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What is true love?

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As early as possible, we should be clear about what true love is. At the moment, we don’t have to look far to see how love is understood and lived wrongly by a great majority of the people around.

To many, love is just a matter of liking somebody. It’s a love that is based and anchored mainly on feelings, looks, appearances. In some classification of love, this kind of love is termed as “eros,” meaning you love someone because you like something in that person or that you can get or gain something from that person.

Others understand love as sharing things in common with another person. This is called “filia.” It obviously is a kind of love, but still not quite perfect, since in the face of the unavoidable differences and conflicts among ourselves, this love cannot survive.

The real love is what is called as “agape,” where you love a person irrespective of whether you get or gain something or not from that person, or whether you share some common things with that person or not. This love continues even when it is unreciprocated, rejected and contradicted.

This is the kind of love Christ himself showed us and continues to show us. Not only that, he commands us to have this kind of love. Remember him telling us, “love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13,34)

It is the love that flows from and is a sharing of the love of God who precisely has love as his very essence. In the gospel of the Mass on Thursday of the 5th Week of Easter, Christ practically defined what true love is.

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love,” Christ said. “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (Jn 15,9-10)

We should therefore have no doubt as what true love is. It is in following the commandments of God, in doing his will, since after all we have been created in his image and likeness. How God is, as shown in Christ, is how we should be.

This love that comes from God through Christ in the Holy Spirit will always be in the truth, will always be consistent irrespective of our varying and changing conditions and circumstances, will always know how to adapt itself to different situations without getting lost.

As St. Paul would put it, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” (1 Cor 13,4-8)

We have to learn to give all our heart to God by exercising those gifts God himself has given us so we can share in his life and love, i.e., the theological gifts of faith, hope and charity. We need time and effort to do this.

And given our human condition now, it is a love that knows how to do spiritual battle against the enemies of God and love. It knows how to renew itself always and to go through the lifelong process of having to begin and begin again. Things would always appear new to us even if we handle the same things everyday.*

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May 2024
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