Pastor’s Message February 3rd, 2019

We have witnessed in recent years a troubling distortion of the reality of love that has taken a deep hold in Western society, not only in the general culture of the day but also in the thoughts of many individual people. This distortion of the truth, and even the purpose of love, has been raised to new heights because of the legal attempts to redefine traditional marriage to include the so-called unions of two men or of two women. Sadly, such a redefinition of traditional marriage unfortunately was made law by our U.S. Supreme Court.  
Those who insist on this redefinition of marriage claim to do so “out of love.” They ask, “Should anyone be denied the right to love another person?” The answer, of course, is no, provided that we have a true definition of love, such as is given us by St. Paul in this Sunday’s 2nd Reading at Mass. This passage is frequently proclaimed at wedding ceremonies: that when a man is joined to his wife, the two become one flesh, because at the heart of marriage, as at the heart of every Christian life, is love (Gen. 2:24). At the beginning of this passage, Paul tells us to “strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 12:31); and at its conclusion, he tells us what the greatest spiritual gift is: “the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13).  
Consider this key and fundamental question: What is love? We may say that love is a feeling that we experience, an emotion; but it is also much more than a sentiment. Emotions come and go, like so many “friendships” in life, and sometimes they deceive us. It sometimes happens that we perceive to have been slighted by someone when no slight was intended or even done to us. We then become angry with friends, or even family members; but while we feel anger towards them and not necessarily affection, it doesn’t mean that our love for them has ceased.  
Rather than being an emotion, love is a choice. Love is a choice for the good of another person. Love is also the desire to act so as to obtain the good for another person. Love, then, is not so much an emotion as it is an act of the will; it is a decision to act in a certain way, not simply a feeling over which we have no control.  
We understand that what is good is not sinful and what is sinful is not good. Authentic love, then, never encourages sin or leads a person further into sin. Instead, it seeks to help another live a holy life. Love seeks to lead a person further away from sin and closer to the truth. And we know that truth is not just a thing, but a person, Jesus, who tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). So one who truly loves seeks to lead the beloved always closer to Jesus, to Him who is not only the Good Shepherd but is, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, Goodness itself (Jn 10:11).
St. Paul says, “love both elicits virtue and expels vice, not permitting it to spring up at all.” If vice is not expelled, but instead encouraged and fostered, then a person lives more in sin than in love, and their salvation is at risk. This is why St. John Chrysostom declared, “In other words, says Paul, if I have no love, I am not just useless but a positive nuisance.”  
Love doesn’t tolerate sinful desires and activities but seeks to root them out because “it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth” (I Cor 13:6). The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it this way: “Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it. It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.” Love forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin. It will always take back the sinner into the bosom of the Mystical Body, but it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.  
Real love also involves real hatred, for whoever has lost the power of moral indignation – like Jesus driving the buyers and sellers from the temple – has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.
So, charity is not a mild philosophy of “live and let live;” it is not a species of sloppy sentiment. Charity is the infusion of God’s Spirit, which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly. When the Church teaches and proclaims what is moral and what is immoral, what is holy and what is sinful, what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, she is met with opposition; evil never likes to be called out for what is. Yet, in the face of such opposition, the Church continues to speak the truth because “love endures all things” because she does not teach her mere opinion, but the truth she has received from Jesus Christ (I Cor 13:7).  
I am thinking of the recent chilling events about the abortion legislation just passed in the Empire State. With righteous indignation, we ask, “How can a “Catholic” governor not only allow, but also promote and rejoice in such laws? I hope and pray they will be challenged and defeated in civil courts. I also hope that bishops will be able to successfully challenge, in a truly charitable way, the “Catholics” who allowed such an abomination to reach this point.  
There will be some – as there have always been – who will seek to hurl those who speak the truth over a cliff, as they attempted with the Lord, but the truth must still be spoken because the message of salvation in Christ must always be proclaimed (Lk 4:29). As we seek to love in truth we must remember the word of the Lord: “They will fight against you but will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19).
Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei,” pointed out that “the renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.” If you and I strive for the greatest spiritual gift, the gift of love, and seek to share that love in everything we do by acting for the good of others, not only will the Church be renewed, but the world also will be.