Thursday, December 20, 2012

Love as a Choice

As Christmas approaches, we prepare for the coming of Jesus, God incarnate. God becoming man somehow elevates the physical world to a new level; for not only had God created it, He also dwelled in it. He dwelled in it as profound choice of divine love. Mary too was not forced in any way to bring motherhood to a new level. She too made a choice when saying, “Let it be done to me according to your word…” (Luke 1:38). She made a profound choice of human love. These two choices together bring usEmmanuel”, which means God is with us.

This is also the time of year I prepare for my next confirmation class that takes place after the holidays. Part of the class is a discussion about love; love as a choice.  This brings blank stares of confusion from a group of young teens because everyone knows love is all about emotion; it’s about how you “feel”, but I ask them to think deeper. Previous classes discussed the soul as having two parts or two aspects; a will and an intellect. The action of our intellect is “to know” and the action of our will is “to love”. So if love is an act of the will, then it is a choice, but how can someone internalize this; especially a teen?

Analogies are always helpful. Imagine you have met someone that you don’t particularly like or are indifferent about. Now imagine you have made a conscience decision to spend time with that person, to talk with and get to know him or her, and to do things for that person. Now do all this consistently and you will discover feelings of love growing, but note that it all starts with a choice.

Isn’t this the general theme behind many, if not most of the movies we see? It could start with a young couple at the beginning of a film, who don’t particularly care for each other, or even hate each other. They wind-up in an adventure together, get to know each other, and help each other to the point of maybe even saving one another’s life. What happens by the end of the movie? They end up getting married or something like that.

I explain to my class that “love at first sight” can be a real feeling, but it should be given a more precise name. Call it "romantic infatuation at first sight" and remember that it is NOT true love.
Examples need not be only romantic. Our family watched the film “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” over the Thanksgiving holiday. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, an advertising executive desperately trying to get home in time for Thanksgiving. Neal meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy, a good hearted, but clumsy and over talkative salesman. They share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get to Chicago from New York City. One could say that during most of the movie, Neal is annoyed by Del at best; hates him at worst. But as they spend time together, get to know each other and do things for each other, feelings of brotherly love develop between them by the end of the film.

And so it goes in the spiritual life. Choose to spend time with God in prayer and other acts of piety. Choose to get to know God by studying scripture, theology, apologetics, etc. And choose to do things for God to help build-up His kingdom like evangelizing, helping others, ministry. Do all these things consistently and your love of God will grow.

Good Grief
Do you know some people that seem “uncomfortable” going to Mass (or church)? Well, if you spend more time offending God than being with, getting to know, and serving God, OF COURSE you will feel uncomfortable at Mass!! If you were invited to dinner at a home where you did not know the host, or worse yet, offended the host, wouldn’t you feel “uncomfortable”?

So Christmas is all about God choosing to be with us. Emmanuel came not only to die for us, but to dwell with us on earth and to teach us how to live. In the Eucharist He is with us in the most intimate way possible. He already knows us, but becoming man allows us to get to know Him better and gives us a better opportunity to serve Him and grasp that invitation that continuously says “come and follow me”.

Since visuals are so helpful, click HERE for a PDF graphic of “Love as a Choice”. Consider it a Christmas gift from "all of us" at Two Catholic Men and a Blog!

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