What virtue is the cornerstone of discipleship? Love. Jesus preached about it, lived it, and summarized his greatest commandment featuring it. Love is in our DNA. To follow Jesus, then, is to follow the path of love. While this may appear to be an attractive and easy option, it most assuredly is not. Authentic love always comes with sacrifice. It is the complete giving of oneself to another. The sacrificial character of love always requires that we leave something aside and pursue something else. This is at the heart of self-denial. Love asks us to make choices that are often difficult.
There is a reason Jesus asks that the love of God come first. “Charity is the right attitude of mind which prefers nothing to the knowledge of God. If a man possesses any strong attachment to the things of this earth, he cannot possess true charity (St. Maximus the Confessor).” “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” A devoted disciple must be single-minded in her quest for God. She cannot allow anyone or anything to have more power over her soul than God. When any earthly attachments become more important than Love, we can get ourselves into trouble.
The Gospel calls us to walk boldly into the darkness, confusion, and emptiness of the world clothed in the mantle of love. We are asked to walk with others on their journey, offering a supportive, healing, challenging, and faithful presence. Ours is not to judge. To walk this sacrificial journey means that I must put myself aside and focus on the needs of others. “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt and must empty ourselves (St. Teresa of Calcutta).” Love helps us walk straight and focus to see things more clearly and help others to do so as well. Many folks struggle to find joy and meaning in life. People may simply need someone with the freedom to sit with them in their pain, so they don’t feel so alone. Through acts of kindness, gestures of acceptance, and words of compassion, burdens can be lightened. Believe in God’s love and seek it above all other things!
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