You can almost always find something insightful in Pope Francis’ homilies, but today’s was particularly good and included many gems of wisdom. In it, the pope clarifies what Christian love is all about, and also what it is not about.
He described some of the challenges that we face that keep us away from living the Christian life:
“We are in God and God is in us: this is the Christian life. Not remaining in the spirit of the world, not remaining in superficiality, not remaining in idolatry, not remaining in vanity.”
He cautions against romanticized notions of love, the type that changes on a whim as our emotions and imaginations shift, contrasting them with Christian love, which is concrete:
“You see that the love John speaks of is not the love of soap operas! No, it is something else. Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness.”
This love is evidenced by our actions. As the popular saying goes, preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.
“Jesus Himself, when He speaks of love, speaks to us about concrete things: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many concrete things.”
Where love supposedly exists without the action to support it, there’s a pretty good chance it isn’t real love, the kind that Christ calls us to.
“And when this concreteness is not there, you can live a Christianity of illusions, because you don’t understand where the center of Jesus’ message is.”
So how do we love one another as Christ calls us to love? With action. And here’s how:
“The first criterion: to love with deeds, not words. Words are taken away by the wind! They are here today, tomorrow they are not. The second criterion of concreteness is: in love it is more important to give than to receive. The one who loves, gives. . . . Gives things, gives life, gives oneself to God and to others. On the other hand [is] the one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages.”
May we follow the guidance of Pope Francis and concentrate our efforts in the coming year on loving concretely, unselfishly, generously.