In today’s Gospel, the Lord gives us the measure of love.
If you leave your sewing basket or a carpentry case open around at home, you can bet that one of your kids will surely find it and pull out a very attractive tool and start playing with it, having lots of fun: a plastic, or better, retracting measuring tape. Man likes to measure. Man needs to measure. Measurement reduces confusion and uncertainties.
Euclid and Isaac Newton gave us a great contribution in this field. Measurement is useful to give accurate descriptions, to move to places, to build something or simply to think. Measurement units are necessary in many fields: economics, tailoring, architecture, science, business, carpentry, cooking….and love! But how do we measure love? We are accustomed to considering love as an emotion that can’t be seen or touched and, moreover, something that is experienced differently by everyone, and therefore pretty difficult to measure.
Songs and poems have been written to describe love in so many ways and how many signs we generally attribute to it: butterflies in the tummy, bunches of flowers, expressions like “forever” and in the end, we are used to measuring love by actions (small and big).
But cˊmon! What we especially like most is usually to measure how much someone loves you: the way they speak, the way they behave with you. But here, the Lord speaks about something totally different overturning this too simplistic way of considering love.
“Give and gifts will be given to you.˝ He is telling us that love must be measured primarily by what you give, not what you receive, what you sacrifice for someone, not what you feel. It is too easy and comfortable to love those we delight in. Here God warns us to make love possible even amid impossible feelings; when we are offended, when we are humiliated, when we are ridiculed.
If we close our eyes for a moment, I am sure all of us come up with a list of “unlovable people” who give us plenty of reasons not to love them. That colleague, that boss, that teacher, that classmate.
Passions like fear, disgust, jealousy, anger, self-love, revenge, or pride
do not allow man to live in that state of social union that requires mutual help as a necessary way to feel at peace.
In this Gospel, the Lord gives us the measure of love as a real act (i.e. giving) not just as an emotion (here today and gone tomorrow). We are requested to measure love by what we give, not what we get, and to keep on giving even when you do not receive (hard!). God did this to us through the way of the cross and does this to us continuously showing us merciful love without receiving advantage from His total gifts.
So today, we are called to give not merely out of simple human generosity, nor out of vanity, nor for self-interest, but for the sake of God. He gives us the measure to approach the world (since he knows we seek for it): Jesus Christ. Only His merciful example of love can lead us to put into practice the powerful line of Our Father –“Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
Pope Francis helps us to understand these three powerful Gospel lines saying that, “To be merciful means to have first experienced the merciful love of God towards us, recognizing firstly that we are sinners.”
The prophet Daniel in the first reading speaks about the shame of those who recognize their sin. To shame before God leads to become merciful and to become merciful means we can love others even when they are not delightful. The reward in loving in this way is great and comes out twofold: from God first with all his providential dispensation and from others who are as kind to us as we are to them.
“If we try to treat everyone kindly, we will end up liking more and more people, including also people we could not even have imagined liking at the beginning” [C.S. Lewis]. So today, let’s remember these simple, but powerful words: GIVE and FORGIVE and then let’s add another one: FORGET, to keep on loving.
Maria Soggiu lives in the challenging Eternal City. She is a wife, mom of two little kids and an administrative assistant to 250 seminarians at the North American College. She has many interests but not a minute free to take care of them so, after many trials to expand the 24 hour day, she decided that the best thing to do is to get up earlier and earlier in the morning.