One of the songs that I like to have played during the Marriage Encounter weekends is “Love Changes Everything” – not the 1987 version by Climie Fisher, but the one from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Aspects of Love. As the title suggests, so too do we believe as Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, that love does change everything. However, the huge problem comes about when we have such different definitions of love and what we think constitutes love. When it is subjective (and most of the time it is), it is our own interpretations of love (and what constitutes loving) that gets us, and our overtures of love, into all sorts of messes. I was singing the words of this tune in our kitchen last week and Jenny, our parish cook, a lovely non-Christian who has worked here for many years, looked at me with great suspicion and said, “I don’t believe you”. She added, “so many people have been hurt and injured by love”.
Actually, she cannot be blamed for being cynical about this statement. She can be included amongst the millions and millions who have either seen people hurting others by love, or perhaps have themselves been hurt by love. So how can we purport to believe that “love changes everything”? By looking at the truest and deepest definition of love.
Where do we find this? Where is the prototype of love? Who gives us the best example? Simply put – Jesus Christ himself.
“A new commandment I give to you – love one another as I have loved you” is the statement that makes Jesus THE definition of love, as he IS the giver of life and love. His is the Gold Standard of love. But we take this remarkable statement of Christ so lightly that it is hardly ever pondered over when we make our decisions and choice of actions in life. “Do this in memory of me” then makes very deep sense because we will love as Jesus loved, making him real and present to everyone we encounter.
There are many things that we do as Church. Our outreach to the poor, our works of mercy, our liturgical prayers and devotions, and the way that we share of what we have with those who have not. But at the heart of it, are we doing it with a conscious choice to love?
I am sure that a lot of us do give in various ways, but if at that very instance that we put our hands into our wallets or purses, consciously do become aware that this action needs to be done with a deliberate choice to love, I am sure that we will be more generous, less thinking of ourselves; less about what we will forgo and think more of the recipient as the receiver of love. If not, he or she will only be the recipient of money. And our giving action can be just a sign to them to leave us alone.
The same goes for the way that we worship as a community. Why do most of the faces that we see at Masses lack a conviction that we are indeed ‘glorifying’ God when we say “glory to God in the highest”? Perhaps it is because there is little love in our words. Simply put, we don’t love God.
Most of us fear him, and because we can only fear him, we will worship him because we are told to, and not because we show him that we are loving him by our worship. In many minds of Catholics, I won’t be surprised if God is some kind of ogre. It’s a very toxic image of God that we may have, and due to this, we worship in dread, we adore with a grudge, we drag our feet to Mass and we cannot find it in our hearts to love such a being.
I have close to 10 years of hearing confessions under my belt. But in these 10 years, I have yet to hear anyone admit with a humility “Father, I realize that I don’t love God. And because I don’t love God, I don’t love my neighbour as well, and I don’t love myself adequately”. I believe that when we can come to this realization, we would have come to what I’d call the cusp of a true encounter of our basal selfishness, which will very likely lead to a true encounter with God – the God of love.
And when we do, we will be convinced that love does change everything.