Here’s one more reflection in this series “What is Love?
Many young folks in our society have not experienced the love that transforms, even from their own parents or their spouses. As a consequence, and very sadly, so many do not know how to love in a way that transforms because so many of us are more interested in getting love than giving it. So, let’s think about that for a moment.
Who are the people in your life who were able to recognize the YOU inside you? Who knew who you were behind the mask you present to the world each day?
Who are the people who recognized your gifts and called them forth from deep within you? Who drew forth the goodness in you when perhaps all you were presenting to the world was not very good at all?
That’s love that transforms! That heals. That gets us going again. That moves us down the road a bit.
At this moment I will name one such man who has had an enormous influence on my life. He is Father Eugene Walsh. We used to call him Gino. He was the rector of my seminary in the year I was preparing for ordination. I was fortunate to get on his short list to be my spiritual director. He had a way of listening deeply below the level of my words.
I remember one night in his study. We were sitting across from each other in two easy chairs. I was always intrigued that the wall behind him was bright orange with some sort of large modern painting on it.
Of a sudden, he got up from his chair and hugged me and whispered in my ear one word: “Bob” His voice found me some place deep within and called me forth.
I can still hear him saying that right now. At that moment, his deep, resonating love transformed me. Affirmed me, confirmed me. (I’ll start writing very soon about my priesthood and my bipolar journey and I will tell the story of this wonderful man and the many others who influenced and shaped my life over the years; there are many and I am grateful to each and every one.)
More than any other person than Jesus, I have tried to be like him. He was so human. He taught me how to be a human being, above all. A simple, decent, human being. And to be human, most of all, is to be capable of loving and receiving love. And that’s what I’ve always taught: Sin is the refusal of love, the refusal to love, as well as the refusal to grow and the refusal to give thanks.
So ask yourself: who are the persons who really knew who you were deep within, accepted you and called you forth to be the best person you could be?
Why don’t you choose that as the point of your reflection through the day — while you’re driving, sitting on the john, doing the dishes. Give thanks for them. And maybe give them a call. Not an email but a phone call, or better yet, a letter.
And finally, I want to honor the two-love birds in the picture above. They are John and Betsy Walders of Sebastian, Florida. They’ve been married sixty two years this February and are as much in love as the day they met as teens. In their eighties they were serendipitying around the country, quite oblivious to the fact that they weren’t teenagers anymore! The joy and memory of all those years sustains Betsy as she witnesses her beloved withdraw into Alzheimers.
Happy 62nd Valentine’s Day, John and Betsy!
Good and gracious God,
You are the One most of all who has loved me into wholeness,
who is calling me forth to be the best person I can be,
calling me not so much to want to be loved as to love.
I thank you for sending people in my life who even for a brief moment
have touched me deep within and helped to transform me.
Help me always to be a person who is capable of transforming love.
To You be all glory and honor and praise, now and forever. Amen!
And before you go, Joan Baez wrote a poignant love song that shows her love and surrender of that love ~ and Betsy’s as she lets go of her beloved John. (Ask yourself if you have that grace!) Listen to Joan’s beautiful Forever Young. Be sure to enter full Screen.
We’re in a series of reflections based on St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Cor. 13)
This is also about transforming America.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker that says, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
We would transform America inside out if we just were a little more kind to the people we meet each day.
A smile to the store clerk instead of a scowl.
A wave to our neighbor across the street.
A quick phone call or email to simply say to a friend, “You’re thought of, loved and prayed for.”
A thumbs up sign to the homeless man on the street corner.
My mother was very harsh with me when I was a child. There was a lot of yelling in my boyhood home.
So parents and brothers and sisters can think about the kindness issue as well.
And then there’s brash rudeness. I get quite upset when someone answers a phone call of mine with a curt email because they don’t want to talk to me.
And then there’s texting. How much rudeness and downright hurtfulness is spread over the internet!
The more technology we have to communicate with, it seems the less we communicate.
And I have had my own inner work to root out that kind of unkindness, even rudeness, from my own behavior.
There have been times that I was so angry with company greed that I had the store clerk in tears. It helped me realize I had a lot of improvement to do in this area.
With God’s grace that’s happening. I’ve made it a point to transform myself more and more to be kind to everyone even and especially those who are not kind to me. And I examine myself on this at day’s end.
That’s what Paul is getting at:
Let’s just be kind to one another.
It will transform America. Before you go, and especially if you haven’t quite woken up this mornin’ here’s a rousing gospel melody for ya: Put a little love in your heart! Turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen and have a great day, whether you like it or not!
Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers, intendeds, spouses, classmates, mothers . . .
So, what is love?
I have officiated at the marriages of many young couples over the 42 years of my priesthood who have chosen St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.
It has got to be one of the most awesome pieces of prose of all time.
Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
I Corinthians 13
You are Love itself.
We give you thanks for the people in our life who have loved-us-into-the-persons-we-are.
We rejoice in them and remember them in love.
But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love
that would allow us to know and experience how to love.
Help us take your servant Paul’s words to heart that we may understand the true meaning of love.
May we have a heart that is open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.
To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.
Before you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s The Rose. Turn up up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen and have a great day!
P.S. I believe the loving energy of the universe flows through the eyes of the little creatures. Note that both Shivvy and his friend are looking at you. When you encounter a little one, take a moment to make eye contact with it and see what I mean. We need to have reverence and respect for ALL LIFE!!!
I had a delightful conversation with these two good people from Tennessee a summer or two ago while I was living in St. Augustine. Or was it Kentucky? (I have difficulty remembering which is which.). They were sitting on the curb behind the Village Inn. The conversation began with a polite reprimand to the dude for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground. (Actually, I don’t think you call a young man from Tennessee a dude, do you?) I care for the planet that supports my every step and I try my best to show respect and reverence to her and gently persuade others to do the same.
As a writer, I am always interested in people’s stories. And the conversation became quite up close and personal quite quickly. They told me a bit of each of their stories. About their work and school and families. The young lady was still in high school. They were thinking about getting married. I was very much impressed with these young folks. Salt of the earth folks. Reminded me of last Sunday’s gospel reading.
Valentine’s Day is coming up. Another day where our economists try to persuade us to think we need to spend money to show our love. We’ll explore the question What is love? in the next few days.
So, what is LOVE? I’m going to interweave two threads into my blog – the themes What is Love? and What is Life? The two provide the tapestry of a life well-lived. If we seek life and love every day – if we choose to turn away from hateful words and thoughts and the cruel deeds that spouses and jilted lovers throw at each other in cruel text messaging, we will find both. Love and life.
We’ll reflect a little more each day on these two themes. There’s all kinds of love, you know. There’s romance that is the kind that pervades the soaps, the news stand magazines. There’s erotic love. There’s brotherly (or sisterly) love, the love of friends, neighborly love. And there’s sacrificial love. There’s conditional and unconditional love. There’s love that isn’t love at all.
But here’s a practical suggestion so that you can make your own reflection and thereby make your own meaning.
At day’s end, reflect on the positive things — even the tiny little things in a chaotic, insane day. Where was the LOVE? Where was the LIFE?
Take a moment. Reflect on your day. Pick two incidents, however fleeting, however small that you might have missed at the time. Savor them for a moment as you get ready for bed. Those are the moments in which God is speaking to you. Be ready to receive into your life and your heart the little moments of LIFE and LOVE that do happen even in on the cruelest day or even despair. It is not the destination that is important; life and love happen on the way.
God bless you, my two young friends from Tennessee (or Kentucky). It was such an honor and a joy to talk with you. And there’s a tear of joy in my eye right now as I think of you, even a couple of years later. Maybe you’re married now ~ to each other or to somebody else. but I hope you finished high school. Have a wonderful life — both of you and each of you.
Before you go , if you’ve got a ramblim/ boy in your life or in your soul, here’s Dave Loggin’s famous song about the Man from Tennessee with beautiful images to carry your soul away, if just for a moment on love’s nostalgia and grace. Have a great day!