Kids go through grade school and high school with important questions to face. Are they “in” with the crowd? Can they could hold their own against the bullies, can they get along with the right girls/boys, did they wear the right clothes, are they cool enough, are they left out, and of course, today, will they have sex and/or use drugs. All of these are obviously more important than anything else in life.
What about love—the real kind? When I was in high school, eons ago, I did not think much about the place of “love” within the overall scheme of life. Of course, who "thinks" at that age?
Then as a college freshman I took Fr. Robert Boyle, S. J., for English literature. He was a great teacher, without question, and one proof of his greatness lay in a statement he often made: “If you want to know what is happening in a work of literature, look what love is doing.”
“Look what love is doing.”
“What!!!” my barely 18 year old self gasped. “I never knew love was such a big deal. Ok, it was something my parents said they had for me and told me about over and over. But could it really be the key to plays, poems, novels, short stories and literature as well? Ulp. I had better pay attention.”
Boyle went through Shakespeare, Hopkins, Joyce, Keats, Milton, and I can’t remember how many more. The clouds began to part. I began to see that Boyle was crucially correct. Characters’ lives centered around this something called “love.” Look for it when you read your next serious novel or short story or poem. Who acts out of real regard for the other(s) and who does not? What happens as a result?
Next task: what about love in your own life?
Have you discovered that love is quite a bit more than pretense, more than an ideal, more than just a thing we crave from others and more than just pleasure? Have you seen that learning to love is the very air inhaled by such everyday importances as work, relaxation, attractions, happiness? Without love’s living atmosphere none of these could breathe.
In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus says it in no uncertain terms.
• You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
• You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
• The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
“Wait a minute,” we might exclaim (as I did in college). We thought law consisted of commands forced upon us from the outside, rules whose violation would bring punishment. What is this about law depending on love?
Take a look at God.
God does not fail at love. God waits. God says to each of us, “how wonderful that you are learning!” God says, “I care for every person on earth.” And then says to you or me: “you are my beloved. I am at your side as you learn to open to me and to others.”
You and I often fail at this, so we need laws to help. But the root of law and the root of life is loving concern, under God, for human persons. Ultimately this is an imitation of God’s love for us.
In today’s very troubled world, “Look what love is doing.”
John Foley S. J.
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