Love is a Decision
I heard a reference from one of the saints that “love is a decision”. In our culture and in Hollywood, love is made out to be romantic and fulfilling. For some maybe it is. However, for those of us who are in it for the long-haul of life know that loving other people is not always easy all of the time. Whether it is our spouse, children, parents, siblings, or peers, being a loving person is a challenge for most. When we see happy faces and perfect-seeming families on Facebook, these images may make us feel inadequate. Mainly because we may not feel quite as joyful as they seem to look in their photos. Hearing the words “love is a decision” has given me some consolation in living in the “real world”. When things are going well and life is OK, perhaps loving those around us is less of a burden. But when we are weak and human virtues are not coming easily, it may seem impossible. God can give us answers at the right time. Holy Scripture is a good place to start.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The Parable of the Good Samaritan, in Luke 10 has many lessons about loving others when it is hard. This is my favorite parable because it’s an example about how to love other people unselfishly. Starting with verse 25, a lawyer stands up to Jesus and asks him directly “Teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). The dialogue continues and the lawyer asks Jesus this question to clarify something within his heart. He asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke, 10:29). The Lord tells a story of a man who fell victim to robbers who was stripped, beaten and then left half dead. The man was completely powerless. Three men walked by him. The first two did not stop to help. These men were the priest and the Levite. Neither wanted to assist for cultural reasons and not wanting to become “unclean” by helping the man. A Samaritan who was the enemy at the time made a stop, assisted the man, carried him away and brought him to an inn to be taken care of. At the end of the Parable, Jesus asks the lawyer,
“Which of these three, do you think proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36, 37 NAB).
Alienation in Life
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is powerful because it’s a story about what it is like for many people who are alone, alienated and misunderstood. There are a multitude of reasons we can become alienated by others. Sometimes it is circumstance, poverty, lack of friends or support system or a psychological handicap that leaves a person without anyone to help. If we are in a family or in a good support system with dedicated friends, we are blessed. There are some who do have this support, but may still lack a person in their life whom they can confide in a non-judgmental way. Sometimes in our world of prevalent social media and Facebook, we can lose the human element of real relationships with other people. God wishes for us to be bound together in unity in a real way. People are starving for this aspect of life and are searching for it.
When it’s Tough to Love
I think many of us have experienced times when it has been hard to love someone. It is harder for some people than it is for others to deal with isolation. Some have mastered the art of having a wall around themselves and do not seem to be bothered by the suffering of other people. However, we are all faced with decisions about making ourselves available to the people in our lives who need support. This is when we call on God to give us the humility to be charitable to people who are difficult to love. Sometimes helping someone can be as simple as just “being there” through a difficult time without judgment. We may not have to do very much but offer our support. Through prayer and discernment, God will give us some glimpses on how to deal with each situation. He will help us to be like the Samaritan who helped the stranger in need. Not giving up on someone is a great gift that we can give others. The difficulty may come when others judge us for helping a person who is outside our social circle. God himself will give us the strength to do the right thing.
Calling on God
There is not “quick fix “or easy answer when it comes to exercising the virtues such as patience, peace, kindness, goodness, and love. We call on the Holy Spirit to help us. With the grace of God, we can decide to be of assistance to those who suffer. God’s love will give us the grace to reach out the hand of hope to the isolated and marginalized. Calling on God for an answer is our answer. It is only in His love that we can do the work of charity and in becoming less selfish and more giving. The hardest part may be putting our own agendas aside just for a short time in order to help a person who needs a friend.
Prayer to Follow Jesus in the “Year of Mercy”
The “Year of Mercy” is here and it is a grace from God to act now with love toward our families, friends, and peers. Let us not lose the momentum we have gained in this special year instituted by our Holy Father. Here is a prayer to assist us to offer more of our time and love to those in need. Love is the most powerful force in the world right now and always. It is a “decision” to be like Jesus Christ.
Lord, thank you for the gift of life and love. Help us to call on you more in this “Year of Mercy” so we can give other people the love you have given us. We know this love of yours is what can heal people and can heal our world. We ask for your Son Jesus Christ, His Mother Mary and all the angels and saints to pray with us this year. Open our eyes to those who are alone and sad so that we can offer each other your love which is a true miracle for the entire world. In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.