LOVE STORY

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

One day, when I was in college, I was taking the train from Connecticut to New York City for the weekend. Just before the train left the station, a man sat down in the seat next to me.

I thought that the man looked vaguely familiar, and I soon realized that I was sitting next to the professor of a very popular lecture course I was taking on Roman comedy—a type of Latin drama that flourished during the heyday of the Roman Empire. I introduced myself to the professor and told him I was one of his students; we proceeded to have a lively conversation on the train ride to New York.

I remember the trip well because, soon after, my professor, Erich Segal, published a novel that became a bestseller. The book was called Love Story. It was a short novel about a romance between a young man and woman; the woman is diagnosed with cancer and eventually dies.

Love Story was published in 1970, when the free-wheeling spirit of the 1960’s was still going strong. I’m thinking of the novel today because it was famous for the line, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.”

In the Sixties, people thought that love should be focused on the present. All that mattered in life was what you experienced now.

According to the worldview of that era, there was no point in feeling guilty about something that happened in the past because the past was over. There was no need to worry about what might happen in the future: the future by definition hadn’t happened!

All you needed to do was enjoy yourself in the present. As a song of that era put it: “Love the one you’re with!” Enjoy the person you are seeing right now – don’t worry about the future.

How different these notions of love are from the love we associate with Mother’s Day! The devotion that mothers typically have for their children extends back to the past and forward into the future: from the time their kids are born until they themselves die.

I recently officiated at the funeral of a woman I had known for many years. She was the best of mothers to her three children. When my first child was born, the woman said to me: “From now on, your children will always be somewhere on your mind.”

Such love is the opposite of momentary, Sixties-style love. It is based on commitment as well as feeling. Even if mothers are angry at their children, they must still act in loving ways toward them. It’s not, “Love the one you’re with,” but “Love your family, whatever happens.”

Such love strives to mirror the perfect love that God has for us. As Jesus said to his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

But of course we imperfect humans often fail to love each other as God loves us. The love of parents for their children won’t be perfect. And that means that, contrary to the line in Love Story, there will often be times when we will need to say that we’re sorry.

That is why there are so many references to love in Scripture: love is difficult!

If this behavior were easy, Jesus wouldn’t have called the love of God and the love of your neighbor the supreme commandments. They sum up all the other rules God gives his people that tell us how to live.

For example, the letters of St. John make the essential Christian claim that, “God is love.” We heard in today’s First Lesson, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

In this one sentence, three truths about love are proclaimed: First, we should love God. Second, because we love God, we should do what he tells us to do. Third, by loving God and his commandments, we show that we love God’s children.

More insights are presented in the teaching of Jesus found in today’s Second Lesson, from the Gospel of John: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

Jesus then adds, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Here, too, is the truth that love is deepened when we follow God’s commandments. God’s friends are those who love. It’s as simple as that.

Admittedly, in a completely loving world, Erich Segal would be right. In that world, you wouldn’t have to apologize to someone you hurt because they would love you perfectly and therefore they would automatically forgive you!

In that perfect world, the person you love loves you back so much that he will set no conditions for your love to meet. If you fail to love him, he’ll still forgive you right away. You won’t even have time to apologize!

Unfortunately such flawless love matches are rare in real life. You will need to say that you’re sorry.

But what if you aren’t in the wrong at all? What if the other person was completely at fault? Should you still give in?

Well, why not? Apologies are cheap—they only cost our pride! Even when the other person is to blame, we can turn the other cheek. The more we say we’re sorry, the more chances love has to grow.

At the time of my encounter with Erich Segal, he said that he was dating a number of different women at the same time. I remember him saying he preferred a “smorgasbord” of companions to a steady girlfriend.

Now there’s nothing wrong with seeing different people. But commitments are good, too.

Which is something to think about on Mother’s Day. If your Mother is still alive, you can take a moment to reflect on your relationship with her. You can give thanks for the blessings of that relationship, and you can pledge yourself to work on any deficiencies there might be in how the two of you get along.

If your mother is deceased, then you could look at other important relationships in your life. Maybe you owe a phone call to an old friend. Maybe you are having problems with a difficult sister or brother; you could try to revive your communications with them.

These gestures of love can be the perfect way to honor your mother on this Mother’s Day. And they can help to fulfill the prophecy of Jesus:

“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

Amen


Leave a Reply