The gospels make clear the importance of what we call the commandments of charity: love of God and love of neighbor.   Matthew, in quoting Jesus’ response to the Phar-isees’ question about which is the greatest of the commandments, adds these words of Jesus: “On these hang the whole law and the prophets, too.” (Mt. 22: 30-42)  Given the importance Jesus attached to those commandments, it is imperative to seek a deeper understanding of them and to keep trying to grow in their practice.

The word love is used in many ways.  We talk a lot about love.  We praise its wonders.  We believe everyone should practice it.  We like to think of ourselves as loving persons and we reproach ourselves when we think we have failed in that regard. But if we are asked to explain it, to say exactly what we mean by love, we may very well find ourselves at a loss for words.

St. Paul in his famous ode to charity tells us some important things about love. “Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited; it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage; it does not take offense or store up grievances.   Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but finds its joy in the truth.  It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope,   and to endure whatever comes.”  (I Cor, 13: 4-7)
In his book, The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm wrote: “Love is not a sentiment that can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached…. True love cannot be attained without rue humility, courage, faith and discipline.  True love always implies certain basic elements among which are care, responsibility, and respect.

Neither Jesus nor St. Paul ever presented love as something soft and easy.  Love of God and love of neighbor require sacrifice.  Love and sacrifice are not the same thing.  They are, however, inseparable.  Jesus made that clear.  ‘Whoever wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross every day and follow me.”
To think of Christ and to think of the cross are not the same thing but one immediately implies the other.  Wherever Christ is preached without the cross it ultimately leads not to Christ but away from him.  To follow Christ, to be a true witness to his love is hard. It requires self-sacrifice and purification.  It requires even more.. It requires God’s help. It requires grace.