Love: The Cornerstone

Without a doubt, the foundation of the Christian life rests on love. All doctrines, all ecclesial laws, all spiritualties, all theologies aim at deepening the virtue of love. Without love, all efforts would miss the forest for the tree, or confound the stars for the sun, or prioritize means over end. Thats why love is always the unspoken attraction that brings two people together. St. Paul, powerful evangelizers that he was, understood the point of the Christian life profoundly. Thus, he wrote that even if we have all spiritual gifts and powers in the Christian community enabling us to occupy lofty position, if we don’t have love, it profits nothing. If we speak in tongues, they will cease; if we have knowledge, it will be done away. Love alone, the greatest of the spiritual gifts, will last (I Cor. 13:1-13). Love is the greatest equalizer in life.

imagesThis insight into the mystery of God encapsulates the call of every Christian. Love alone allows us to become godlike. From a Christian point of view, it is a noble task to be the mother Teresa of the poorest of the poor; it is praiseworthy to fight for justice like martin Luther king using nonviolence; it is ideal to convert a continent like the religious missionaries of the 16th to 18th centuries. However, unless charity constitutes the cornerstone of this endeavor, it does not leave an indelible mark in The Book of Life. All human inspiration must begin with charity and lead ultimately to greater charity. When she was seeking for her specific call (since she was already a Carmelite sister engaged to pray for priests) within the church, St. Therese of Lisieux discovered a pivotal and illuminating passage in the epistle of St. Paul that points her toward the epicenter of what it means to follow Christ.[1]

She went through a searching period. She felt that burning desire to do more in the church. It can be said that she was looking for her call within her call. At first, she wanted to be a warrior/martyr performing heroic deeds for Christ, guarding the pope, or going on crusade to defend the faith; she did not want just one type of martyrdom; she wanted to be flayed like St. Bartholomew, boiled in oil like St. John, tortured like St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, and guillotined like Joan of arc.[2] Then, she felt the vocation of the priest which would enable her to carry the living Christ in her hands and give him to thirsty souls; at the same time, she wanted the humility of St. Francis who did not feel worthy to receive the sublime dignity of the priesthood. As if the battle in her heart was not divisive enough, she felt the vocation of the apostles and the missionaries by which she would travel throughout the world to preach the glorious name of Christ.[3]

There are many who are reading this who felt like they are torn between many things in life or in the church. St. Therese can be a lamp within their feet. if you don’t know what God wants you to do with your life yet, you can never go wrong loving intensely. That’s enough to make you a saint, which is the goal of every life. As a faithful daughter of the church who wanted nothing but to do the will of God, she accepts that while they may be many spiritual gifts, not all can be doctors, martyrs, evangelists, priests etc. therefore, “I abase myself to the very depths of my nothingness, and raised myself so high I was able to reach myself”.[4] She then discovered something more excellent than all these wants. Without love, these desires don’t lead to God. In this discovery, her restless soul found solace.[5]

images-1Charity is the breadth, length, height, and depth of all vocations. The heart of the church burns with love, as she understands her. Love is the heart that pumps blood in the body of the church enabling her to function. It is love that makes the heart of the church beats. “If love ever becomes extinct, apostles would not preach the gospel, martyrs would refuse to shed their blood, and priests would become social workers. Love is everything because it encapsulates all vocation. In the midst of this discovery, she uproariously exclaimed “MY VOCATION IS LOVE; in the heart of the church, my mother, I shall be Love”.[6] Now, this discovery gives her the key to be the greatest in the church. The measure of her greatness will be the measure of her love. Let this be known, dear friends, what was true for St. Therese is true for all of us we are to be love. We will be as great as our love. As Aquinas famously puts it, “from love we came, by means of love, to become love, and to return to love”. No one but ourselves can stop us from becoming love and returning to love. We are each called to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. God is love, St. John the evangelist tells us. To be like him is to become enwrapped in love. Therefore, if you dream of the height, if you want to reach the mountaintop both in this life and the next, if you want to achieve something noble, worthwhile, if you want to shake the earth, unleash the power of love hidden within your heart. Genuine love is power.

How she lived her vocation to love marks the 20th century and continues to be unraveled in the 21st century. St. Pius IX did not hesitate as a result to dub her the greatest saint of the modern times. No small feats! St. John Paul II proclaimed a doctor of the church although she died at 24 and lived behind closed doors in her last 10 years on earth. The “Little Way” by which she lived her vocation to love is the most known and pursued spirituality right now. it is what inspired countless people to live holiness in an unprecedented way. That’s what inspired mother Teresa and her sisters to love the poorest of the poor so drastically.

I will explain the little way in the next post. Patience please!

[1] Story of a soul, 192

[2] Story of a soul, 193

[3] ibid 192

[4] ibid 194

[5] ibid 194

[6] ibid 194

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