From time to time the Lord Jesus made me meet people who tell me that love, in this world, does not exist. How sad would our world be if it is denied from this love.
However, the experience of the saints constantly and joyously teaches me that love exists. And how! Here are some of their life-giving reflections on love.
I want to start straightaway with St Teresa of Calcutta. She says:
“Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”
“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”
“Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”
“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
“We can cure physical diseases with medicine but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more who are dying for a little love. Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So spread love everywhere you go.”
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
“If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive.”
“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”
“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
Then, St Pope John Paul II has these reflections to offer to us on love:
“Take away from love the fullness of self-surrender, the completeness of personal commitment, and what remains will be a total denial and negation of it.”
“Love is never something ready-made, something merely ‘given’ to man and woman; it is always at the same time a ‘task’ which they are set. Love should be seen as something which in a sense never ‘is’ but is always only ‘becoming’, and what it becomes depends upon the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment.”
“There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice”.
“The person who does not decide to love forever will find it very difficult to really love for even one day.”
“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This is why Christ the Redeemer ‘fully reveals man to himself.’”
“Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.”
St Augustine is another sound teacher on what true love is all about. He teaches us the following:
“If any of you should wish to act out of love, brothers, do not imagine it to be a self-abasing, passive and timid thing. And do not think that love can be preserved by a sort of gentleness – or rather tame listlessness. This is not how it is preserved. Do not imagine that you love your servant when you refrain from beating him, or that you love your son when you do not discipline him, or that you love your neighbor when you do not rebuke him. This is not love, it is feebleness. Love should be fervent to correct.”
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.”
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
In his turn, St Thomas Aquinas is another valid exponent on love. He says:
“The things that we love tell us what we are.”
“The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, It produces love. The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.”
“Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”
“God’s love for us is not greater in heaven than it is now.”
The great and humble St Francis said, in his prayer attributed to him: “Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love. Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love. It is in giving that we receive”.
For St Teresa of Jesus, “It is not so essential to think much as to love much.” And St Catherine of Siena says: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.” St Faustina puts it this way: “Pure love … knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love – love, and always love.” Whereas St Vincent de Paul asserts: “We must love our neighbor as being made in the image of God and as an object of His love.” St Clare of Assisi reminds us: “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.”
St Bede the Venerable states: “He alone loves the Creator perfectly who manifests a pure love for his neighbor.” And St John of the Cross observes: “A soul enkindled with love is a gentle, meek, humble, and patient soul.” St Basil the Great says: What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.” St Maria Goretti notes: “He loves, He hopes, He waits. Our Lord prefers to wait for the sinner for years rather than keep us waiting an instant.” Finally, St Maria Goretti affirms: “One must see God in everyone.”
Why not take in these quotes, reflect them and perhaps share them with those whom the Lord make you meet in your life and still retain that love does not exist in this world. Who knows, may be by sharing them with them they might rethink their position and, thus, start opening themselves to love! If that happens you would certainly have made served them the best way you ever could.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap