"Love is a choice." This was one of the first sentences that came out of the mouth of Dr. Marshall in a theology class I took my senior year of college. This statement set a tone for the class on marriage and each class we discussed what love was in the context of marriage. I even talked to my friends outside of class to see what they thought and everyone had a different answer to what love is. In the Bible we have the passage from Corinthians that is typically read at a wedding ceremony: "Love is patient, love is kind…". Benedict XVI's first encyclical was titled "God is Love". During Valentine's day, love might be getting a card or jewelry, or being taken out to dinner by the one you love. But what is "love"?
Love is not easy. I think anyone that is or has been in a long relationship can testify to this. Everyone who begins a relationship with another person (or a religious community) understands the concept of the "Honeymoon". Everything is wonderful and nothing can go wrong until the sugar buzz fades away and we come back to reality where everything is not perfect and everyone is human. This is where love is created. It is easy to love when all is going well, but when things get rocky and difficult, love is not as easy as one first thought.
After doing my novitiate and making vows to my religious community for the next two years, I hit a bump in the road and was going through a difficult time. Life was rocky and I had no clue what the next turn in my life was going to be. I felt helpless. The honeymoon was over and I was beginning to experience the difficulty of a long-term commitment. But like marriage, I have others to help me in my vocation, to be with me through the tough times. It was the love of another brother that helped me see things through. He made a choice to help me in charity so that I might stay committed to my choice--the choice to say 'I love you', to say 'I love this community'. He helped me get through the rocky times despite the difficulties.
The religious life shares this in common with the married and single life: When we make a choice and a commitment in the most difficult of times, it is probably then that we most love. It is not on holidays where we probably show our appreciation the most, but rather the other ordinary days of the year that really cultivate this love.
Jesus Christ became human to show us this love and to help us cultivate a culture of love. We seen this continue through modern day saints, like Bl. Mother Theresa who, with her sisters, has shown a way to love even the unlovable. Did Jesus have to became man? Did he have to die on the cross? In one sense no, yet Jesus did all these things out of love. Jesus became human like one of us, to show us the way of love, to show us what love truly is.
The love that Christ showed on the Cross was the summit of this love--he gave of himself completely. He made the greatest sacrifice. He made a choice--a choice of love for the people of God. He chose out of his love for us to suffer and die on the cross. He gave us a way that we are all called to follow. A way of choice, of love, of sacrifice. It is this way of sacrificial love that we must daily choose in our relationships with others--to sacrifice what we have for those whom we love. Make a choice today and all the other days of the year. Make a choice to follow Christ and to meet all with the love of Christ.