Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
I’m sick of love. Sick of reading about it. Sick of hearing about it. Sick of preaching about it. Love, love, love, blahblahblah. Seems like every time we turn around in the Easter season we’re listening to John prattle on about how Jesus commanded us to love one another or how Jesus wants us to love our enemies. Sorry. Just makes me a bit queasy—kinda syrupy, sweet, sticky. Too cute. Is this what we’re about? Cute love? Jesus suffered the whip and died on a cross so that we are free to whisper cutesy clichés about warm-fuzzies and hugging teddy bears? Do I need to go put on the creamy-pink vestments and my Bunny slippers? No. Thank God and all the Saints…no. Love is not cute, cuddly, creamy, sticky, sweet, pink, huggable, warm, or fluffy. Love is not careful, balanced, gentle, meek, or meager. And love is most certainly not neutral, tolerant, ambiguous, confused, or permissive. Love is none of these. So, what is love?
The One who sits on the Heavenly Throne says, “Look! I make all things new.” The old order has passed away. No more death. No more grief. No more pain. No more crying. What has always been is no more. What is/is going. What is coming is new, fresh, clean, and pure. And this will not be accomplished by a tame passion or a commericalized infatuation. Love is the divine juice of renewal; the power of perfecting gift; the living breath of re-creating wisdom; the Spirit that cuts away dead flesh and shocks a weaken heart; love is God’s passion, God’s might, His transformative command: God speaks His Word to nothing and everything IS…and it IS only in Love. What’s pink, fuzzy, sweet, or gentle about that?! Let’s see Hallmark put this on Valentine’s Day card: “How do I love you? Let me count the ways: first, I gave birth to reality using Nothing as my source; second, I took dirt and gave you a body and breathed a soul it in, only to watch you betray me; third, I destroyed the face of the earth and all but a few of you b/c of your disobedience; fourth, I sent my only Son to be whipped bloody and spiked to a cross to pay for your sins…this is how I love you! XOXOXO—God the Father.” No, that wouldn't be a bestseller for Hallmark.
Maybe one reason we get sick of hearing about love during Easter is that preachers, especially Catholic preachers, tend to think of love in purely secular terms—Hallmark, Oprah, doe-eyed celebrities. These guys preach love as a kind of permissive passion—an excuse for all our favorite sins, leaving the false impression that we can deal with our sin by emoting it away, or by wishing it away on the grounds that we all fall short of His glory. Just follow your heart! Only love matters! The only truth is what you love! Right? Well, yes, but we must remember what Divine Love is and what it isn’t. Divine Love perfects the imperfect. It shines up, buffs off, and sharpens. If you will become a well-oiled, surgical tool for God’s Word—like Paul and Barnabas—you will love. You will speak the truth, spread goodness, honor beauty; you will correct error, confront sin—especially your own—, forgive all offenses; and you will build up the Body with sacrificial service and open the doors of faith to the stranger. Your life in Christ is a gospel epic not a cheesy Hallmark poem. Love us as Christ loves us…right to the blood smeared cross, to the tomb, and on to the Father’s right hand in glory!
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