What is love? The question has been asked so many times in so many different ways, whether in song lyrics, films, philosophy books, or the Bible. At the heart of Christianity is the truth that “God is love.” This means that everything, every part of the universe and every moment of history, is enveloped in the eternity of love. Everything comes from love and finds its ultimate fulfillment in love. But where does love actually happen? How does it happen? It happens in our everyday lives, in the here and now, in our experiences of life and relationship.
How do we experience love in our lives? Most of us first experience love through our parents. Their love brings us into the world and nurtures us as we grow through life. Next we experience the love of our brothers, sisters, and friends who make life’s journey happier and fuller. In time, we experience love as boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancés, and spouses: relationships in which our experience of love is intense, beautiful, and sometimes difficult. Eventually, most people experience the joy of loving their children. For many, the experience of love will extend beyond their circles of family and friendship to embrace the world, and especially those in need. Some follow the call to love as priests and religious. Others will devote themselves to worthy causes, around the world and close to home. In all of these cases, love is at the heart of our experience as human beings
. Indeed, love is at the heart of what it means to be human. For God is love, and we bear His image and likeness in us.
How beautiful it is to feel the love of a grandparent, to know the care of a friend, to spend quality time with a loved one. How painful to feel rejected, unappreciated, abandoned, betrayed, or unloved. Love touches the deepest parts of who we are. Lacking love can cause wounds that make us dry up, feeling bitter and turning in on ourselves. No one’s life is simply a blissful journey from one carefree experience of love to the next, like a bee going from one fragrant bloom to another. Love demands that we give of ourselves, requiring effort, energy, and even sacrifice. We realize that love is not a fleeting sentiment but something deeper, engaging our will: love does not simply happen to me, I must also choose to love.
Ultimately, only love will satisfy us in life. Not money, not entertainment, not social media, but love. Not simply the love that is sung about in pop songs or written about in Harlequin romances, but deep, real, selfless love. The love of an old married couple who have stuck together through the joys and struggles of life. The love of a parent who cares for their handicapped child day in and day out. The love of God for each one of us. This is the love that satisfies. Our life is a journey towards this type of love.
The question for us becomes: how can we journey forward towards this kind of love – towards love that brings us together and makes us genuinely happy? This love is the journey of our entire life and of every day. It is often difficult and challenging, but it is always worth it.
Whatever our experience has been so far, whatever life has thrown at us with its fair share of ups and downs, we can always take the next step forward to love more authentically and to enter into more profound relationships of love with all those around us. As Mother Teresa said, love begins at home – with our family, with our friends. But love then reaches out to those in our community – to the homeless man on the street, to the neighbour we can’t stand. Finally, it sends us out into the world, as we realize that every human being is our brother or sister – no matter where he or she comes from.
Our life here on earth comes from God and leads us to God. If God is love, then the path we walk through life is a journey of love. What can you and I do to take the next step forward on this journey today?
This new blog series, called “Love Digest”, will explore our experiences of love in everyday life. These biweekly reflections will help us delve more deeply into our relationships with one another in the light of God's love for us. I hope you will join me on this journey together!
Stay tuned for more to come!
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is engaged to be married to Marion.