January 31, 2010
Luke 4: 21 – 30
The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky once wrote, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing.” This is not the way we are accustomed to hear love being described. We associate love with patience, kindness, forgiveness, and hopefulness. This is the way that Paul describes love in today’s second reading, and certainly those qualities are true of love. But right in the middle of Paul’s description there is a line that we often overlook. Paul says, “Love rejoices in the truth.” It is love’s connection to truth which makes love at times a harsh and dreadful thing. Love and truth are intimately connected. True love, true intimacy, can only exist in the truth. This is what makes true love such a rare phenomenon, and why we so seldom find it. Love is not some warm feeling or an emotional rush that knocks us off our feet. Love is a choice to say to another person, “I love you enough and I trust you enough to let you speak the truth to me. I will stand transparent before you. I will speak the truth to you. Together then in truth we will love each other.”
Now loving in truth is not easy. It is not easy to speak the truth or to hear the truth. But despite that pain, love remains the chief goal and purpose of life. We do not waste love or truth on strangers. We are polite to them, and we let them go their way. We only risk telling the truth to people to whom we are connected, to people to whom we belong. This is what is happening in today’s gospel. Jesus comes to his own home town, to Nazareth. He knows these people. They belong to him. They are his family. Jesus risks being transparent before them. He challenges them to hear who is he and what he is saying, to open their minds to think in new ways.
Now it must be said that Jesus’ experiment in Nazareth did not go too well. They took him out and tried to throw him over a cliff. But the good news of this gospel story is Jesus’ example. He challenges each one of us to find in our lives someone before whom we can stand transparent. He tells us that life is not primarily about protecting ourselves from hurt, but risking to love in the truth. This example of Jesus is very important because some would say that protecting ourselves is more important than risking this kind of love. Maybe life would be better if we surrounded ourselves with work and with gadgets and with superficial relationships, and never let anyone in. Then who could make a claim on us, who could demand anything from us? Maybe life would be easier without such love. But it would not be life. Because the only way to life is through love and the only way to love is in the truth.
So where does that lead us? It leads us to thankfulness and faith. The gospel today asks us to examine our lives. If we can find in our lives people before whom we can be transparent, people we allow to speak the truth to us and to whom we can speak the truth in return, then we should be thankful. Because it is in those relationships—with a spouse, a friend, or a family member—that we have true love and life. But if we look at our relationships and see they once had that kind of love but now have begun to fade, if we have never found someone with whom we could have true intimacy, or if we have surrounded ourselves with things that are unworthy of us, then the gospel calls us to faith. It calls us to believe that God has made us for something better, that we are made for love, and it is never too late to find it. We believe that if we entrust ourselves to God’s care God will guide us to the kinds of relationships that we need, that if we open ourselves and take the risk, we can find the love and truth for which we were made.
Now, of course, to open ourselves to that kind of love—whether it is in a present relationship or a new relationship—is risky. Our love may be rejected; our invitation may be overlooked. We could be hurt. That is why at times love is a harsh and dreadful thing. But it is still worth the effort. It is still worth the faith to believe that it is possible, because love in the truth is the only way to life, and ultimately the only way to God.