Love, love, love, love:
Christians, this is your call;
Love your neighbor as yourself
For God loves us all.
We sang it in a round and we sang it well, because Sister Janice had us practice it before Mass began. We sat on the hard metal folding chairs in the cafeteria/chapel and sang it over and over again, but we didn’t really understand it. Not yet.
I remember well wondering–maybe even asking–just exactly how we were supposed to love everyone? I couldn’t comprehend how I was supposed to love people I didn’t know, had never met, or maybe did know and didn’t like! I seem to recall that my mother told me I would understand one day.
And she was right. I don’t know exactly when my heart broke open and I started to care about everyone in the world, to love them–maybe not as much as I love myself, because that would be too demanding, wouldn’t it? But at least enough to feel empathy for them, to cry at their stories, to make allowances for their faults.
I’m not an especially nice person. I think that most people reach a point in life where they too understand that kind of love. And this love–agape–is the basis for compassion, for feeling with another person.
And yet wars, violence, hate, division–these do not go away. Your Facebook Timeline is probably littered with memes that are the antithesis of love and compassion right this minute. I think that’s because the demands of this love are too much for us and so we protect ourselves by “otherizing.” If this person or that person or this group or that group is NOT LIKE US, we can tell ourselves we don’t really have to love them. We can label them monsters, or heathens, or extremists, or deadbeats, or fanatics, or even liberals and conservatives. Then we can get back to loving the people who are more like us.
Some say that Christianity–and please understand I am not advocating for imposing a state religion, just talking about what might happen if all Christians radically followed all the teachings of Christ–could never work to solve the problems of the world on a wide scale. GK Chesterton made this famous response: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
What if we tried it, really tried it? What if we let ourselves love? How would the world be transformed?
And that reminds me of another song we used to sing when I was a little girl at St. Joseph School.
They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love;
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
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