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No love without sacrifice


"It is not how much we do but how much love we put in the work we do for God," as Mother Teresa says, then adds, "We have to love until it really hurts." Mother Teresa and her co-workers have obviously found a way to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength, and to love their neighbor as themselves. Their neighbor are the lepers, the dying, the mentally ill, those who live in stark poverty, disease and vice.

It is easy to recognize and admire the total and selfless dedication of Mother Teresa and her workers. The difficulty arises when we realize that God wants us also – who are right here and now – to give him and our neighbor the same kind of love. We admire and support the work of Mother Teresa and others like her. But to imitate her, totally? How do we go about loving God with all our heart with all our soul, with all our mind and all our strength? But Jesus is specific about loving. He knows what he is talking about when he demands nothing less than all our heart, soul, mind and strength – the absolute in unconditional love-relationship with him. And insofar as our following of this primary precept, to love God, do we gain capacity to love the ‘other’ as ourselves.

Love is all apiece. We do not love God more by loving people less. Love of God and love of neighbor grow together or shrink together. It all depends whether our love flows from the fountain we call LOVE, who is God Himself. How would we know whether our love has its source in God who Is love? The apostle Paul gives us the check-exam in the oft quoted 1 Corinthians 13: Is our love patient? Not jealous? Doesn’t put on airs? Is not snobbish? Is not proud? Never rude? Never self-seeking? Not prone to anger? Doesn’t brood over injuries. Doesn’t rejoice in truth? Unlimited forbearance? Unlimited trust? Full of hope? Imbued with God’s power to endure? By God, that’s a tall order! We are only human. No wonder, friends, married couples, people in some commitment do not stick it out to the very end. Because the kind of love which is Godlike has first to be refined like gold in the crucible. No love without sacrifice. We have to face this with all the courage we can muster.

Human relationships are relative. As we grow, we discover that the reality of love exists but with ambivalences, failures, reverses, hurts. For true love in God to thrive, we will have to go through a thousand pardons and reconciliations. This is the reason why we will have to transcend all that causes the relativity of human relationships, to be able to touch the absolute in a relationship with God. What are these all? The ambivalent and conditional relationship with its message, ‘If you are good to me, I’ll love you; if you are not, I’ll hate you. If I have need of you, you can be my friend; if I don’t have any need of you, forget it. These and all other barriers to unconditional loving.

We cannot escape our covenant relationship with God. He demands it. Because of this covenant with God, covenant with parents, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, nay, even enemies become possible. Jesus was not asking the impossible when He commanded "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you." Jesus means a love without condition, a relationship based no longer on any compatibility or good we can derive from our neighbor but on a covenant – to love God with all our whole being. Only then can we experience the absolute because we transcend all relativity in a profound relationship with God.

31st Sunday in OT-MK 12, 18-34

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