Keep Working on Love….
A key character in Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull is Jonathan’s teacher, Chiang. When the day comes for Chiang to say goodbye to his young student, Jonathan knows it is a special moment. He wonders what parting advice his old teacher will give him. Chiang utters it in just five words: “Jonathan, keep working on love.”
It is this same parting advice that Jesus gave to his own disciples: “Keep working on love…”
In Greek antiquity, it was widely accepted maxim that one’s supreme duty was to sacrifice oneself for a friend even to the point of death. Thus Aristotle says: “To a noble man there applies the true saying that he does all things for the sake of his friends… and, if need be, he gives his life for them.” (Nicomachaean Ethics) In today’s gospel, Christ gives His followers the mandate to love God with their whole being and their neighbor as they love themselves.
We have to love the people we live or work or pray with… ordinary people with little eccentricities, idiosyncrasies, shortcoming, flaws and imperfections. At times, these traits appear even refreshing, cute or charming perhaps. But soon enough they lose their attraction and become slightly unpleasant or even downright irritating. Then the temptation will be strong to avoid the annoying owners of those traits, to laugh at them behind their backs, to harshly confront them or reject them. This is one of our options, an option too often chosen by so-called Christians. For the real followers of Jesus, this is not an option. Jesus tell his followers that they must love their neighbor as they love themselves. His commandment is quite general. He does not really say: love those who are psychologically well-balanced, cheerful, charming and witty, cooperative or warm-hearted. He merely says: love one another… He means every “other” we live or work with or meet with.
Indeed, Christ’s example of love and sacrifice invites us to love beyond ourselves. It is this kind of selfless and unconditional love which Christ has shown us that conquers sin and even death itself. With this kind of love, death is transformed from the taking away of life into a voluntary return of the gift of life to the Giver of life.
Love reaches the eternal level when it goes beyond ourselves, when we are able to love others more than ourselves. It is this kind of love that makes our human relationships last, transforming them to eternity. This kind of love outlives death, defeating death’s power over us. Unconditional and selfless love is the real measure of Christian life. His kind of love is the reason for the resurrection.
Our love for one another has to be filled with the love that inspires the Eucharist, the living memorial of Christ’s love for us. This re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice in Calvary, which is the ultimate expression of His self-giving, inspires and powers us to love as He does. The love Christ has left as a legacy is the greatest of God’ gifts. When we learn to love as Christ loves, we learn to believe and hope without seeing. St. Augustine declares in one of his writings: “He (Christ) disappeared before our eyes, that we might find Him in our hearts.”
As we continue with our journey of faith, let us continue to discover the love that Christ has placed in our hearts. Let our hearts memorize the example of Christ’s love.