LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE — CHRISTIAN LOVE

St Augustine tells us that, “Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works.  There is the goal; that is why we run; we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.”

Isn’t that what we seek most in life – to love and be loved?  Could love be the answer to the most commonly asked question; what is the meaning of life?  Considering St. Augustine’s words above, we hear him telling us that love is the true goal of our mortal lives.  That once we find it, true love, we are at peace.  We hear also that love is its own reward.

Monsignor Ronald Knox tells us in his book In Soft Garments that, ‘Love is essentially the effort to sacrifice yourself, to immolate yourself, to another person.’

My immediate thought when I first read this was that these very words defined Christ’s Passion and his sacrifice on the cross of our salvation for love of us.  Christ died that we may live out of love for us.  The message for us that true love is a complete and selfless giving of one’s self is unmistakable.  True love, unlike lust and passion, does not ask, “What’s in it for me?”

If Monsignor Knox defined love, then how is Christian love defined?  

One thought is that it is loving God and through Him, recognising all humanity is created in His image and therefore deserving of dignity, loving our fellows.  After all, Christ tells us in Matthew (22:36 – 40), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Another thought is that we seek the fulfillment of our love for God by loving those around us, and to those in need by offering love in the form of charity.  Charity, we are told, is love. 

Yet, another thought is to emulate Christ’s love for us.  In fact, Christ tells us in the Gospels to “love one another as I have loved you”.

So now, where have our rambling thoughts brought us?  What is Christian love?

Is it love of God?  Yes.  Is it love of our brothers and sisters, fellow children of God, our Creator?  Yes.  Is it charity? Yes again.  Is it offering ourselves in service to, and in prayer for, others?  Yes.  It is all these things.

Lastly, is it a complete and selfless giving of one’s self to (and for) another?  That is our endeavour.  Love is our goal.

EXPECTATIONS

I admit that I have found pleasure and even enrichment by reading works of many of the early to middle 20th Century writers.  This is especially true of GK Chesterton and Msgr. Ronald Knox.  Both of whom wrote apologetics and detective stories.  The attraction is twofold.  First, there is what they say (enrichment), and then there is their art of expression (pleasure).  Their works led me to explore the writings of others of the same period, one of whom is CS Lewis.

I began reading CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity some time ago because I was interested in finding out what the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and numerous other works had to say.  Lewis, as had GK Chesterton, had been an atheist before becoming a devout Christian – Chesterton as a Catholic and Lewis as an Anglican.

So, what does all this have to do with ‘expectations’?  It is this from Lewis’ discussion of Christian Chastity:

… many people are deterred … because they think it is impossible.  But when a thing is attempted, one must never think about the possibility or impossibility.  Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can.  You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone.[i]

The carryover message here is that attempting a thing, even if one fails, is always better than not attempting it at all.  Isn’t that what the old saying, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gain’, also tells us?  The unspoken expectation is that some value will come from an attempt even if it ends in failure.  Lewis goes on to tell us, ‘Never mind … pick yourself up, and try again.’

While Lewis is writing about achieving Christian virtues of chastity and charity, what he has to say also speaks to the everyday challenges of our lives, be they religious or secular – and our expectations of ourselves.  Do we expect perfection from ourselves, or do we accept that no matter how hard we try or want to achieve, that we might fail and need to start again?  Perfection is a virtually unachievable goal, and to expect perfection of ourselves – and others – usually proves unrealistic. 

Then, the accepted expectation becomes imperfection.  Yet as Lewis hastens to tell us, ‘The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection’.

We are being told that while we are imperfect our ultimate goal – our purpose if you will – is to constantly strive for perfection with the expectation of failing, dusting ourselves off, getting up, and trying again, and again, and again.


[i] Mere Christianity, CS Lewis, 1952, Harper One, New York; page 101.

Matthew 7:6

This discussion is open to all, professed or not, and whether you are a member of our chapter or not.    

This month’s study comes from the Archives of Fr. John Hardon, SJ.  It is from a lecture he gave about the cost of sharing our faith. It is in two, rather small parts. Please read them, contemplate them with particular emphasis on what it means to you, and in reflection, what it means in relation to the cultural crisis we discussed last month.  Abstractly, we might consider the instruction we received in Matthew 7:6.  

Part one: Fr. Hardon Archives – The Cost of Sharing Christ – Part One (Truth Crusade Series)  

Part two: Fr. Hardon Archives – The Cost of Sharing Christ – Part Two (Truth Crusade Series)

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