We chose our slogan, Love Is a Choice, for many reasons, and especially as a reminder that we are not forced to love due to sexuality or physical attraction or romantic encounters. Love is not the sex act. No circumstances may cause us to love someone; rather, we choose to do so of our own free will. In our quest for the ideal mate, the choice or decision to love may come about early or later in the dating phase; and the decision may be made after the exciting and romantic feelings begin to subside. It may also come about before there are any exciting or romantic feelings. Either of those two scenarios would provide a less emotionsal time for that decision to be made than during the early stages of excitement or romance. Love is not the excitement or romantic encounter. Although the sex act is not love, it is one way of expressing love in a marital context when a husband and wife give themselves completely and unconditionally to each other.
Love is a very powerful gift of God. Many people, even thosse who have not known God, have experienced some of the power of love. However, love is brought to greater perfection through knowing and loving God, and respecting all that He created.
The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;This one shall be called ‘woman, for out of man this one has been taken.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body (Gen 2:24, NAB).
The marital act is deeply pleasurable and profound. It serves its unitive function when experienced with God’s blessing as He intended between loving spouses who are open to procreation. Sadly, many of us have used this act outside of marriage, or in ways that God never intended, and in fact, has forbidden. When used in ways that God never intended, the act can create many complications as well as plunge the participants into sin and even ensnare them into slavery to sin.
God does not force us to love Him. We choose to love Him; but He first loved us even if we fail to respond fully and completely to His love. It’s our choice or decision to love Him; and it’s a great decision!
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul expresses love in terms of what it does and does not do. We often hear this scripture passage read at weddings, but its implications are not solely for matrimony, but also apply to all relationships. Paul begins by asserting that actions without love are fruitless; and after describing love, he lauds its supremacy over all other virtues:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13-1-13, NAB).
From the apostle’s descriptions, it can be understood that true love is concerned with the good of the other person because it “does not seek its own interests.” Based on the gospels, it would appear that God’s love encompasses all the of those described virtues and then some !!!
According to John’s gospel, Jesus had much to say about His love and what our response needs to be:
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 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.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another (John 15: 9-17).
It ‘s a good feeling to be loved. However, love is not something that finds fulfillment in our reception of it but rather in our giving it away. This may seem a difficult concept for some, but nearly everyone has experienced this in some form or other. Think of that special gift that you thought of and put in time, money effort to give to someone special. Perhaps you crafted the gift yourself. Was not that experience of giving so much of yourself more powerful than receiving a gift in return?
St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer encourages us to love in a more perfect way than we are typically accustomed to thinking:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despai, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
We may think of the last sentence of the above prayer in terms of physical death, and the context certainly holds true; but that’s not the only possible interpretation. It can also refer to dying to oneself as in Mt 16: 24. God’s desires for us are not always compatible with our personal desires. In order to advance spiritually, we need to control our earthly desires and seek what God wants for us. Now that you have read the words to the above prayer, you may listen to a beautifl rendition of this prayer performed by John Michael Talbot. Please click on the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXyYm1yIL-g
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘”Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you'” (John 15: 12-14, NAB).
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another (1 John 4: 7-11).
Amazingly, God seems to have given us a power that he himself lacks. We can choose to love. Yet, God IS love and as such, it seems that He has given himself no choice but to love us. Those of us who have denied Him multiple times can attest to that love–that He loves so much that he always takes us back. He may chastise us as a parent does a disobedient child; but His love knows no bounds where his children are concerned. We are to love each other the same way.
Love can never be self-centered, but must always will the highest good for another. Love does not mean sex. And sex ought never be used for its own sake. Using a person or sex strictly for our own pleasure is an abuse of God’s gifts, and an abuse of the person. God’s love and commands are integral, and cannot be separated. The commandments are given out of love for us so that we can maintain a temple worthy of His dwelling. This is one reason why it is so important to obey His laws.
God wants us to reach heaven and to spend eternity with Him. However, Jesus specifically warned about things, especially sins of the flesh, which apparently are the most difficult for many to control–adultery and fornication. He said that adulterers and fornicators would be prevented from getting into heaven. Because desires of the flesh are so great, it seems that many people would prefer to enjoy the flesh on earth and risk eternal damnation rather than be chaste and save sex for marriage. I’m guessing that it’s this giving in to the acts of fleshly pleasures which keeps the most people away from God, and God away from them. Love is a choice that is crucial for the psyche, the soul and our emotional well being in general. Poor choices limit our lives and endanger our souls.
Even more is expected of us. If we truly love, we also must also teach and correct. In fact Christians have an obligation to correct serious sin and guide others to be pleasing to the Lord. Teaching and correcting must also be done in love. We must help others to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy.
The prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church concludes with a beautiful quotation from the preface to the Roman Catechism. It integrates love and doctrine: The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love (Roman Catechism, Preface 10; cf. 1 Cor 13:8).
Have I used people for my own ends, or do I seek the good for all people with whom I have business and personal relstionships?
Which of my relationships could use improvement?
Am I able to turn away from and avoid sinful acts through dependence upon God’s grace, or do I need discernment in how to conform to God’s commands without affecting the welfare of family or children?
Heavenly Father, I praise you. Lord Jesus, I love you and worship you. You are King of kings and Lord of lords, my strength and my fortress, my rock and deliverer. You are our most high God! Holy Spirit, thank you for dwelling in us! Father, thank you for loving me in spite of my sins. Give me more wisdom, strength, courage and all help so that I may always be faithful to your word and be able to love as you love. Let all that I do be worthy of a prayer honoring you and uniting me with Jesus in whose name I pray. Amen.
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