Spirituality of the Readings
Look What Love Is Doing
Kids go through grade school and high school with important questions to face.
Am I “in” with the crowd? Could I hold my own against the bullies, can I get along with girls/boys, did I wear the right clothes, am I cool enough, what about sex? And so on. These questions are obviously more important and crucial than anything else in life.
Who "thinks" when they are in high school? I did not think much about the place of “love” in the overall scheme of any life.
Then as a college freshman I took Fr. Robert Boyle, S J, for English literature. He was a great teacher, without question. One proof of his greatness lay in a statement he often made: “If you want to know what is happening in a work of literature, look what love is doing.”
Look at what love is doing.
“What?” my barely 18 year old self gasped. “I never heard that love was such a big deal. I thought it was something parents naturally have for you and tell you about over and over and over. Could it really be the key to plays, poems, novels, short stories and literature? Could it be the opening to humanity’s meaning? Ulp. I had better pay attention.”
We went through Shakespeare, Hopkins, Joyce, Keats, Milton, and I can’t remember how many more. The clouds began to part, and I began to see that Boyle was right: the lives of characters centered around this something we call “love.” Try it out when you read your next serious novel or short story. Which character acts out of real regard for the other(s) and which does not? What happens as a result?
And: what about love in your own life?
Again, ulp. Have you discovered that love is quite a bit more than pretense, more than an ideal, more than just a thing we crave from others, and certainly more than just pleasure? Have you seen that learning to love is the very air inhaled by such everyday importances as work, relaxation, attractions, happiness? Without love’s living atmosphere none of these could breathe, and neither could we.
In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus says the same in no uncertain terms.
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
“What?” we might exclaim (as I did in college). I thought that law consisted of commands forced upon me from the outside, rules whose violation would bring punishment. What is this about law depending on love?
Take a look.
God does not fail at love. God waits. God says, “how wonderful that you are learning!” God says, “I love every person on earth. And you—you are my beloved. I am at your side as you learn to open to me and to others.”
Do you and I succeed in this? Well, we need laws to help us. But the root of law and of life is fair care of others. It is loving concern under God for human persons. Ultimately this is an replication of God’s love for us.
“Look what love is doing.”
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University