It might have been the foreign missionary nuns who taught at our Catholic elementary school or maybe the stories of saints and martyrs or girlish idealism that gave rise to a vision of my life at an early age. It was quite simple and clear. I saw myself in a distant land living with people and spending every drop of myself everyday for them; when I felt completely depleted, more was demanded of me and surprisingly, there were more drops to exhaust.
That vision has come to pass. The distant land living with people turned out to be the vocation of Christian love. Spending every drop of myself everyday and being surprised that there are more drops than I think I have turned out to be about loving my husband and together with him, educating our children and raising our family as a domestic church; along with that is the work to further the Kingdom of God in the world.
Committing to the Will of God
St. Pope John Paul II wrote, “Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.” He mentioned that the very fact that it is demanding is “precisely the source of its beauty.” Living out the vocation of marriage with my husband – trying to faithfully live out Catholic teachings on this sacrament – fidelity, chastity, natural family planning, obedience, forgiveness, conversion, holiness, love and the education of children have been and are indeed challenging on all levels: mentally, emotionally, physically, morally, and spiritually.
These aspirations, however, were never meant to be lived outside of our relationship with God; grace must be provided, received, and at work for us to hope to attain these exulted ends. As a Catholic, I discovered that the additional ‘drops’ were not about trying to squeeze more out of myself to give – like a long distance runner determinedly pushing herself; rather, the stretching beyond my limit comes from God’s grace to accomplish what I cannot; to expand my heart to love past my capacity.
For me, this grace comes through receiving Holy Communion. In the Holy Eucharist, there is a reservoir of love and power where more ‘drops’ come from; there is a ‘spring of living water welling up’ – flowing deep and wide. From the Source of Love, Jesus Himself, we receive real grace in real time to meet the demands of love.
Love Never Fails
When we live in relationship with God, when we are committed to our spouse and family members, when we labor in the Lord’s vineyard, what we become and what we do are neither impositions that our Faith puts on us nor are they requirements we put on ourselves; rather we take on conditions and act in order to meet the demands of love for the persons in our relationships.
People with whom we have relationships do not make the demands; it is Christian charity, Christian love towards them that demands we put our own selves aside for the good of others and the relationships. Things that are imposed make us feel pressed even if we charge them on ourselves. In the long run, we get weary with the effort to sustain them; they cannot last, we cannot last.
The demands of love, on the other hand, urge us to act for the good of others; it springs us to take measures to meet them in their need. Love can never be forced. It calls on the free will to give oneself away to neighbor. Rather than tire, one is built up; rather than be drained, one is filled up. Love makes things new.
As an exhortation the Pope wrote, “Nowadays people need to rediscover this demanding love, for it is truly the firm foundation of the family, a foundation able to endure all things.” How can we and our family rediscover this demanding love? This Saint added, “Only the one who is able to be demanding with himself in the name of love can also demand love from others.”
God more than met the demands of love for us in that Jesus suffered, died and rose again to take sin and death away. He freely pours out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
How are we to love God? We shall love the Lord, our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.
Demanding? Absolutely. When we do that – we, our spouse and children will not only rediscover this demanding love, but also experience the most beautiful love there is. We will be spent but never emptied.