who is apparently working very hard to undermine us, or simply, someone who hates us, is a hard choice to make. Such a choice is the true test of love.
Personally, it’s been one of my challenges. How do I do this? I don’t know if it’s easy for you to do. The thoughts of what the person may have done against us in the past and what he or she continues to do without qualms of conscience keep refreshing the pains, making it tougher to love.
It’s in cases like these we see how much we need God’s grace to love. Love is God and God is God (I John 4:8), and as Saint Augustine says, God can pour that love into our hearts. Hence, first, we need to ask for the grace of loving as Jesus loves.
Second, love is a choice we make. It is different from like, which is more emotional than a choice. We choose to love as we choose to hate. Remember that famous line, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Those who love are really the tough, who choose to love anyway.
You and I are inspired to be one of those. It’s God’s desire. I hope it’s your desire too.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.