Meanings Matter

[This may need to turn into a series.  I’ve got a few thoughts that could fall under this rubric.  Stay tuned.]

At mass today, Father continued a series of homilies that center on the idea of “Make Jesus the love of your life, and He will be the life of your love.”  Father himself called this a fortune cookie, but if it is, it’s a good one.  I suspect he’s got a few more ways to cut into the aphorism.  This post, however, is not about Father’s homily, at least, not exactly (especially since I really only absorbed about half of it due to a twitchy-squirmy three year old).  Rather, it’s about how the meanings of words matter, and what happens when meanings get subtly twisted so that people fail to understand the Church when she uses our language.

Thinking about it, the issue is very simple:  the model of love given by Jesus is self-sacrificial, while the model of love given by the world is self-referential.  Individuals are taught, by culture, media, and society, to “love”, or better, to lust after, that which makes him or her look.  Jesus teaches us that love is sacrificial, putting others before self…well, maybe putting self at the service of the other is a better way to phrase that.

The issue is, it’s hard.  It’s hard to put your self at the service of others, to think of others, to sacrifice your wants and desires for someone else.  The world teaches that love (lust, really) should be easy, with no strings attached.  But, as my parentheticals show, that’s not really love.  The meaning of the word has been twisted from a virtue to a vice, and we haven’t noticed.  That’s at least part of the reason why when the Church talks about love, people nod their heads, but don’t really get it–we’re two ships passing in the night.

We ought to live a life of radical love, in the way the Church teaches, to show the world what the word really means.  This means working at it, and working hard.  Fortunately, we have the ultimate model, and the grace we need to make it happen.

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