Hey. Wanna try a little experiment? Search the Internet for the definition of “love” and see what you get. I tried this just recently and discovered something rather incredible. Specifically, I wanted to know what our society thinks love is. We as Catholics know that society’s understanding of love is pretty screwed-up, but I wanted to understand what exactly society understands love to be, so I searched Google Images, YouTube, looked through popular songs, and basically canvassed pop media in general – no online dictionaries, no accredited/peer-reviewed sources. Guess what I found?
This picture, gleaned from Google Images using the keywords “love is,” seems to perfectly encompass our society’s ideas on love – namely, that our society has NO IDEA what love actually is. In fact, About.com specifically says it doesn’t appear to have one stable meaning. Even Ne-Yo doesn’t give us a solid answer – and Ne-Yo knows everything about love, doesn’t he? Or does he?
“And no one really knows anything about it / But everybody needs it / We can’t live without it.” Wow. It hurts my heart to see and hear all this confusion over the most essential part of life, the reason for life itself – especially since there is one voice, trumpeting and announcing the definition of love to the world, shining like a beacon in the darkness and confusion. The Catholic Church is that voice, and she calls into the night, “Come, you blind and broken, you weary and weak! Come to the Altar of Love! LOVE IS SACRIFICE!”
To put it in other words that may be easier for us modern folk to understand, love is doing what is best for another regardless of cost to yourself. It is not an emotion. The emotions and feelings of attraction or happiness that you may get around someone are not love. They’re not necessarily a bad thing – they’re just not love. If love is doing what is best for that person, then it can be done regardless of how you feel about them. It is a decision you must make, not an emotion you must obey.
You can’t “fall into” or “fall out of” love, either. In fact, if you take a look at those phrases – “fall in love” and “fall out of love” – you notice something interesting about what they say about love. These phrases necessarily imply that love is something insubstantial, like a hole or the sky. They betray a poor understanding of the fact that love is not only a solid thing, but it is in fact the most Solid Thing there is, even more solid and real than we are.
No, love is not insubstantial, nor is it undefined. It has been clearly defined by the most famous Scripture verse in the world, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that He did what was best for her, regardless of cost to Himself.
It is time for us Catholics to stop the madness. We must take up the banner of Love and charge into battle. We must proclaim the sacrificial nature of Love from the rooftops and the street corners. And when we are asked to show our proof, our reason for believing that Love is dying to oneself to allow others to live, we must be ready and willing to reveal the True Image of Love through our own actions.
It’s a tall order, my friends, and one we cannot fill alone, and certainly not without stumbling or failing at times. But you know and I know that the heart picture at the beginning of this post is missing something. Namely, it is missing this: