The arduousness of love

WE speak about love as if it is the easiest thing to do. It’s because we often equate love with a deep sentiment towards one’s parent, child, or friend, or a romantic and sexual expression toward a spouse, or a passion for one’s profession.

Love is more than a feeling. It’s an action, a decision, and a commitment. As Pope Francis stated in his homily on Valentine’s Day of 2014, love “is not a mere emotion, a psycho-physical state…it is a relationship, a growing reality.”

As a growing reality, it involves the heart and will, soul and life, mind and strength. It makes demands and requires a covenantal fidelity. And as Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J. says, “Love is not a mere ardor; it is arduous.”

Why is it so arduous? It’s because it demands heroic service, selflessness, forgiveness, justice, openness, inclusiveness, and humility. It also requires practice and accountability. That’s why we often say to each other, “Don’t tell me. Show me!”

St. Paul describes to us the arduousness of love in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it 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 wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

This arduousness of love mirrors God’s love and genuine practice of the Christian faith. That’s why Jesus combines the two commandments of love that every Jew learns early on in childhood. The first commandment is from Deuteronomy (Dt. 6:5): “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. The second is taken from Leviticus (Lev 19:18): “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”

By combining the two commandments on equal footing, Jesus wants to convey that showing our love for God is more than an offering of sacrifice, praise, and honor to Him.

It’s also loving one’s neighbor, especially the poor and the disadvantaged. In the Book of Exodus that we hear this Sunday, loving requires not molesting or oppressing an alien and not wronging a widow and an orphan, not taking advantage of the oppressed.

The U.S. election challenges us to practice this arduous love by our votes on the candidates and the various state measures that would benefit our lives, especially those of our society’s vulnerable members. May God help us discern His will!

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

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