by Karina Wong
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you should also love one another.
This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.”
As we approach the end of the year and begin to prepare our hearts for Advent, let us also allow ourselves to reflect on and sink into God’s incredible love for each of us. God came down to earth. God became human. God lived among us and modelled love each day.
In its entirety, God is the source of true love. St. John clearly states this when he declares that “God is love” (1 John 4: 8,16). He was not simply saying that God loves us, but that the very being of God is love.
How is God’s love revealed to us? The Cross of Christ. Jesus loves us so much that He was falsely accused, humiliated, tortured, and died for us. At that most difficult time on the cross, Jesus proclaimed, “I thirst” which expresses His thirst for souls. The Lord further revealed His heart which desires to be loved and consoled through the words to St. Margaret Mary, “Behold this Heart which loves so much yet is so little loved.”
Truly, Jesus thirsts for you and to be loved by you. Other than to yield our lives to the Lord, Saint Teresa of Calcutta taught us that one of the many beautiful ways we can respond to and satiate Jesus’s thirst is to love Him by loving our neighbours. In the reality of our lives, God may not have literally called all of us to lay down our lives as Christ did in His death, but He has called all of us to lay down our lives daily in service and love, which requires a different kind of death—death to our selfish nature.
In his message for the 22nd World Youth Day 2007, Pope Benedict XVI shared how we can rise up to this call to demonstrate God’s love in three areas of our daily lives. First being the Church as our spiritual family, the body of Christ made up of His disciples. As John 13:35 puts “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.” By this, partake in the activities of the parishes, communities, and groups to which you belong with zeal and generosity. Be concerned of your brothers’ and sisters’ lives, faithful to the commitments you have made, strive to accept and be joyous in the necessary sacrifices; and testify His work in your life with others!
The second area which we are called to grow in love would be to either prepare our hearts for our vocation or to live our vocation out wholeheartedly as we discover it. Do not be afraid to respond generously to the Lord’s call, be it to marriage, ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life. In living it out, it allows us to mature in love as we desire the best for others, above our own needs.
Third, we have many relationships in our daily life to love and serve God – in our family, at work, our social circle and even how we spend our free time. As we grow as disciples of Christ, may we also see this as an opportunity to develop our talents and interests for the mission field—to grow others in return, rather than to become more ‘competitive’ than others. We are also called to be truly present to others in a world of noise, to speak life-giving words into someone’s circumstance, display a random act of kindness to someone you find difficult to love, or to pray with someone for their needs. Loving means to will the good of the other and so, it is also as important to be discerning and prudent in the way we love.
Loving like Jesus also involves carrying our own crosses, as the saints did. I came to a deeper appreciation of my patron saint, St. Jane Frances De Chantel’s own crosses. After seven years of marriage, her husband was killed in a hunting accident. Jane took a vow of chastity, but also struggled to forgive the man who was responsible for her husband’s accidental death. She was forced to move in with her father-in-law, an unkind man, but she bore his disdain for her with love and patience. With the spiritual direction of St. Francis de Sales, she was strengthened with a deeper faith in God through her trials and finally found the ability to fully forgive the man who was responsible for her husband’s death.
On my journey, I personally find the greatest struggle to love is within my family. Growing up, I was constantly emotionally battered by a family member whom I always struggled to see as a role model. I grew up believing that living a life filled with truth and authentic love was not possible. This was before I found my faith renewed by the Lord. Five years ago, one of my colleagues brought me to OYP to attend Nox Gaudii and to meet with her young adult community. From that point onwards, my journey with the Lord and community revealed to me the depths of God’s love. I was able to gradually release forgiveness to and love the family member who had hurt me. I have come to realise that even though we sometimes struggle with people that are difficult to love, the Lord will purify our hearts and intentions to do so.
It is not by our own strength, but through God’s that we can show His love to others. When you find it a challenge, a possible way to re-centre in Christ would be to first focus on being a conduit for God’s love to flow and act through you. Love is a gift, a gift from God. Wear His love and be the true meaning of Christ to the world!