All You Need is Love

Hearts TrioScripture Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter (Year B)

The word “love” is mentioned 538 times in scripture; 221 times in the New Testament (NRSV) and 317 times in the Old Testament, and I am torn between thinking that in today’s culture we overuse the word and thinking we do not use it enough.  For me, love is a big word, virtually impossible to define, and I understand why so much poetry has been written in an effort to convey at least part of the experience.  Surely, a few songs have been written about love.  Some authors have taken to trying to explain love by writing books about it (try a Google search for “books about love” and see how many you get).   In my lifetime, I have heard, read about, and experienced many different expressions of love.   According to Another World and Love Boat, shows I watched as a youth, love meant meeting someone under either highly romantic or extremely humorous circumstances, falling head-over-heels for them in a flurry of passion and excitement, and then getting married shortly thereafter.  Shortly after that, of course reality would set in, often accompanied by separation and divorce.  Ironically, sometimes a tragic death was necessary for these characters to understand what it was that they lost.

We often talk about different kinds of love:  fraternal love, romantic love, love of God, familial love, self-love, love of friends, of animals, and I suspect if you ask 100 different people what love means to them personally, you will receive 100 different responses.  I wonder, though, how different they all really are.  Of course, I understand that love is expressed differently depending on the situation, but earlier this year when researching material for a retreat on the beatitudes, I heard Fr. Richard Rohr give a very interesting definition of “true love” which resonated with me.  “True love,” Fr. Rohr says, is “when giving and receiving meet.”[1]   So, when “true love” is present, receiving this love is an act of empowerment, not charity.

Take today’s gospel account from John, for example, where love is referred to nine times, including at least one frequently quoted passage from scripture:  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus said to his disciples.  Always a man of his word, Jesus did exactly this…he took a hit that would enable us to better understand God’s love for us, and also so we could understand the meaning of eternal life and share his message of Good News.  It was a gesture of love for us all, and in exchange we take on the responsibility of sharing his message.  When giving and receiving meet.  It is interesting because I wonder if there are not times when some of us are more comfortable talking about rules and regulations than in talking about God’s love and its attributes: kindness, mercy, patience, truth, hope, endurance.

Think for a moment about the person who has loved you the most in your lifetime…the depth of that love, and what they would be willing to do for you and forgive you for.  Do they carry around a ledger accounting your wrong-doings, measuring out portions of love in exchange for good behaviour?   No? Could it be that God does not, either?  God loves us at least as much as the person who loves us the most[2], except infinitely more.

~Trevor Droesbeck
Archdiocese of Moncton Office of Youth Faith Development

[1] YouTube, Richard Rohr defines true love, available from https://youtu.be/QBg-KpdEoAw

[2] Dennis, Sheila Fabricant and Matthew Linn, Good Goats:  Healing our image of God, 1994.

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