In 1977, Debby Boone (Pat Boone’s daughter) cracked the top ten charts with her love song about how her partner’s love lit up her life and gave her hope to carry on. And that’s tremendous.
Love is indeed a wonderful thing but it is probably the most misunderstood and/or misinterpreted aspect of human life. Like in the song, today it is often portrayed as nothing more than a response of the heart – all about how I feel; all about how people do things for me. But love is NOT just an emotional response of the heart!
St Thomas Aquinas defines it bluntly and succinctly: “Love is willing good for the other, as other”. It is a conscious decision of the will, the mind, the whole person. Not just a gooey feeling in the heart. And it is not what love does for me, but rather what I as a lover of others do for them. But what I do must always be for their good.
Jesus is our supreme example of love. When he was hanging nailed to the cross having been stripped naked; whipped to within an inch of His life; forced to parade with His cross through the streets to Golgotha, He was most probably not feeling gooey and in love with those who tortured and murdered Him – but He loved them – “Father forgive them!” – He willed good for them for who they were despite their actions against Him.
In Matthew’s Gospel last week, He laid down the pavers for true Christian love. The Beatitudes are a list of outwardly focussed characteristics essential for Christian discipleship, the pavers on which we walk in the light of Christ as light for others. Characteristics that have at their very centre a commitment to 1) selflessness; 2) outreaching; 3) humility, & 4) joyful acceptance of adversity, all in order to better love God by loving others first.
Today Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and a light for the world by the way we live as His baptised disciples. It takes courage, particularly in our dark times, but we can be the “salt of the earth” by being a conduit for the grace of the Holy Spirit through our love based on sacred love as taught and exemplified by Jesus. A love that graciously beatifies rather than selfishly satisfies. A love that is a light for the world.
When we develop the characteristics of the beatitudes and the love that underpins them, in the words of Debby Boone, we can truly sing to our God, “You light up my life! You give me hope to carry on!” because You love me. Help me to love others.