Tina Mayeux examines how we can understand this most noble of virtues and how to love God and others more perfectly.
Valentine’s Day is approaching and some would say “love” is in the air. The supermarket aisles are lined with glitzy cards and red cellophane heart-shaped boxes of chocolate -- tokens of romantic affection and devotion that is often confused and less than authentic. The word “love” is tossed about randomly and can have many meanings. As Catholic Christians, what does “love” really mean to us after all?
We know that God is love and we are to love one another, as Scripture repeatedly tells us. 1 John 4:7-8 makes this clear:
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 Corinthians 13 is a beautiful exhortation to love and an almost poetic explanation of what love is. When we feel that we need a “refresher” in this most perfect of virtues, we can simply open our bibles to this chapter and read and reflect upon the meaning of Christian love and how to embody it:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)
Motherhood is a perfect opportunity and a “school” where we learn about genuine love. It is not always the warm, fuzzy feelings; often, it is extremely difficult. As saints such as St. Therese remind us, we can show our love for our families by doing little things with great love. Each time we change a diaper, wash a dish, or pick up a toy or piece of clothing off of the floor cheerfully, especially when we don’t want to, we are practicing the virtue of love, or charity, toward our family.
It is not always easy to be loving and kind to others. In a world full of broken and sinful humans, handicapped by original sin, inevitably division and hurt will occur. If I am honest, there are times when I don’t feel so loving and it is difficult to exercise charity. The hurts and pains of life can become overwhelming at times, and we can begin to feel angry or resentful. When we ourselves have been hurt, we often close our hearts to the love of Jesus and others. At times we even find ourselves hurting others when we carry pain and unforgiveness around with like baggage. In 1 John, we are reminded,
“If anyone says ‘I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whomever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
True love requires dying to self, sacrifice, and often forgiveness, which can be difficult. To be true Christians, we must defeat our pride and love others, even those who have hurt us. For this we need God’s help.
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In a world where many have forgotten the meaning of true love and have reduced it to a false or shallow emotion, we have a duty to be examples of Christlike love and charity. #catholicmom
In a world where many have forgotten the meaning of true love and have reduced it to a false or shallow emotion, we, as Christians, have a duty to be examples of Christlike love and charity. This Valentine’s Day, let us resolve to ask Jesus to soften our heart toward others so that we can show true love for them.
Through prayer, reflection, and repentance, we can identify the areas where our hearts need healing and bring these sinful areas to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to experience genuine conversion. What are some other ways we can learn to truly love our family, friends, and others, and even our enemies?
Copyright 2021 Christina Mayeux
Image: Laura Ockel (2017), Unsplash