Real Love Fulfils the Law
A friend of mine spent the summer preparing her eldest child to begin school this September. To give him the opportunity to meet some local children and to get used to being apart from her she enrolled him in summer camp. She had heard about the tears and tantrums that occur when some parents drop their children to school but wasn’t expecting it to happen to her. Despite being excited to experience something new, her son was filled with dread at the prospect of a day away from the family with whom he had spent every moment of the previous 6 months. He kicked and screamed and clung on to his mum who prized him off, handed him over to the camp leader and cried for the rest of the morning until time to pick him up again. The scenario repeated itself each morning until Thursday night when her son told her he wouldn’t cry the next morning, explaining that he was no longer afraid; he knew he would make new friends at camp and that his mum would be there at the end of the day.
This scenario is certainly not unusual; families all over the world experience the same upset when leaving each other. Neither is it confined to just starting school. Most parents face the same emotional response from their children when, for example, turning off the Xbox or making them eat vegetables.
So why do parents go through the stress of putting these boundaries in place? They do so because they love their child so much that the pain of insisting on what they know is right yields much greater rewards than allowing their child to remain ‘happy’ with their lot. Parents don’t want a mediocre life for their child; they want their child to flourish, to be fulfilled, to be the best that they can be.
St Paul explains this exact phenomenon in the second reading today. He reminds us that love is the very reason the law matters. God’s law only exists because of His love for us. The American priest Fr. Mike Schmitz once said, ‘God loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.’ The things that happen in our lives shape and mould us so that we too will flourish.
Real love is never harmful. Real love wills the good of the other. Real love, therefore, calls us to challenge one another to be the best that we can be. This is often easier said than done. However easy we might find this in our family lives, we live in a world where we are working hard to be inclusive, to rectify sins of our past and to avoid judgement at all costs. In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows us how to love without offense. He challenges us to speak quietly – not publicly – when we see something harmful; to engage the community for support not humiliation; and, ultimately, to pray together for the good of the other. He asks us to approach conflict without moral superiority and willing the good of the other. How many of life’s conflicts could have been avoided had we followed this road map?
The Gospel today asks us to love as a parent does and to understand the role we have in shaping and sustaining the community around us. Ultimately, it asks us to pray for the good of the other. Perhaps this week, we could all pray for those who jump to judge, that their hearts would be softened by Christian love and that they would know the peace and joy that comes from willing the good of others.