Love, and Do What You Will
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
In truth, I think everyone really knows this on some level. But many people may never even attempt to live this vision out because "all things" means precisely that. Love endures through good and through bad. This affirmation is a basic, fundamental truth lying at the heart of the Christian life. But sometimes fundamentals are persistently difficult for beginners to get down.
If we are willing to try and embrace the Christian vision of love, we may find ourselves at the outset asking, "OK then, what is this 'love' like, anyway?" How can we, in fact, live in accordance with genuine love? How do we know it when we see it? It is perfectly natural for such questions to arise, for the human person is a curious creature. Our intellect is designed by God to be tickled by curiosity, an inherent yearning for not merely knowledge, but wisdom and understanding.
This yearning hints at another world, a world of which all people have an inkling but which no one has ever seen fully. It is from this other world, this forgotten homeland, that the occasional beckoning music of love is heard as a whisper in our wayfarers' ears.
It seems strange to us, for though we constantly ponder love, speaking and singing of it while seeking after it with sometimes unbridled determination, we do not seem to really know quite what it is that we seek. "God is love," says Saint John, "and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16)." But some are not satisfied by this, pointing both to how many different "gods" are acknowledged by human beings and how many evil things have been perpetrated in God's name.
Saint Justin Martyr wrote that "'God' is not a name, but the intuition implanted in human nature of an inexpressible reality." This reality is the home to which we all long to return from our first moments. It is, however, not so much a place as it is a Person with whom we deeply desire a relationship. This reality, "God", is not one person but three, an inseparable exchange of devotion and sacrifice. This dramatic relationship is characterized in each Person's inexhaustible gift of himself to the others. We know this reality by the simple appellation, "love."
When Saint Paul wrote of all that characterizes love in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, this is what he described. This Trinity, God himself in his deepest nature and essence, is "patient", "kind", neither "jealous" nor "pompous"." He is not inflated, rude, self-seeking, quick-tempered, nor does he hold grudges. He "does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth." And precisely because God is infinite, the Divine Persons can never cease to give all that each is to the others. This is why "love never fails."
How are we then to love as Love loves? In a word, we need faith. We need never grow worried in some frenzied, over-scrupulous pursuit of God's ultimate plan for our lives. We need only recall that he said,
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15).
To do his great will we must simply embrace him and how he has instructed us to live. We must ask him to help us overcome one temptation at a time one day at a time. I return once more to my friend Saint Augustine for the last word here, far simpler and more profound than all I could ever write: "Love, and do what you will."