“Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.” (Eph.5:1-2)
“Live in love” – easier said than done. What a challenge from Paul this week in one of our Sunday Readings. Indeed, if we want to know how well we have listened to the Lord, how well we are following his call, how well we are being whom we are called to be – then, we need to look honestly in the mirror of our lives and assess how well we truly “live in love”, or not.
Let us ask the Lord to help us learn to love more, especially in those places in life, and with those people, we struggle with. Jesus himself when asked what commandment was most important proclaimed that we are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength”, and “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-32).
Love is the key. Truly, love remains one of the most simple, as well as one of the most complex parts of life – it says it all and it stretches us all the most. How can we live in love even more?
Love is not easy, nor does it come in an instant – love grows. Love is never simply going through the motions or putting up a good front – it is rooted in the heart. We also do not earn love – it is truly a gift. Love does not happen by accident – it is chosen. And, love is not just about whether we have loved a few, but how well we have striven to love all people, including even those we struggle with.
Learning how to love is learning how to let go of those things that separate us from others and learning how to be open to walking together, even when we do not get along or agree. So, we do need to ask ourselves and ask God how have we truly loved one another and, in particular, how well have we crossed those lines that too often separate people – age, race, color, politics, faith, background, etc., etc.? Not an easy question, and yet, a question Paul, and Jesus, and our faith calls us to ask and answer honestly, and to seek the Lord’s grace in learning to love even more.
Life is filled with so much that is good and so much that is not so good and even evil. We definitely live in a time of great love as you hear of stories of people who have reached out to others over and over again in true care and love. And we live in a time of great greed and self-interest and bias and violence and everything else that often separates us from others and others from us. Of late this has been especially true, with the news filled with stories of tragic deaths and acts of violence rooted in hatred and bias – from the horrific stories of Aurora, of Charleston, of the Sudan, of Iraq, of ISUS, of … And while this call to love does not call us to be naïve or to “go along with” everything others, or we, have done, this call calls us with the Lord’s help to walk honestly with him and to learn to “let go” of whatever holds us back in the mix of good and evil.
It remains difficult to know how to love, especially when life holds so much tragedy and injustice. How do we move forward in love rather than in revenge and hatred and such? What do we do? How can we do this? Let us seek to learn through the Lord to “live in love”, no matter how confusing, and tragic, life can be.
Look to Paul, look to Jesus, to show us the way. How did Paul come to love those whom he originally was so strongly against and even participated in a stoning of one (Steven)? Somehow, Paul over his painful journey of life learned to let go and let God, to begin to open himself to those he felt were lost. And, Jesus himself never held a grudge against those who killed him. How did Jesus still love those who unjustly brought him to condemnation and death? In the midst of all the tragic deaths and terrible treatment of so many by folks we need to open our hearts to the Lord even more so we may begin to learn what it is to love, to be beloved children, to walk together, or at least to keep the door open, even when it has been shut. And while we cannot change others, we definitely can seek to “live in love” and seek to do as the Lord did and continues to do for and with us, which may well open the door to new life.
Definitely, in the midst of all the recent tragedies in our own country and throughout the world, let us hold the tragic victims of crime and violence and bias in our prayers. And let us also seek to try and hold the perpetrators in prayer as well – for a change of heart, for repentance.
May we come to love as “beloved children” – as the Lord has done and calls us to. This is not to excuse what people have done but to open our hearts to the Lord who moves us to admit wrongs, to repent when needed, and to learn to walk together in love – at all times. May we seek to learn to “love” even when we have no clue how. The Lord shows us the way!
John E. Krumm, Pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church in Xenia is a guest columnist.