May 09, 2021 – Love is not a Feeling

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B

Readings || Lecturas

Recording

Video [8:00 a.m. Mass]

Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA

English (Outline)

  • What love is not
    • Not a romantic feeling
    • Not merely being non-judgmental
  • Selections from readings
    • [1 John] “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world.”
    • [1 John] “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”
    • [Gospel] “Love one another as I love you.”
    • [Gospel] “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
  • Love is the Cross
    • “How does that square with our romantic notions? “Dude, I am so in love with that girl. I cannot wait to give up all of my riches and be publicly tortured for her.” And how does that square with our non-judgmental notions? “Hey man, I don’t want anyone to think I hate those folks. I had better allow them to unjustly sentence me to death because of their jealously.”

      Yea, if love is the Cross, our culture has stupid definitions of love. I will say, though, that at least the gay pride mantra “love is love is love” holds up. Anyone who decides to be crucified for the salvation of souls, gay, straight, or otherwise, is definitely acting out of love.
  • Love is willing the good of the other
    • It is a choice
    • It is focused outward, not inward
  • Love is a theological virtue
    • Habit of saying “yes” to God over time
  • Practically:
    • Ask what is best for the other person and do it.
    • Marriage
    • Drug addiction
    • Truth about gender/sexuality
  • My friends, we have to leave behind this romantic definition of love, because we have no real control over how we feel. God would never require something we have no control over. That would be insane. If we want to believe that love is achievable, we have to remember that it is something that we choose.

    And we have to leave behind this notion that love is something akin to being non-judgmental. That does not do justice to love. It makes love boring, simple, easy. And it make love a form of apathy.

    Instead, love looks like the cross. It looks like heroic self-sacrifice for the sake of the other. It looks like something hard. So hard it may consume our entire life. So hard it may lose us friendships. So hard we may only find its reward in Heaven. Self-sacrificial love, like Jesus on the Cross, is the kind of love that actually saves us. Everything else just pretends to.

English (Draft Text)

Alright, we have got to talk about love, given how many times it is mentioned in our first and second reading today. Most of us have no idea what love is, and that is a problem.

Love, my friends, is originally not a feeling. When we talk about things like falling in love or being in love, we are talking about a much newer use of that word, a meaning synonymous with infatuation. And there is nothing wrong with infatuation, with being smitten with someone. That is a natural part of life and romance. But if that is all that love is to you, then nothing in the New Testament is going to make sense.

Love, I should also point out, is not the same as being nice. We often define love today as the opposite of “hate,” and today hatred is a word used – wrongly – for disagreement or being “judgmental.” So if I say that someone is wrong, I am said to hate them. And if love is the opposite of this, love means that I can never tell anyone they are wrong. Unless I am judging a judgmental person. Then I can tell them they are wrong, and this becomes an act of love. Again, if this is our definition of love, nothing in the New Testament is ever going to make sense to us.

Instead, our readings give us very different definitions of love:

Take the four most important:

  • [1 John] “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world.”
  • [1 John] “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”
  • [Gospel] “Love one another as I love you.”
  • [Gospel] “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

None of these is particularly romantic and none is particularly focused on being non-judgmental. Instead, love is defined as doing what God has done in Jesus. And what has God done in Jesus? He has sent his son into the world as expiation for our sins. He has laid down his life for his friends.

In other words, Jesus gave up Heaven and instead went to the Cross.

How does that square with our romantic notions? “Dude, I am so in love with that girl. I cannot wait to give up all of my riches and be publicly tortured for her.” And how does that square with our non-judgmental notions? “Hey man, I don’t want anyone to think I hate those folks. I had better allow them to unjustly sentence me to death because of their jealously.”

Yea, if love is the Cross, our culture has stupid definitions of love. I will say, though, that at least the gay pride mantra “love is love is love” holds up. Anyone who decides to be crucified for the salvation of souls, gay, straight, or otherwise, is definitely acting out of love.


To put this in more generic, philosophical terms, the New Testament definition of love is “to will the good of the other”. The first thing this means is that love is a choice, not a feeling or a disposition. I choose to love. Which is a good thing, because I do not particularly like a whole lot of people. And who among us is different? Can we really say that we like people who disagree with us? Or people who are difficult to deal with? Do we really like the homeless, the poor, the unwashed, the mentally ill, or the addicted? Do we really like people who make demands on our time or our resources? Do we really like people who talk too much about themselves, or who talk about things we really are not interested in? Liking is a feeling that I cannot control. Love is a choice that I can control. There is no Biblical requirement to like everyone you meet, there is only a Biblical commandment to love them.

The second thing that “willing the good of the other” means is that love is always focused outside of ourselves. Beyond the fact that we are the ones who choose it, love has absolutely nothing to do with us. If we want to love someone, we have to ask ourselves what is best for that other person, and then try to act in a way that would bring about their best outcome.

Which brings us back to Jesus. Jesus knew that what was best for us was to be free from the power of sin and death. So he chose to go to the Cross, because he knew that was what was best for us. I am sure Jesus did not possess a lot of positive feelings towards humanity has he slowly and painfully died outside the walls of Jerusalem, but it was the most loving thing anyone has ever done in the history of the world.


Okay, so how do we love one another as he has loved us? How do we lay down our lives for our friends?

Interestingly, love is what is called a theological virtue, meaning that it is a habit we develop over time. But because it is a theological virtue, it is not something we can do on our own. We can only love because God has first loved us. And because God has first loved us, God then loves in us and through us. It is not we who love, it is God who loves. The habit that we develop is simply the habit of saying “yes” to God’s acts of love through us.

Because, of course, if love is willing the good of the other, love requires us to die to ourselves. Love requires us to go to the Cross for every person we meet. And the only one with the strength to do that is Jesus, so we need Jesus at our center before we are capable of true love. We die to self so that we can focus on other people rather than ourselves. We die to self so that we can make space for Jesus, who is the one who loves.


Practically speaking, loving other people is realizing what is good for them and then acting to do it. So, for example, loving your spouse. What is the best possible thing that could happen for your spouse? What do they need, in order to flourish emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually? That is what loving your spouse looks like. Sometimes is means being a listening ear, even when you yourself are tired or beaten down. Sometimes it means rededicating yourself to being an equal partner with the house and with the kids. But the question is always, “What do they need?” and love is trying to make it happen, no matter how you feel.

I should also say, love is often very hard. Love often requires telling someone something that they do not want to hear. The most loving thing we can do for a drug addict, for example, is to help them break the addiction, but sometimes that requires ending enabling behavior or kicking them out of the house, which is heartbreaking. But it may be the best thing for them, which means it is the best way for us to love them.

From the theological and moral perspective, this is why it is so troubling that people are so quick to accuse Christians of being hateful. If I tell someone that their life is going to be empty without Jesus, am I hating them? Really? Because I am absolutely convinced that Jesus is the best thing for them, just as Jesus is the best thing for all of us. If I am trying to give them the words of eternal life, are we really going to call that hateful? Or if I uphold the Church’s teachings on gender and sexuality, saying that living according to God’s plan is the most fulfilling way to live, are we going to call that hateful? Even though I say these things because I want people to be happy in this life and the next? Even though I am saying it because I want to bring someone closer to God, not further from him. Even if someone disagrees with the Church, for them to tell me that trying to save a soul is hateful is just willful, bigoted ignorant of what Christianity is. Proclaiming the truth is always an act of love, because the truth is always the best thing for us.


My friends, we have to leave behind this romantic definition of love, because we have no real control over how we feel. God would never require something we have no control over. That would be insane. If we want to believe that love is achievable, we have to remember that it is something that we choose.

And we have to leave behind this notion that love is something akin to being non-judgmental. That does not do justice to love. It makes love boring, simple, easy. And it makes love a form of apathy. And love is not apathy. Love is active, love pursues you, love changes you. Instead, love looks like the cross. It looks like heroic self-sacrifice for the sake of the other. It looks like something hard. So hard it may consume our entire life. So hard it may lose us friendships. So hard we may only find its reward in Heaven. Self-sacrificial love, like Jesus on the Cross, is the kind of love that actually saves us. Everything else is just a false pretender.

Español

Con la cantidad de veces que se usa la palabra “amor” en nuestras lecturas de hoy, es increíblemente importante que entendamos lo que esta palabra significa y lo que no significa.

Nuestra segunda lectura nos dice esto:

“El amor que Dios nos tiene se ha manifestado en que envió al mundo a su Hijo unigénito, para que vivamos por él. El amor consiste en esto: no en que nosotros hayamos amado a Dios, sino en que él nos amó primero y nos envió a su Hijo, como víctima de expiación por nuestros pecados.”

Y en nuestro Evangelio, Jesús dice: “Éste es mi mandamiento: que se amen los unos a los otros como yo los he amado. Nadie tiene amor más grande a sus amigos que el que da la vida por ellos.”

Lo que significa que, según el cristianismo, el amor es nada más y nada menos que la Cruz. La definición misma del amor es la Cruz. La Cruz es el mayor acto de amor en la historia del mundo, y cualquier acto de amor que hagamos debe parecerse a la Cruz.

Para decirlo de manera más general, podríamos decir que “el amor es elegir el bien de la otra persona”. Jesús sabía que lo mejor que le podía pasar a la humanidad era nuestra libertad del pecado y la muerte, y sabía que la Cruz era la única manera de hacer que eso sucediera, así que Jesús eligió ir a la Cruz. Eligió hacer lo mejor para nosotros, no lo mejor para él.

Esto significa algunas cosas.

Primero, el amor no es un sentimiento. Hablamos de enamorarse, pero esto es enamoramiento, no amor. El amor es una elección. Es algo que elegimos hacer todas las mañanas cuando nos despertamos. Es una estupidez que las parejas casadas decidan divorciarse porque se han enamorado. Es imposible desenamorarse. El amor es una elección y siempre podemos elegir amar. Puede que ya no estemos enamorados de la otra persona. Puede que ni siquiera nos gusten mucho. Pero siempre, siempre podemos elegir amarlos. Ámalo, no un sentimiento, es una elección.

En segundo lugar, amar no significa no juzgar. Si no se da cuenta de esto, esto es lo que se les enseña a sus hijos en la escuela. Se les enseña que, estar en desacuerdo con hombres que tienen sexo con hombres o mujeres que tienen sexo con mujeres u hombres que quieren ser mujeres o mujeres que quieren ser hombres, estar en desacuerdo con las decisiones que toman estas personas es odiar a estas personas. . Entonces, a nuestros hijos se les enseña que la única forma de amar a las personas homosexuales o transgénero es estar de acuerdo y celebrar cada decisión que toman. Y muchos niños abandonan la Iglesia Católica porque sus escuelas les enseñan que la Iglesia Católica está llena de odio debido a nuestras enseñanzas sobre el sexo y la sexualidad. A nuestros hijos se les enseña que nuestra religión del amor es hipócrita porque, aparentemente, lo único que enseñamos es el odio. Pero la tolerancia y el no juzgar tampoco son amor. Nada de eso se parece a la Cruz. Jesús fue a la Cruz para salvarnos de nuestros pecados, no para que pudiéramos seguir pecando con orgullo.

En cambio, lo más amoroso que podemos hacer por las personas es llevarlas a Jesús. El amor es elegir actuar por el bien de la otra persona. ¿Qué podría ser mejor que Jesús? De manera similar, enseñar la fe, incluidos los requisitos morales de la fe, es una acción supremamente amorosa. Si quiero que la gente esté cerca de Jesús y que reciba la salvación de Jesús, y las enseñanzas morales de la fe son la forma en que lo hacemos, entonces siempre es amoroso decirle a la gente la verdad sobre lo que Jesús espera de ellos. Si te digo que necesitas creer en Jesús para ser salvo, no es porque te odio, es porque te amo. Si te digo que no debes tener sexo sin estar casado en la iglesia, no es porque te odio, es porque te amo. El amor no es un sentimiento, el amor es una elección y, a veces, es difícil decirle a alguien la verdad.


Pues, les pregunté a algunas personas sobre las opiniones de la comunidad hispana sobre la homosexualidad y dijeron que los hispanos comprenden que el sexo entre dos hombres o dos mujeres no está de acuerdo con el plan de Dios. Sin embargo, también mencionaron que probablemente debería hablar sobre la práctica de echar a los niños de la casa si dicen que son homosexuales.

Recuerde, el amor es elegir lo mejor para la otra persona. Entonces, si alguien a quien amas te dice que es gay, ¿qué es lo mejor para esa persona? Para ellos es lo mismo que para todos nosotros: seguir a Jesús. Pero debemos recordar que las personas homosexuales también pueden seguir a Jesús. Ser gay no es la elección. Tener sexo es la elección. La forma en que amamos a las personas cercanas a nosotros es enseñarles cuándo es apropiado y según el plan de Dios tener sexo y cuándo no. Eso es lo mejor para ellos. Echarlos de la casa no los ayudará a tomar buenas decisiones sobre la actividad sexual.

Hablando de echar a la gente de la casa, también deberíamos hablar de la adicción a las drogas. A veces, cuando alguien a quien amamos es adicto a las drogas o al alcohol, tenemos que echarlo de la casa. ¿Es esto amoroso? Nuevamente, ¿qué es lo mejor para la otra persona? Muchas veces, para que alguien reciba la ayuda que necesita para salir de una adicción, tiene que experimentar una crisis. A veces, lo más cariñoso para una persona adicta es que deberían echarla de la casa, porque solo entonces se darán cuenta de que necesitan ayuda. Este puede ser un acto amoroso, siempre y cuando lo hagamos porque estamos tratando de elegir lo que es mejor para ellos.


Amigos míos, tenemos que dejar atrás esta definición romántica del amor, porque no tenemos un control real sobre cómo nos sentimos. Dios nunca requeriría algo sobre lo que no tenemos control. Eso sería una locura. Si queremos creer que el amor es alcanzable, tenemos que recordar que es algo que elegimos.

Y tenemos que dejar atrás esta noción de que el amor es algo parecido a no juzgar. Eso no le hace justicia al amor. Hace que el amor sea aburrido, simple y fácil. Y hace del amor una forma de apatía. Y el amor no es apatía. El amor es activo, el amor te persigue, el amor te cambia. En cambio, el amor se parece a la cruz. Parece un autosacrificio heroico por el bien del otro. Parece algo duro. Tan difícil que puede consumir toda nuestra vida. Tan difícil que puede hacernos perder amistades. Es tan difícil que solo encontremos su recompensa en el cielo. El amor abnegado, como Jesús en la Cruz, es el tipo de amor que realmente nos salva. Todo lo demás es solo un falso pretendiente.

Español (Original English)

With the number of times the word “love” is used in our readings today, it is incredibly important that we understand what this word means and what it does not mean.

Our second reading tells us this:

“El amor que Dios nos tiene se ha manifestado en que envió al mundo a su Hijo unigénito, para que vivamos por él. El amor consiste en esto: no en que nosotros hayamos amado a Dios, sino en que él nos amó primero y nos envió a su Hijo, como víctima de expiación por nuestros pecados.”

And in our Gospel, Jesus says, “Éste es mi mandamiento: que se amen los unos a los otros como yo los he amado. Nadie tiene amor más grande a sus amigos que el que da la vida por ellos.”

Which means that, according to Christianity, love is nothing more and nothing less than the Cross. The very definition of love is the Cross. The Cross is the greatest act of love in the history of the world, and any act of love that we do must look like the Cross.

To put it more generally, we might say that “Love is choosing the good of the other person.” Jesus knew that the best thing that could possibly happen for humanity was our freedom from sin and death, and he knew that the Cross was the only way to make that happen, so Jesus chose to go to the Cross. He chose to do what was best for us, not what was best for himself.

This means a few things.

First, love is not a feeling. We talk about falling in love, but this is infatuation, not love. Love is a choice. It is something we chose to do every morning when we wake up. It is stupid that married couples decide to get divorced because they have fallen out of love. It is impossible to fall out of love. Love is a choice, and we can always choose to love. We may not be infatuated with the other person anymore. We may not even like them very much. But we can always, always choose to love them. Love it not a feeling, it is a choice.

Second, love does not mean not being judgmental. If you do not realize this, this is what your children are being taught in school. They are taught that, to disagree with men who have sex with men or women who have sex with women or men who want to be women or women who want to be men, to disagree with the choices that these people make is to hate these people. So our children are taught that the only way to love gay or transgender people is to agree with and celebrate every decision that they make. And many children leave the Catholic Church because their schools teach them that the Catholic Church is full of hate because of our teachings about sex and sexuality. Our children are taught that our religion of love is hypocritical because, apparently, the only thing we teach is hate. But toleration and non-judgment are not love either. Nothing about that looks like the Cross. Jesus went to the Cross to save us from our sins, not so that we could keep on sinning proudly.

Instead, the most loving thing we can ever do for people is to bring them to Jesus. Love is choosing to act for the good of the other person. What could ever be better than Jesus? Similarly, teaching the faith, including the moral requirements of the faith, is a supremely loving action. If I want people to be close to Jesus and to receive the salvation of Jesus, and the moral teachings of the faith are how we do that, then it is always loving to tell people the truth about what Jesus expects of them. If I tell you that you need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, it is not because I hate you, it is because I love you. If I tell you that you should not have sex without being married in church, it is not because I hate you, it is because I love you. Love is not a feeling, love is a choice, and sometimes it is hard choice to tell someone the truth.


Now I asked some people about the Hispanic community’s opinions on homosexuality, and they said that Hispanics understand that sex between two men or two women is not according to God’s plan. However, they also mentioned I should probably talk about the practice of kicking children out of the house if they say that they are gay.

Remember, love is choosing what is best for the other person. So if someone that you love tells you that they are gay, what is the best thing for that person? It is the same for them as it is for all of us: following Jesus. But we need to remember that gay people can follow Jesus, too. Being gay is not the choice. Having sex is the choice. The way we love people close to us is to teach them when it is appropriate and according to the plan of God to have sex and when it is not. That is what is best for them. Kicking them out of the house is not going to help them make good choices about sexual activity.

Speaking of kicking people out of the house, we should also talk about drug addiction. Sometimes, when someone we love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, we have to kick them out of the house. Is this loving? Again, what is best for the other person? Many times, in order for someone to get the help that they need to break an addiction, they do have to experience a crisis. Sometimes the most loving thing for an addicted person is that they should be kick out of the house, because only then will they realize they need help. This can be a loving act, as long as we do it because we are trying to choose what is best for them.


My friends, we have to leave behind this romantic definition of love, because we have no real control over how we feel. God would never require something we have no control over. That would be insane. If we want to believe that love is achievable, we have to remember that it is something that we choose.

And we have to leave behind this notion that love is something akin to being non-judgmental. That does not do justice to love. It makes love boring, simple, easy. And it makes love a form of apathy. And love is not apathy. Love is active, love pursues you, love changes you.

Instead, love looks like the cross. It looks like heroic self-sacrifice for the sake of the other. It looks like something hard. So hard it may consume our entire life. So hard it may lose us friendships. So hard we may only find its reward in Heaven. Self-sacrificial love, like Jesus on the Cross, is the kind of love that actually saves us. Everything else is just a false pretender.

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