Chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans is like a small catechism of the Christian faith. It is centered around the core virtue of Christianity, Love. Love is the foundation of humility and the binding force of all happy and healthy communities. It is the reason for the Incarnation. It is the power of creation, as well as of forgiveness. Hence, “Love must be sincere.”
If our love is truly sincere, we will not have it within ourselves to count ourselves as more important than others, we will hate all that is evil and we will, rather, be moved by compassion to be with those who suffer the consequences of evil. If our love is sincere, we will protect and defend the poor, the innocent, the widow, the orphan and the alien, because we will see them as our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, who deserve to be loved as we wish to be loved. In other words, we will be the very embodiment of the Golden Rule.
If our love is sincere, we will never tire of serving the good. We will treat ourselves and all others with honor, dignity, and true affection. If our love is sincere we will live every day rejoicing in hope, knowing that our hope is real, because of the love that God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. If our love is sincere we will be able to endure the trials that come in life, persevering in prayers, knowing they will be answered according to the loving will of God. If our love is sincere, our hearts and our homes will be generous with hospitality for all who knock. They will find a place of welcome and of sanctuary. If our love is sincere, we will never repay injustices with further injustices, rather we will choose to respond in ways that are noble in the sight of all. If our love is sincere, vengeance would never find a home in us. Rather, we will feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, care for the sick, and visit and encourage the imprisoned.
Yes, love is the center of all that is holy. It is the creative, salvific, and inspiring force, the image and likeness of God, in which each and every one of us is made. It is the very essence of God. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4: 7-8)
Lord, we know that this love that You ask of us toward ourselves, our neighbors, and You, is not easy, but we know, too, that it is the only true way for us to live as Your brothers and sisters in this world. The way of love is the narrow path You have challenged us to travel through this life. Though we are weak, our desire to love as You have loved us is sincere. Help us to grow in our love for You, our neighbors and ourselves. Help us to deepen our relationship with You so that our love may find increase. Give us the graces we need to endure in love, to act in love, and to be in love with all of your creation. We ask this prayer in your most holy name, Jesus. Amen.
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