Monday, January 12, 2015

When Does Love End?

When you ask that question, of what are you thinking?  The past?  I know of some people who have lost loved ones --- through divorce, children who won’t speak to them, or through death.  Sometimes they look back and think that love has left their life.  I think they mis-understand their situation.  Love given to us, like life itself, is a gift.  And once given, those gifts never go away; they are in our hearts; they are part of who we are.  We can never un-receive love freely given to us.  All we can do is to remember it fondly; we can never change the past.    
We can look back and perhaps see that we loved poorly in the past, or maybe didn’t even give love at all.  Things I have been writing about in recent posts --- greed, money, things about self-love --- can greatly interfere with our freely giving love.  Perhaps we didn’t love as well as we might have in the past, but there are two critical points about the past we often forget:  first, that the past IS the past.  We cannot change it; it has become part of who we are.  We cannot change it, but we can learn from it.  And the second point is that God IS Love, and He came to give love to us.  And part of true love is understanding, and forgiveness.  Certainly God, above all else, knows we are but humans.  We are not perfect, but we are meant to live our lives growing in perfection.  A teen-ager knows more than a toddler, and an adult more than a teen-ager, and an older adult more than a younger one.  We grow in knowledge, wisdom, and holiness.  Perhaps you might think that you are NOT growing; you have not learned from your weaknesses.  Ah, but even if you are considering, perhaps worrying, about those weaknesses that means that you are thinking about them.  How do you think growth comes about, if not by thinking on the things that were and are, and how they might be better?  You are growing.  And any thoughts about love lost or love not given in the past, are in the past.  Your life did not end then; He told us life never ends.  Those thoughts are pictures in the album we can look at and say:  Remember when …? 
And then we put the album on the shelf, and live today.
And when you ask that question about love ending, what if you ARE thinking about today?  Do you look at where the past has brought you to, and find yourself dissatisfied?  Do you feel you have no love in your life --- to receive or give?  I think the key word there is the word “feel”.  Often we can’t control our feelings, they just arise.  I almost got hit by a reckless driver the other day; he cut across two lanes of traffic to turn right in front of me --- and if I had not instinctively sharply swerved to the right, he would have turned right into me.  I couldn’t control his driving nor, in truth, my reaction.  I didn’t think if there was a car on my right when I swerved, nor did I think that I was suddenly heading for the curb and perhaps a pedestrian there.  The feelings and reactions just happened.  That’s what feelings do.  There is no use in regretting things you can’t control.  There is a picture Maximilian Kolbe in a nearby small local adoration chapel.  There is a quote written in Polish under the picture.  Perhaps because I am Polish, I was compelled one day to get it translated.  Here is the translated quote:  Do well what depends on me, and endure well what does not depend on me.  --- That is the total perfection, the source of true happiness in the world.  Maximilian Kolbe died in a Nazi concentration camp, doing well what depended on him, caring for his fellow inmates.  I don’t think he worried about his past, nor his being unloved by the guards.  Nor should we, we should just love others, as the Great Example Who came among us showed us.
And what if you are asking that question about love with an eye to the future?  I do know people who have sadly said: “I can never love again.”  Somehow they were let down in their past, and while they think they are talking about the future, what they are really doing is remembering the past.  The future is a blank slate; we can make it what we will, as Kolbe says: doing well what depends on us.  We can love; we can grow in love --- for others.  We can live a life with meaning, being who we were created to be.  It is the future.  There is no “I can’t love”.  We can will to love; there are many people in the world, in OUR world, who need our love.  And perhaps, just perhaps, that is what we were created to do with our life:  to look at our past and learn from it, and then look at our present and ask God:  “What path would you have me take?” and then look into our future and resolve to be all He created us to be.  It is our choice; we can do it.  Love does not end; it never ends.  We make it happen.
I once met a woman at work who at a very young age planned out her life.  She said she resolved to live her life in three phases:  she would work for one third, teach what she had learned for one third, and the final third would be devoted to the poor:  “I won’t need much money then, and I hope I have learned by then all I need to know to serve the poor well.”  She didn’t say it that way, but she was planning her life to grow in love, to make a difference with her life.  I was so impressed with her young wisdom --- or the gift of wisdom God gave her.  I know of some Ford executives who retired to live serving the poor or the dying.  I greatly admire them.  He said it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven, but He also said that with God all things are possible. 
Christ first lived so that we might live.  He first loved so that we might love.  He is in our future, and so love definitely IS there, along with the joy that love can give us.
We sang the hymn We Will Go at the end of mass this morning.  It softly spoke of a love received, and of one freely given.  It was written by Sr. Sarah Burdick, and the closing words were these:
Keep me safe from harm,
Help me to follow You.
I want to give You my life,
And to love You with all my heart.
Lord, we will go,
Wherever You send us.
The words You command we will speak,
And we shall not be afraid;
You are at our side.
As we go forward, there is nothing to worry about, past, present, or future.  Love is always there; it never ends.

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