Monday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Readings: Colossians 1:24–2:3; Psalms 62:6-7, 9; Luke 6:6-11
Love is effortful. So says the late M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist and author of the best-selling book The Road Less Traveled. I’m not sure what you think of this insight. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us were to respond with a collective groan or sigh. Of course, love is indeed effortful. Who can deny it? Love is less about romance than it is about commitment. To love is to commit one’s time and resources, and indeed one’s very self, to the beloved. We know that.
And our readings for today confirm the insight. We notice, for example, what the author of the letter to the Colossians goes through in order to achieve his aim of binding his readers together in love. He speaks frequently of having to struggle and to struggle wearily on… Jesus doesn’t seem to have it any easier in the gospel. His healing love for the man with the withered hand as well as for the scribes and Pharisees is met with misunderstanding and furious rejection. Yes, in the scriptures too, love is effortful.
But does being reminded of this fact make it any easier to love? Does it provide us with the energy we need, for example, to remain faithful to a spouse who is consistently absent – physically and emotionally – from the family home? Does it lighten the burden of the one who silently bears the implicit responsibility of caring for aged and ailing parents while her siblings raise their own respective families?
Which is why it’s important to notice something else about our readings and how love is portrayed in them today. For in addition to highlighting the effortful character of love, the readings also speak to us of love’s mysterious power. Quite amazingly, for example, in the midst of his struggles, the author of the first reading can actually write these stunning words: it makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now… Strangely, although love clearly places a burden on him, it is equally undeniable that love also provides him with the energy he needs to bear this burden with joy. And the source of strength by which he struggles wearily on is nothing less than the power of Christ driving him irresistibly. Moreover, not only is this the same power that Jesus manifested in the synagogue two thousand years ago, but it is also the same power that the crucified and risen One makes available to us even today. As we are reminded in the first reading: the mystery is Christ among you…
Our readings today do not simply remind us once again of our obligations and commitments. More importantly, they also encourage us to keep searching for and to remain connected to the power of Christ among us, the same power that helps us bear the burden of love with hearts filled with joy.
How might we seek and find this power today?