Every catechist looks to the gospels for inspiration and ideas for his or her next lesson. When we search for the most recurring theme in the stories of Jesus, the topic of “love” comes to mind. As our Lord spends the majority of his days teaching the multitudes, He resists delving into deep theology and shedding light on the great mysteries of God. Instead, Jesus focuses on the most practical element of every relationship.
When the discussion of “love” arises in my class, I ask my students to define “love.” Most students describe love as emotion, as something that makes us feel a certain way. I reveal one of my favorite sources, Scott Peck, who explains it in this way:
“Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity. . .Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom. . . . love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth…..true love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does’.”
There are always several students who continue to debate the “real” definition. He or she insists that if you are not inspired, you will not really love another. They fail to see that our desire to love is needed if love will happen at all.
Understanding the concept of love is similar to that of faith. Both are unseen realities. We will never realize the reality of either if we do not make the decision to love others or search for God. Many people allow pure emotion to dictate their relationships. Maturity and wisdom reveal the path to faith and love. We must choose to believe in God and will the good of another.
Jesus makes love the centerpiece of His ministry because without it we will never become fully human. Long before Robert Browning uttered the words, “Take away love and our earth is a tomb” our Savior wanted us to make loving others a priority. Love permits us to experience heaven on earth. It is the bridge that brings us into communion with Jesus Himself.
Our goal of letting our students in on the secret of love may be a lofty one. It may take until he or she is taking care of a sick relative or up late with a newborn before the meaning of love sinks in. Sometimes a lesson takes years to finally hit home. Our students will get the point of love when they move into action.
Jesus encourages us to leave the cocoon of comfort and practice the art of loving. Demonstrate the love of Christ in your classroom. Make it practical. Bring them to visit the elderly. Have them reach out to the poor and helpless. Open their hearts and minds to love when they feel that it is an impossible task. Live the Gospel and show how Christ loved as the people around him performed the most despicable acts possible. Do not hesitate to utilize the greatest guide about love ever written. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the story. Use this resource. We all have many questions about life. Love is the answer to every one of those questions.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day,