Love. When we first hear this word, our minds may be drawn to the cliché, worldly views of love: pink hearts, boxes of chocolates, flowers, and perfect relationships. While all of these may be indications of love, the real meaning of love lies much deeper than this surface level. As I have heard before and as all married couples, parents, or anyone who has ever truly loved someone can attest, love is often an act of the will, a choice. Just as faith is not about feelings, loves is not solely about feelings either. Often times, loving another involves a great deal of selflessness and sacrifice.
Mother Teresa once said, “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves.” Have we ever known or appreciated a sacrifice of love so great? If any of you have ever been to a Catholic Church before, you have seen at least one crucifix. Some of us have see the crucifix many times before, but have we really taken the time to pause and see within that image the intense love that Christ has for us? Within the cross, the crucifixion and death of our Lord, we are able to see the greatest display of love ever shown to mankind. For on the cross, He suffered and died for each of us. As Jesus said, “…I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Have we ever known a love so great?
Countless saints have embraced this truth, this ultimate love, to the point of even death. Although the majority of us will not be called to physical martyrdom, we are all called to martyrdom out of love in a smaller sense each and every day. These acts of love, these small martyrdoms, are often unnoticed by others, but may mean so much more to someone else. I once witnessed this type of small act of love for another during a visit that I had with a woman who dying of cancer. She went into the kitchen to get a cup of ice for herself and switched the tab on the refrigerator to “crushed”. She filled her cup with ice, switched the tab back to “cube”, and allowed a few pieces of cubed ice fall into her glass. As she took the cubed pieces of ice out of the glass and put them into the sink, she explained to me that her husband really did not like having crushed ice in his glass. What love this woman had for her husband! In the midst of her sickness, she was thinking of her spouse, thinking of the good of the other.
The paths that we take to show love to others will be different, but our love for others should have one and the same goal: to reflect and share the love of Christ. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God who created man out of love also calls him to love- the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love” (#1604). We have been created by love and for love, and if we learn to know and live this reality, our world will be transformed and we will learn to love in a more radical way than we ever thought possible.