What is your idea of love?
Often when we think of love, we think of our friends and family, maybe happy moments, good times we had with them. Perhaps some we have not seen for a long time, and we think how happy we will be when we meet them again. Maybe we think of the love of our life, or we dream about them and how happy we will be when we find that person. We think of hugs, kisses, pictures, gifts we have received, hearts and flowers. In short, we think of being loved.
So then what does it mean to love? "Greater love than this no man hath than to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)
Love is sacrifice. Love is selfless. Love serves. Do we really love anyone? We tell our parents we love them, but how many times do we go out of our way to help them when they are in need? Or how many times have we dropped what we were doing and immediately done what they asked? We tell our friends we love them, but how often do we pray for them and sacrifice for them? Rejoice in their success? Be there for them when we do not want to? How often do we check on our friends and in fraternal charity make sure they are keeping up with their spiritual duties? Or how often do we correct them, or stand up and do the right thing when everyone around us is failing?
We tell God we love Him...or do we? Even if we tell Him, do we really love Him? What would you think of someone who told you they loved you, but turned against you many times every single day? And if the same person hardly acknowledged his offences? Blew them off? Made no effort to change? What if someone said he loved you but never showed it? Never followed your advice? Did not thank you for your gifts?
Love is misunderstood by many today in the self-centered world we live in. We want someone to care about us, to cheer us up when we are sad, to talk to us when we are lonely. We want someone to lean on, someone with whom to share our burdens. We want to feel loved. Why do we shun giving ourselves? Why do we recoil from sacrifice? We are weak. We fear giving up our desires because we think we will be miserable. We do not want to give up the things we want and like because we think we cannot be happy without them. But the crazy thing we do not realize is that the more we give, the happier we actually are. Our end is not to seek our own happiness, but the glory of God. Our souls are drawn to irascible goods: goods that come about through suffering.
In this category falls denial of self for others. When we give up our own desires in order to make others happier or to lead them closer to God, He blesses our sacrifice with consolation. And this type of happiness is the deepest joy one can have while on earth: the joy of knowing we are following Christ. “If any man will come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross,and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) Any difficulty that leads us toward our eternal goal will bring real satisfaction and joy, because we know that it is worthwhile and that it is right. The following stanza taken from an unpublished poem encompasses this idea well:
“Where there is love, there lies beauty.
Where there is hope, all is able to be seen.
When life is lived in selflessness,
There no longer exists your loneliness;
But always comfort is given in suffering.
This comfort is knowing you’re doing the right thing.” (Anon.)
We think of love as being fuzzy and warm, satisfying and enjoyable. We see it as something we receive and we always want more. True love is the opposite. It is not naturally desirable. It hurts. True love is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. True love is a choice. It is an act of the will by which we decide to give ourselves entirely to others, and through others to God.