Reflection by Sr. Padraigín McKenna OP
Yes, this appears a very simple statement, but what a challenge lies behind it.
We might ask ourselves the question: “What is love? What does it really mean to love?
Many and wonderful would the various answers be, no doubt, but I would like to share with you an event which clarified for me the true meaning of love and how it is being lived out in life.
I had spent many years in Brasil, and that experience certainly changed my life. I learned so much from the Brasilian people and their attitude towards a living faith and life.
It was a blistering hot day and the sun was hopping off the stones as we made our way wearily up a steep mountain side to a small community where we were about to celebrate Mass, an event which was only celebrated once a month, weather permitting. When we arrived at the small community the people were all there ready to greet us and welcome us into their midst.
Mass started with the usual participation and lively singing and dancing. The Gospel of the Sunday was read and we all sat down for the Homily. The priest highlighted the phrase: “This is my commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
“What is love?” he said addressing the small community, “What is love?”
There was a pause and a silence enveloped the group. Again he addressed the people: “What is love?” and suddenly everyone got very interested in their feet and kept looking at the floor. Silence!
Eventually the priest addressed Maria, a woman who was sitting beside me. “Maria” he said “Have you a husband?” Maria nodded. “And what is your husband’s name?” asked the priest. “Tiago” she replied in a whisper. “And do you love your husband?” continued the priest. “I do surely”, said Maria “He is the best thing that ever happened to me.” “And is he here today?” continued the priest. “Yes” said Maria, turning to the door of the church, “He is down there at the back.” All eyes turned upon poor Tiago as the priest enquired “And do you love Maria?” again came the reply: “Maria is the best thing in the world that ever happened to me!” At that point the priest said: “What do you think is the secret of your love?” and instantaneously both Maria and Tiago shouted out: “Respect. Respect for one another!” “And how long have you been living together?” said the priest. “Thirty five years!” was the instant reply. Silence reigned as the reality and beauty of their response hit all of us who were gathered there. There was little more the priest or I could add to those words of wisdom.
“This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”
So, let us listen with attention to these words of the Gospel. Let us take them to heart and live them to the best of our ability. Let us respect and love one another. Let us respect and love this wonderful world in which we live. Let us respect and love all creation. By doing so we will be living out our Christian commitment and will be truly friends of God who loves us.
Sr Padraigin McKenna O.P.