“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Have you ever taken the time to stop and reflect on just that one sentence? On exactly what Jesus is commanding us to do? On what that love looks like, or how to love like Jesus?
In our busy and fast-paced world, I’m afraid that we hear or read this and think, “Yeah, yeah, love others, got it,” and then go about our lives without giving it a second thought. Or, if we do think about it, we end up overwhelmed or feeling guilty because we cannot seem to live up to the standard that Jesus set — speaking wisdom 24/7, traveling around and preaching to strangers, working miracles and other grand works. So we push it out of our minds; we forget about it.
But I challenge you: stop reading for a moment and think about it. What does it mean to love others as Jesus has loved us? How has He loved us? What, then, might He be asking us to do?
When I stopped to think about this, I recalled learning about The Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This 19th century Carmelite nun believed it was not necessary to do heroic acts or great deeds in order to attain holiness and express her love for God. She wrote,
“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me [she lived in a cloistered community]. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
In other words, she did all things — even the most ordinary, mundane or challenging — with extraordinary love.
So if we apply The Little Way to our lives, cooking, cleaning, helping carry groceries, holding open a door and even a simple “Hi, how’s it going? Have a great day!” all count as opportunities to love others as Jesus loves us.
Wow. It’s so simple, yet it takes a tremendous amount of pressure off us. We don’t have to feel obligated to do something grand, like selling all our belongings and giving the money to the poor or dropping everything to become a missionary (although we still can!). Instead, we can live in joy and peace because we can still love others through the everyday things. It’s not about the action itself; it’s about the love with which the action is done.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, is well known for her embodiment of The Little Way. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she chose St. Thérèse as her namesake because of The Little Way. Mother Teresa herself said, “We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.” And she practiced what she preached: among other works of charity, she gave people dying on the streets love and attention and a place to die with the dignity they deserved. Although she was not solving the problem of poverty by doing this, she still loved her neighbor as Jesus loved her by doing this seemingly simple action.
As we continue through Lent, I encourage you to do two things: 1) apply The Little Way to your own life, in all things loving as Jesus loves you, and 2) learn more about this inspiring saint-to-be, Mother Teresa, who can become one of your role models for loving and serving those around you.
I’ll even get you started by offering you some powerful quotes about love from Mother Teresa:
“Love until it hurts … What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives — the pain, the loneliness. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them.”
“I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Ask yourself, ‘How has He loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?’ Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.”
Kathleen Bosse is a senior English major with minors in theology, business, and music from Cincinnati. She loves to learn about everything imaginable, so she is full of questions. Bubbly and giggly, she is like a walking smiley-face. If you’re looking for your daily dose of happiness, she’s your girl! But consider yourself warned: once you’ve wound her up and she’s “giddy,” there’s no turning off the outpouring of random jokes and uncontrolled laughter; you must simply wait until she runs out of steam.