When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. – Jimi Hendrix, rock guitarist
Throughout scripture, we are called over and over again to love. And indeed we do love. We love our families. We love our country. We love our comfort. We love holidays. We love our things. We love our success. But do we love God? Do we love God more than these things? When we truly learn to love God, we cannot help but love our neighbor too and the world shifts with that kind of love.
When I think about what it means to love God, I often think of sisters and brothers living a monastic life. For the love of God, these folks get up in the middle of the night to pray! And they pray all day. For us. For themselves. For the love of God. And I am quite certain it doesn’t always feel like love, but it does take the same dedication that sustains a healthy marriage or good parenting because the most worthwhile relationships begin and end in love.
If we find it difficult to sustain love, our monastic friends have some wisdom for us. Sr. Joan Chittister, in an interview (see link below) regularly asks women seeking to join her order “why do you pray?” With a twinkle in her eye, she recounts the various “answers” these women give. Some are erudite, others simple, and others play it safe and simply try to avoid the question. Chittister then looks into the camera and says, “we pray because the bell rings”. We pray because we have made a commitment to do it. When the bell of the convent rings, we pray, whether we want to or not. In the convent, this commitment to pray when the bell rings is also about being in community. If we are too tired or distracted to pray, the community sweeps us along and we ride along on their spiritual coattails until we are able to pray again.
Love is like that – we love because we make a decision to do so – especially when it is difficult. We love our children when they are driving us crazy. We love our spouse even when it feels like it is pointless. We love our friends, even when they betray us. This is not a “doormat” sort of love, as in no matter what you do to me, I will love you. It is an attempt to love beyond our human capacity, to love deeply, and to do so as a means for spiritual development. I will learn to love you as a means for learning how to love God. And on those days when our love wains, the love of the beloved can bring us back into love.
When we commit to that kind of loving, we begin to catch a glimpse of the Divine love that is born at Christmas.