I first began to understand what love meant at a children’s mass in my hometown parish. Through the usual question & answer session, the twinkly-eyed elderly priest differentiated between ‘like’ and ‘love’. Our negative reactions to some people could range from mild irritation to outright disgust; and so it was impossible for us to like absolutely everyone we met. Jesus Himself, the priest said, didn’t like everyone. But He did love everyone, as God loves every person He has created.
What is God’s love? God is love itself. Our limited, inherently selfish natures are incapable of fully understanding the mind-boggling depth of that statement. Human ego tends to dismiss what it fails to grasp. So God’s love, and God’s call to love, are often brushed off as sentimental fluff, instead of being the very reason for our existence. Brighter minds than mine have elaborated on the nature of this love here. Jesus too reaffirms this love as the greatest commandment of all:
I write this post on Holy Thursday 2017, the first of the most sacred days in Christianity, where we lead up to the greatest proof of God’s love – the willing sacrifice of His pure, sinless Son Jesus for the salvation of every impure, sinful human. A torturous death to save people who were and still are undeserving.
There lies the challenge before all who profess to follow this man – to use our time on earth to become worthy of Him. Though His death wiped our sinful slates clean, we still fall into sin every day because as my little daughter once noted, being good is hard work! Too often, our egos and ambitions overrule this call to love.
Look at your own lives: do you honestly like every person in it? I know I don’t. While I’m blessed to know many wonderful folks, there are some people I’m happier avoiding and some I just manage to tolerate. Some who if I ever met in person again, my hand would itch to slap. Left to my own devices, I probably would too. But this is where I have to remind myself that all of these people are also His priceless creations. And I am as much of a sinner as they are. Yet, He loves us all.
Another gift of that infinite, unfathomable love is the ability to reason – an ability that many use to question His commandments, His very existence. And yet that questioning is a vital part of a vibrant relationship. A mature faith isn’t blind, it is one that emerges through questions, doubt, trials, tragedies and even periods of disbelief, and then stands firm.
We are not mindless puppets, forced to follow Him. He hopes that we choose Him of our own free will, the way He chose each human who walks this earth. And once we make that choice, we can do no less than to try each day, as hard as it is, to live as He asks. That we learn to rise above our dislikes and respond to the people in our lives as He does. With love.