By Rev. Ray E. Atwood Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
Love is not automatic
For this is the message you have heard from the beginning; we should love one another (1 Jn. 3:11).
There are lots of “automatics” in our lives, including automatic dish washers, automatic washing machines, and automatic software updates. But some things are not automatic. Love is one of those things. Love is not automatic. Love is not like a glittering jewel, which shows its luster without any effort on our part. Rather, it is like a seed that is planted, grows daily, renews itself through storm and wind, rejoices in its blossoms, thrills to its fruits, dies to itself in winter, and arises to new life in the spring. Love must undergo a continual transformation, or it will become dull and lifeless.
Love must cry or it dies. It thrives on crisis. A crisis can bring out the best or the worst in us. Love is transformed in crisis, such as the birth of a child, sickness, sorrow, quarrels, and even following the death of one’s partner. Love is not like a plain, but instead like a succession of valleys and mountains. The story of love can seem like a roller coaster ride. Love in the spiritual order is not one continual ascent in joy to God. Instead, it is a journey through the thorns and thickets of trials, and struggle against temptation to sin. There would be no resurrection or ascension without a crucifixion.
When Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration saw Our Lord’s face shine like the sun and his garments white as snow, he wanted to stay in the mountain. He offered to set up three tents. But Jesus reminded him that one must pass through the winepress of Gethsemene and the darkness of Calvary before enjoying the sweet wine of resurrection and the light of the empty tomb.
There are two great moments of love in Our Lord’s life: one from Bethlehem to Cana, the other from Cana to Calvary. In the first, Mary appears as His only Mother; in the second she appears as the Mother of all people He would redeem. In the first, she is the mother of Jesus because she calls him “my son.” In the second, she is the mother all people when she calls her “your mother.” Cana is the turning point because there she was given the choice of keeping him for herself or delivering him to the world.
In human love there comes a time when something must be lost, when death must come so one can rise to new heights of joy. Many married people are not together enough to know they love each other. They mistake a crisis for the end of love when it is often a doorway to a deeper love.
Our modern life is geared to discontinuity and failure. Life is snuffed out by birth control; love dies in the refusal of sacrifice. But in the meantime there will always be the remnant of true lovers, who will see that as gold is purified by fire, so love is enriched by sacrifice. Love is not automatic. It is a dynamic relationship between God and the people He made for Himself.