By Rev. Ray E. Atwood Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
Do you love me more than these? (Jn. 21:15)
There are two kinds of love: love for the sake of pleasure, and love for the sake of another person. The first is also called carnal, or fleshly love; the second is called spiritual love. Carnal love sees the other person only as a biological partner, a means of exciting one’s desire for physical pleasure. Spiritual love, on the other hand, sees the other person in his/her own fullness, spiritual, emotional, and physical. In erotic love, the burdens of the other are regarding as impeding one’s own happiness; in spiritual love, the burdens of the other are opportunities for service and growth.
Somewhere along the line, our world has been duped into attaching the label “love” to everything that advertises itself on billboards, Facebook, plays, dramas, best-selling novels, music, and perfumes. Love has become so vulgarized that those who really love are afraid to use the word.
Today love is often a desire to intensify its own self-centeredness. You sometimes hear people talk about their “soul mate.” This is, in my opinion, a mere desire for self-gratification. A soul mate is someone who has the same likes/dislikes as you (e.g., tennis, movies, long walks in the sunset), which is the reason you want that person. You don’t want to go to the trouble of relating to someone different than you.
The Savior did not come for Himself, but for us! Hence true love is about the other and not us! Jesus did not extinguish the flame of love that burned in Mary Magdalene’s heart when she came to anoint Him that first Easter morning (Jn. 20:11-18). Instead, He was transformed into a new object of affection. He met her where she was, and brought her to a new awareness of who He was. In addition, the woman who poured ointment on Our Lord’s feet was a reminder to us that true love is that which dies for the beloved (Lk. 7:38). Love reaches beyond itself to the beloved.
True love is Godly love. The flesh has a role in that love. God uses the love of the flesh as a stepping stone to love for God. A well-regulated moral heart is one in which, as times goes on, erotic love diminishes and spiritual love increases.
As Easter progresses, may our love be strengthened and purified so that we will more perfectly reflect the love of the One who loves us.