Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Love Takes Many Forms

Millions of people will be spending money this upcoming week on Valentine’s Day.
(Even though it was changed to Saint Cyril and Methodius Day, Hallmark doesn’t have
too many cards for that day). And while in particular for couples the day may entail
chocolates, roses, or a date night and celebrate the romantic side of love, as we all
know love takes many forms. And it’s worth pondering how we live out these various
forms of love.

It probably won’t shock you that this space will not be used for much advice with respect
to dating and relationships, though I will offer this up to any gentlemen reading: if you
are going out on Valentine’s Day, it’s probably not best to ask your significant other to
pay the bill or “go Dutch.” Now, let’s move on.

What I would like to write about briefly are the different components of love, in that the
term has so many meanings and ways to think about it, but each are important. Here’s
what comes to mind for me when I think about love.

Sacrifice. We refer to Mass as a sacrifice because it makes present again the sacrifice
of Jesus for us on Good Friday. And we are reminded of God’s love for us every time
we look at the crucifix. We know very little about the real Saint Valentine which is why
he is no longer on the official calendar of saints, but most accounts say he was
martyred for holding to his faith in the third century, and did acts of love for others.
Sacrifice though has to be a part of every loving relationship. Parents sacrifice time and
money to raise their children. We sacrifice ego when we apologize and admit we were
wrong. Children sacrifice time to help their parents and their family. People sacrifice of
their time and talent and treasure to help their parish or a charity. The list goes on and
on. When we gaze upon Jesus in the Eucharist or look at the cross, we should think
“how far am I willing to go for those who need me?”

Receiving. It might sound obvious, but love also needs to be received. Ideally for us,
that’s the first thing that happens when we enter the world; we are placed into the arms
of a loving mother. And when we are baptized, we celebrate how God’s love is always
with us. But it’s worth asking how do we receive love. Sometimes when we weren’t
given the right understanding of love in our upbringing or went through difficult life
experiences with family or the Church, we might not receive love as we should.
Receiving love means being open to God’s love and mercy and forgiving ourselves and
reaching out to God when we fall. It means loving yourself. It means accepting that love
is not a privilege but a right, and others who are in our lives should also be giving it to
us. This means if a spouse isn’t loving as they should, or a parent is cold or cruel, we
have a right to speak up when a relationship isn’t as it should be. Sadly some people
just aren’t aware or chose to be aware of how they treat others, sometimes within a
family, or among friends or at a workplace. We shouldn’t feel guilty when we speak up if
someone isn’t treating us as they should.

Forgiving. In every relationship, we let others down be it our spouses, our kids, or our
parents. We are human. And that is why we ask for forgiveness from God. But forgiving
others can be tough. But when we work towards forgiveness it can do so much to
remind a person they are loved, and it also helps us to move forward and takes a
burden off of our shoulders. Forgiveness though needs to be authentic; it takes time and
sometimes a starting point is to acknowledge the reality of being wronged, then pray to
God for help, then start praying for the other person. We can talk to others about a
situation too, and hopefully get to a point where we can truly forgive others who
trespass against us by reaching out to them as the last step. And remember the point
with receiving love: forgiving also means forgiving ourselves. We are human and
inevitably make mistakes. Don’t forget the many good things you do too!

“Tough Love” Last week I spoke on how when we truly love others we sometimes
have to challenge them. What do you do when you see a Little League parent making a
scene and yelling at a coach or umpire? What do you do when you are aware of a
drinking problem in the family? What do you do when someone you know stops going to
Mass? How do you handle “family secrets?” The human instinct with sin can be to run
from it or to pretend that it’s not there. But we have to confront these things out of love
to truly help people.

Tolerating Differences. As I’ve also recently preached on, it seems these days people
can become less tolerant than ever. Why is that though? I have very strong religious
and political beliefs but one of my closest friends is my exact opposite, yet we’ve
maintained a great friendship, even if he is wrong and I am right (just seeing if you are
still reading). We have to accept the fact that we are a diverse world. And if we love all
people, we will make an effort to pray for all, and to not quickly condemn based on
politics or other differences. You certainly don’t have to change your mind or agree, but
we do have to coexist together and perhaps starting from what we share in common
and just trying to calm down when we encounter those with whom we have strong
differences can improve our relationships with each others. And also, consider arguing –
a good thing – rather than shouting – a bad thing. Arguing helps us to understand the
other person, the issue we are arguing about more deeply, and also helps them to
understand us better.

Catechesis. Jesus sends us as disciples into the world. But how catechized are we?
What I mean by this is do we know our faith? Can we articulate it? We show our love for
God by learning all He has to teach us; this is why we study the Bible and also learn our
faith as we have understood it through the assistance of the Church which is there to
shepherd us. Its important to not just memorize prayers, but to know the meaning
behind those prayers, and why we believe what we do. But it also helps us to
evangelize the world, and this is more important than ever in a world which has so much
relativism in it, meaning one belief is as good as another which is what a lot of people
adhere to as a mindset. Getting to heaven is a pretty big deal – and it should be our
primary focus in life, to become a saint. Salvation of souls is something we all partake
in, and knowing and articulating our faith to others is a big component of love.

Some might think of love in a special way on Valentine’s Day, and it’s a wonderful day
to celebrate love. But love for the Christian is a way of life; and just as every couple
quickly realizes there’s a lot more to a relationship than dating, but that it’s about
making one another better through sacrifice, forgiveness and challenging each other,
the same is true for us all. God wants us to grow in our understanding of Him and gives
us a commandment – love one another as I have loved you. Let’s think about that not
just on February 14th, but every day of the year.

Have a blessed week!

Fr. Paul