Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Love and Death

Romeo and Juliet performed by the San Francisco Ballet
Have you wondered why Romeo and Juliet is taught in High School? I mean it is about two teenagers who commit suicide. Yet we see it not as an irrational response to teenage hormones. We see it as an amazing love story. There is something about love that needs to be ready to die. It happens in a lot of stories. A person falls in love with someone or some thing and dies for that love. It is a good way to die. It is sad but we know that if we have nothing to die for we have nothing to live for.

We don't all die. There is another way. We can love by giving our lives to our love one day at a time. There are two classic endings. One or both lovers die or the lovers gets married. They live happily ever after. Not really. They die eventually. They give themselves to the beloved by raising a family together. Not giving it all at once but giving more and more until there is nothing left to give. Then they get old and have trouble caring even for each other. Eventually one watches the other die.

Song of Solomon 8:6 says love is as strong as death. Do we really believe it? If love is a brain function then death is stronger. Death means the loss of all brain function. Is love worth dying for? The answer of Jesus is Yes. It is not just a Yes but it is a game changing Yes. Why? Because Jesus brings resurrection. Death is not the final word. That makes love make sense. Any price we pay for it is worth it because we get to die as lovers. Dying as lovers means we get to be raised as lovers. That is worth everything.

It is good that the church asks us to venerate so many martyrs. It makes clear to us we are to love Jesus enough to die. Yet the other way of giving your life needs to be clear as well. The idea of giving and giving until you have nothing left to give. To do that without limit until your last breath. It is a life that only makes sense in the light of resurrection. To live a love stronger than death.

This is why contraception is such a serious problem. What does it do? It limits how much we give of ourselves to each other in order to limit what our love will demand of us. I want to love you but I don't want the fruit of that love to overwhelm me. I don't want to give my life. I want to limit it. To much of you is a hazard I want to avoid.

The same drifts into our love for Jesus. We don't want to much Jesus. We want to manage it. When God demands more we learn to ignore it. We are nice to God. We expect He will be nice to us. Isn't that enough?

The trouble is that kind of love is not a love as strong as death. It is not really love at all. It speaks the language of love but does not make the sacrifices that love will make. It counts the cost and wants to get more than it gives. The focus is not on dying and rising as lovers but on the pain and pleasure of the current life. 

We take what should have been a heroic life and make it a slothful life. You talk to people about Catholicism and the first reaction is that they know Catholics and they find them to be wholly uninspiring. Why is that? Because we have lost this vision of giving yourself in love without limits. It is not completely lost but it seems that Catholics that get it are a small minority of those who call themselves Catholic. 

That sense that Catholicism really is an embrace of a radical love that is stronger than death. That sense is what we need to get back for the New Evangelization to take hold. Catholicism calling you to die needs to stop being something we just say but it needs to be a challenge we all feel. 

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