We’ve been talking about St. Paul’s Ode to Love (1 Corinthians 13) ~ the awesome love that transforms.
But many of us don’t know how to love in a way that transforms because we’re more interested in getting love than giving it.
So, let’s think about that for a moment.
Many young folks in our society have not experienced the love that transforms, even from their own parents or their spouses. Very often, their relationships center on their own needs, even when they’re “giving” to their significant other.
But in order to love in a transforming way, we have to loved in a way that frees us.
So I ask you ~
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-the-deep-within-you?
Who-drew-forth-the-goodness-they-saw-in-you when what you were presenting to the world you thought wasn’t 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 want to 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 the year I was preparing for ordination. He was a Father-figure for me and a mentor; I learned most of what I know about the sacred liturgy from him.
I had the good fortunate to get on his short list to have him as 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 a large abstract painting on it. I was struggling that night about whether I would proceed toward ordination.
Of a sudden, he sprung from his chair, hugged me and whispered in my ear my name ~ Bob ~ and I heard it resonate for the longest time. His voice found me ~ some place deep within and called me forth.
I can still hear him calling me ~ 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, there is Jesus; I try to be like him. He was so human. He teaches me how to be a human being, above all. To be a simple, decent, human being. And to be human, most of all, is to be capable of loving and receiving love. The same was true of Father Walsh.
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 people who really knew who you were on the inside, accepted you as you are–the good and the bad–and called you forth to be the best person you could be?
Why don’t you reflect on this through the day — while you’re driving, sitting on the john or doing the dishes. Give thanks for them. And maybe give them a call. Not an email; a phone call.
And finally, I want to honor the two-love birds in the picture above. They are John and Betsy Walders of Sebastian, Florida. John passed away in November 2015. They were married for sixty-six years and were as much in love as the day they met in childhood. (Take note that they’re both wearing denim in this picture I took of them a couple of years ago.) In their eighties they went on a serendipitying wonder trip 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 witnessed her beloved withdraw into Alzheimer’s. Asked if they ever considered a divorce, she thought a moment and said, “Divorce, no, murder, yes!”
I love them dearly and miss visiting, but Betsy and I talk and have many a laugh on the phone every couple of weeks. She’s now 91 and I pray every night ~ as I do for some other friends ~ to alleviate her loneliness.
But spouses who’ve lost their loved ones still remember them on Valentine’s Day, don’t they?
let us love one another because love is of God;
everyone who is begotten of God has knowledge of God.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet if we love one another
God dwells in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. (1 Jn 4:7, 12)
Dear Friends, see if you can make this prayer your own ~
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 into my life who, even for a brief moment,
have touched me deep within and helped to transform me into a more deeply loving person.
Help me always to be a person who is capable of transforming love.
And now, before you go, here’s a hymn based on St. Paul’s Ode to Love: Click Here. It’s soft and lovely, so be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.