Love. It’s something that each and every human being longs for, and is often considered a basic necessity that contributes to one’s overall health and well-being. But what exactly is love? This question is fairly difficult to answer; the definition frequently changes amongst different people and situations. In English, the word love is used to express a variety of different emotional states and feelings that stem from the pleasure and satisfaction associated with intimacy, objects, relationships, and even religion. Nevertheless, each of these seemingly distinctive types of love are regularly confused in daily conversation, where love is simply that: nothing less, and nothing more. My love of hot tubs, ice cream, and sports are equivalent, from a language standpoint, to my love of faith, family, and friends. To really understand what love is, however, one must focus in on finding true love – the love that starts at the cross.

While Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation for what is to come, rarely does one spend their time reflecting on the gifts that they have in Christ Jesus. This time of year is filled with baking, decorating, shopping, and wrapping, not to mention final exams and term papers that mark the end of an academic semester for college students alike. The list just goes on and on. But these material things don’t sustain the same type of love that is found in Jesus Christ Himself. Ephesians 2:8 states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.” It’s important to note that faith, not works, was the instrument by which humanity was saved, which actually makes the crucifixion an even more powerful experience. By humbling Himself to a death on the cross, Jesus took on all of the sins of the universe not because He had to, but because He wanted to – the perfect example of His unfailing love for humanity and the world.

Jesus’ example serves as a perfect model for how to truly “love all.” Luke 10:27 reads: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” By this command, loving all is simply loving God, others, and yourself equally and unconditionally. To love God is not just attending mass on Sundays or praying before meals. While these things are undoubtedly important in living the faith, loving God is a commitment that takes the complete giving of oneself to fully put Christ at the center of one’s life, creating a union with God and becoming one with Him. Loving God is acknowledging that He comes before all else in life, and genuinely wanting to enter into a relationship with Him.

The love of others takes a similar form. Called to love one’s neighbor as oneself, this can be one of the hardest ways to love. Loving others starts by recognizing that nobody is perfect and that sin is a reality. Many times, it is easier to forget the people in life that have caused pain and suffering; however forgiveness is just as necessary as love. Although pain can cause one to not want to forgive another, everyone is made equal and created by the same God. All brothers and sisters in Christ are called to love, regardless of the mistakes that are made or the trials that they face.

Possibly the hardest form of love is that of oneself. In a world where every little detail is constantly scrutinized, it becomes increasingly harder to genuinely love all of one’s body, mind, and spirit. But without this kind of love, it is merely impossible to fully love God or others. To keep the greatest commandment of love, loving oneself is completely necessary.

This Advent, I challenge each and every one of you to take a look at the relationships in your life. Not just the good ones, but the bad ones as well. Reflect on the changes that you need to make in the way interact with God, others, and yourself. Make the necessary changes to better yourself as this new year approaches. And as Addison Road so beautifully reminds us, always love.

To make a mountain of
Your life is just a choice
But I never learned enough to listen to
The voice that told me
Always love
Hate will get you everytime
Always love
Don’t wait ’til the finish line
–Addison Road, “Always Love”

DJ Bodziony is a sophomore Health Services major from Strongsville, Ohio. On campus, he is involved with Xavier’s Community-Engaged Service Fellowship, is a Tour Guide, Treasurer of the newly-formed Health Services Club, and works with a variety of CFJ programs including CLCs, GetAway, and Rooted. He also spends a considerable amoutn of time working with a local Catholic Youth Ministry program. In his free time, DJ enjoys cheering on all Cleveland Sports teams, even though they aren’t very good.