Saturday, April 18, 2009

What love is and is not (Homily for Divine Mercy)

If there is a word and idea that is misused, it is “love.”

We have so many songs and stories:
a boy falls for a girl; a girl is broken-hearted over a guy.
Movies about all the dumb and funny things we do for love.

That’s all fun.
But I confess some of what our culture gives us
makes me angry—I know many of us feel the same way.

Here’s a typical story line:
A man and a woman meet—sparks fly—and they’re in bed.
They enjoy each other; they use each other.
But they do not love each other.

Now, let me explain what offends me.
It is not that it is explicit.
It’s the manipulation:
a lie wrapped up in beautiful packaging.

Part of the lie is that love is something that just happens;
an impulse that comes and goes.
No; love is a choice.

It is the most powerful thing that can happen.
It is more than romance;
Not everyone experiences epic romance;
but without exception, everyone
has the choice and the risk of love.

It is all that’s wonderful and awful: a package deal.
Just like the Cross.
“Jesus loves me”: and he shows us his hands and his side.

Another part of the lie is that we can have it all;
we can be individuals, do what we like, and find happiness.

In the first reading, it says, they loved one another.
The price wasn’t just that they shared their stuff.
That is relatively easy;
being accountable to one another.
That’s what is really hard.

The pitfall—the counterfeit that can fool us—
is that sometimes what we count as part of “love”
is really more about us—our needs—
then about the other who we claim to love.

It takes a lifetime to discover—let alone unravel—
this complexity of ourselves,
this tangled mixture of our own virtues and sins.

This is how frequent confession can do us so much good.

Let me give you a very current—and very delicate—example.
Someone says, I want a child. I have a right to a child.
A single person—a couple—mix or match.
A woman out west used treatments to have eight babies.
was that about the needs of the children—or her own?

This whole controversy about some “stem-cell research”:
it arises because of attempting conception in a laboratory
rather than in human acts of love as God designed.
What did the President say?
These embryos are “extra”—they’ll “go to waste”—
So why not “use” them for research?

Our hearts ache for those facing this dilemma.
But a child is a gift.
A rose so beautiful—yet so fragile,
we crush it if we grasp too tightly.

We are critical of our President on the stem-cell issue;
Let us praise him on another issue:
He made it clear
that human dignity demands we never torture.
Yes: love is hard—such as loving our enemies.
Some things we never do because God’s law—
not “national interest”—comes first.

This is Easter. The Feast of Divine Mercy.
What’s the connection?

If Easter is about anything, it’s about the power
that has come into this world through Jesus Christ,
poured into our lives in baptism;
and through us, to change the world.
That power is love—Divine Mercy is another name.

Jesus says: I want a heart, a mind, a set of hands, consecrated to me—
I will change you, and through you, the world!

Jesus shows us his hands and his side:
“This is love—will you take part?
Will you join me in saving the world?”
It is a challenge hard to say yes to; yet impossible to refuse.

It is, also, the Mass, the Eucharist.

Sometimes we approach the Mass
in terms of feelings or likes and dislikes.
I’m aware of it; I hear both the compliments and complaints.
I am not dismissive; but I find myself thinking,
how can I ever hope to give everyone what they like?
Is that even what love does?
Someone said, folks at Mass are like “customers.”
Maybe so; but I think love takes us a good deal further.

If our community of believers
is to be of one heart and one mind,
likes and preferences can never be ground for unity.

The Mass is, first and last, not about us or what we do;
it’s about what Jesus Christ does:
He shows us his hands and his side;
and we respond: “My Lord and my God.”


Jackie said...


I was so glad to see your homily this morning! Thanks.

Yes, again, you hit the nail on the head. We have screwed up the meaning and idea of love in our culture today.

I once read that the opposite of love is not hate but using someone. That, I think, is a perfect description.

Thanks for saying yes and being a good dad.

Anonymous said...

The homily I'd have liked to hear this morning! God bless you, Father.

Theresa said...

What a beautiful homily, Father, thank you!

I would like to add something else that I see more and more in (so-called) children's movies depicting a couple falling "in love". The movies I am thinking of off the top of my head ("Cars", "Calamity Jane", "Star Wars") do not even suggest anyone rushing into bed. But here's how the plot goes: boy meets girl. They decide they cannot stand each other and repeatedly use gentle phrases like "shut up", and they both seathe with disdain for each other through 3/4 or more of the film. By the end of an hour and a half, they are "in love" -- even married in "Calamity Jane"! "Prince Caspian" also disappointed me in that there was no development of any reason for the couple to be "in love" -- they were merely attracted to each other, so I guess that was the reason for the big inappropriate smooch in the end.
I have been warning my kids against this unhealthy attitude towards relationships that we have encountered in these movies and others.

A comment on the stem cell issue. I think I am right about this but I am looking for affirmation. In considering Chuck Baldwin as the possible recipent of my vote, I was going to ask him if he would continue Federal funding for IVF. However, I never asked him -- from the best I could tell from my research, I learned, to my suprise, that there has never been federal funding for IVF, b/c it has been repeatedly deemed too controversial. The first federal funding for scientific research on tiny humans came to us from George Bush. Do you have any info to the contrary?


Anonymous said...


According to an article at Heritage Foundation, Pres. Clinton signed a bill saying no to funding involving destruction of human embryos.

Shortly afterward he allowed outside researchers to destroy embryos and then move embryos to the National Institute of Health.

"Bush then allowed ongoing funding for research on the stem cell lines that had been accumulated because the embryos were destroyed, but no more additional funding would be provided for the destruction of embryos."

Article found at

God Bless