Loving the Unlovable
We are living in the time of the most spiritually convulsive age in human history. We are living in an age, the past century, where there have been more martyrs for Jesus than all previous centuries combined. We are living in a time that makes a mockery of Love, spits in the face of Truth, and celebrates the death of virtue. This is the first age in history which successive Vicars of Christ have referred to as being the time of a “Culture of Death”. Yet, as deeply and as terrifyingly as our Faith is being challenged, let’s make sure we know what Christianity really is. Of course, we must believe. We must be orthodox--that is--faithful, honest, truth-seeking and truth-living believers. We must believe that Christ is the living God who became Man. We must believe that His Mother is the Mother of God who is also the Mother and Help of all Christians. We must believe that Jesus Christ is present on earth still in the true presence of the Holy Eucharist. We must believe that this is made possible through His Church which is lead and governed by the Bishop of Rome who is also Successor of His Apostle, Peter, and His Vicar.
We call this orthodoxy. But, and I want to be very plain, orthodoxy is not enough. Orthodoxy without charity (that is--Real Love) is not Christianity. In other words, we must have, dear brothers, a strong, dare I say it, heroic faith in our day. But true faith, otherwise often seen as “orthodoxy” is not enough. It must be faith joined with total and completely unselflish charity. And that, my brothers, heroic faith coupled with uncompromising love, that is what will convert (and I hope you agree with me) lukewarmness, compromise, and indifference--first and foremost our own. That is what will convict, transform, and heal our sinful, prideful, stubborn, rebellious, and wounded hearts. That is what will win over and re-evangelize a paganized and increasingly secular America.
“Always be confident in the choice to love as Jesus does. It is ALWAYS His will that we love LIKE HIM.”
Loving LIKE JESUS is not easy. It’s heroic, but it is only unselfishly heroic love that is powerful and painful enough to empty us of ourselves. It is only heroic love (Real Love--the love of Christ!) that makes saints. Cheap and easy love--love that is divorced from Truth, from Christ’s example, from sacrifice, vulnerability, and self-gift; love that is not totally committed, that does not freely give, and which finds mercy, forgiveness, and the pursuit of unity difficult and burdensome--if not impossible--is not real, nor is it the love of Christ. Love that is rooted more in our selfish interests, our feelings and emotions than in the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and His command to LOVE LIKE HIM while SEEKING FIRST HIS KINGDOM, does not come from Him and thus, will not point us to Heaven or make us more like Jesus!
Choosing to love Jesus first and to love LIKE JESUS, expands our hearts, purifies our love by stripping it of our selves, and helps us to grow in holiness. Choosing NOT to love like Jesus and NOT to seek first His Heart and His Kingdom with reckless abandon also impacts us; it hardens and shrinks our hearts; it blinds and confuses us making it hard for us to see and to choose the beauty of authentic self-emptying love rooted in and united to Truth. Choosing NOT to love as we have been made to, imprisons us within ourselves. Choosing to compromise the radically unselfish self-gift for which we have been made and in which we find our true self does not conform our hearts to Jesus’ Sacred Heart, lead us to the heights of holiness, or make us saints.
The choice is up to us. How shall we love? Whom shall we serve?
Once a Christian nation, millions of Americans have freely chosen to live a life that renounces their faith in Jesus Christ. But if we’re going to retrieve these lost Christians, some, sadly, members of our own families; people who are nearest and dearest to us, we must not only believe strongly, we must love selflessly; especially the hearts and souls in our midst who do not know or live the Love from whom they come and for whom they are made. It is heroic faith combined with Christ-like charity that will convert hearts and minds, that will heal our broken relationships and families, and that will truly “set us free” but also “set us ablaze” that we may “have life, and have it abundantly!”
We know what Jesus’ love looks like because He clearly tells us in the Scriptures:
“You have heard the commandment: You shall love your neighbor but hate your enemy. My command to you is: love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you. This will prove that you are true sons of your heavenly Father...If you only love those who love you, what merit is there in that? Do not tax collectors do as much? And if you greet your brothers only, what is so praiseworthy about that? Do not pagans do as much? In a word, you must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” -Gospel of Matthew Ch. 5
In Chapters 5-7 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus compares Old Testament morality with that of the law of the New Testament. In His preaching, it becomes clearly self-evident that the moral demands made of the followers of Jesus Christ are much more demanding than those of the Old Testament. The moral commands of Christ require much more of us than was ever required of the chosen people of Israel who lived before Christ. But, if there is one commandment that Christ raised to super-human heights, it is the commandment to love as He who is Real Love loves. Jesus clearly shows us by His words in the above Gospel, that He expects His followers to look, behave, and act in a way that is “holy”--that is--“set apart”. Christ shows us that His followers will be known for loving not just their neighbor like any good person would, but also, their enemy. Yes, you read that correctly. The followers of Jesus Christ are commanded--not just “encouraged” or “challenged” or “asked”, but commanded to love; and to love not just our neighbor, but also, our enemy.
We never seem to give a second thought to the fact that, in all the languages of the world including English, we speak of some people as being lovable and other people being unlovable. Obviously, lovable people are those we can love. Unlovable people are those who we seemingly cannot love. This, in one sentence, is the heart of Christian morality. We are told by the Man we believe to be the Key to the Heart of the Father and the one and only Way to abundant life, to love unlovable people. I will say that again. We are commanded by Jesus Christ to love unlovable people.
Who are unlovable people? Oh, that’s easy: those who do not love us, those who are not kind to us, thoughtful of us; those who we disagree with, those who would prefer we not be a part of their lives; those who choose to see our conviction to seek first the Kingdom as unreasonable, oppressive, and anti-social; those who we find it difficult to forgive or perhaps who may find it difficult to forgive us. Those who would prefer to “lovingly” “protect” themselves from us, and thus choose not to be open to entering into relationship with us. Those whom we have wronged and who refuse to forgive us. Who are unlovable people? Those who offend us. Those who speak unkindly to us and about us. Those who cut us out of their lives and treat us--even as we strive to love them heroically--with great suspicion, fear, and indifference. Who are unlovable people? All those people who, except for God becoming man and dying on the Cross and meriting for us the grace to do the humanly impossible, we would find it extremely difficult--if not impossible--to love. They are the unlovable people. This command from Jesus, in one declarative sentence, is the essence of Christianity – loving the unlovable. Do not forget that this command, though difficult and perhaps in some ways seemingly impossible, is given by Truth Himself; the only Way to unending life, happiness, and peace; God who tells us that He has come so that we might have life, and have it ABUNDANTLY!
Come Holy Spirit. Spirit of Truth, of Goodness, and of Mercy; Spirit of Unity and Healing; Spirit of Freedom and of Love, come and set us on fire with greater love for Jesus and for the Way to happiness which He proposes to us. Give us the grace, the strength, the wisdom, and the humility to embrace and unite Truth and Charity in our lives. Come and set us free from ourselves; from our own insecurities, wounds, fears, and sufferings, that we may have all that we need in order to love Jesus perfectly and follow Him completely. Help us to love those in our midst that we deem “unlovable”; especially those who have hurt us and who it is most difficult for us to see and to love as Jesus does.
Mary, Mother of the Victory of Love, pray for us!
Jesus, meek and humble of Heart; make our hearts like unto Thine.