Consider a mother who, after being abandoned by her husband, takes up 3 jobs and works 16h a day to bring up her 3 young children.
Consider a husband who has a wife, bed-ridden because of a road accident. He has to give up his full time job and a high salary to take up a part time job with a lower pay so that he can be at home to take care of his wife.
Consider a stranger who, in an airplane crash on the runway, stays behind in the burning aircraft to help move people out of the craft instead of running away to safety. And ends up with severe burns herself.
Consider a man who knows that his wife is having an extra-marital affair and is cheating on him, but who continues to wait for her to return to him instead of cutting her out immediately in a divorce.
What is common in all these four real life stories? It is this element of suffering. The people in these stories are suffering in some way. In short, they have given up themselves and dedicated their attention and life to the well being of others. And we can find many such scenarios around us.
But… Today’s topic of devotion is not about suffering but about love. But perhaps, this is precisely why I bring up the idea of suffering in this devotion. Because love entails suffering. I cannot understand love without the inclusion of suffering. But it is also this suffering element of love that the world today considers so silly, illogical and impractical. The world says that love is pleasurable. Love comes with a condition – that my own self interests are well guarded and preserved. Well, if these definitions of love the world teaches us are right, then what can explain a population that is becoming more broken, more hurt? Angrier, more frustrated? An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. What kind of values are we learning and being taught today?
Increasingly, people are losing their sense and understanding of what love really is. God and religion is a waste of time to more and more people because, especially in the Catholic faith, the values that God teaches us are just not applicable in the “real” world. But what is a real world and what is a fake world? Perhaps, we have turned these 2 worlds inside out. We make a fake world into the real world, thinking that we can get away with the evil we do, bluffing ourselves by not keeping in mind the judgement we will face before God at the end of our lives. And I’d like to think that God will not be looking at our certificates and pay slips, our job titles or the size of our house, brand of our cars. He will be looking at what lies in our hearts. Have we loved? If we have truly loved, then like the four people in my beginning stories, we would have felt the pain of suffering, of giving up of ourselves for the genuine well being of others in whatever ways that takes up.
Our God isn’t a God who just talks about an ideal love. He lived it out Himself and by His example, we are shown that such a love is not just right but is also possible.
In the 1st letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, it is written:
Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end.
How do you define love?