October 21, 2019

Define Love

I Iove pizza, especially when it is real thick with all kinds of different toppings on it.  I saw a T.V. program recently that described the difference between New York pizza and Chicago pizza.  It said that New York pizza had a real thin crust, and Chicago pizza had a thick crust.  I love Chicago style pizza, real thick with lots of toppings; so thick that one slice could be a meal.

I also love my family, my wife, my children, and my grandchildren.

Now the two statements that I just made demonstrate the fact that we all use the word love in lots of different ways.

What am I saying when I say I love my wife, my children, and my grandchildren? I’m saying that I care about them. I’m saying that I love spending time with them. I’m saying that if they needed me, I would do everything humanly possible to help them. I’m saying that I always want what is best for them.

What am I saying when I say I love pizza?  Am I saying that I care deeply about pizza?  Am I saying that if the pizza had a problem, I would be there for the pizza?  Of course not!  When I say that I love pizza, I’m saying that I enjoy eating pizza till I don’t want any more.  Once I’m tired of pizza, I don’t care what happens to the rest of it.  I’ll throw it away.  I’ll feed it to the dog.  I’ll stick it in the back of the refrigerator, until it gets all green and moldy.  It doesn’t matter to me any more.

In a book called “Real Love” written by Mary Beth Bonacci, the author points out the fact that there are two distinctly different definitions for the word love.  There is real love, and there is pizza love.  And it gets confusing when people start talking about love.  It gets especially confusing when people start talking about loving you.  Which way do they love you?  Do they want what’s best for you?  Or do they just want you around because it’s best for them?

The next time someone says I love you, listen carefully.  If you are talking about real love, you cannot put the word “love” and the word “but” in the same sentence.  I love you, but I wish your hair was shorter.  I love you, but I wish you were thinner.  I love you but I wish you didn’t have that annoying habit.

Real love is a beautiful thing.  It is the most valuable thing on this planet.

Pizza love, on the other hand, is terribly destructive.  It ruins friendships.  It ruins families.  It ruins marriage.  It ruins everything that it touches because it’s rooted in pure selfishness.

Real love says, “I exist for you.”  Pizza love says just the opposite.  It says, “You exist for me.”

Instead of the phrase “Real love”, we might use the phrase “Jesus love”, because this is precisely the kind of love that St. Paul describes in 1st Corinthians (Chapter 13).

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish.  It is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, nor does it brood over injuries.  Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth.  There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.”

This is the kind of love that is needed in marriage, if it is to remain strong.  This is the kind of love that is needed in every human friendship.  This is the kind of love that keeps people together in good times and in bad.

Why?  Because real love is not emotional!  Real love is not selfish.  Charles Osburn, the Catholic lay evangelist who founded “The Good News Ministries”, once said, “Real love is not an emotion.  Real love is a decision”.  John Powell, a Jesuit priest who authored many books in the 1970s, said, “Real love is more than a feeling.  Real love is a commitment.”

Real love is a decision to sacrifice my own desires, and treat someone, as God would have me treat them.

Take a look again at what Saint Paul says in 1st Corinthians (Chapter 13), but in doing so let’s add the word “decision” or “commitment”.  This doesn’t change the meaning of the text one bit, but it does emphasize the point that Charles Osburn and John Powell are making.

“Love is a decision to be patient, committing ourselves to being kind.  Love is a decision not to be jealous.  Love is a decision to never be pompous, inflated or rude.  Love is committing ourselves to others, rather than seeking our own interests.  Love is a decision to never be quick tempered, or to brood over injuries. Rather, love is a commitment to never rejoice over wrongdoing, but to rejoice with the truth.  Love is a decision and commitment to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.”

If we are honest with ourselves, we will all have to admit that this kind of love is difficult to show at times.  But making an effort to do so is essential, because it is the only kind of love that lasts.  It is the only kind of love that everyone is looking for.  No one wants to be loved like a pizza.  We are all looking for more than just pizza love.

Blessed Pope John Paul II, in an address he once gave said, “Genuine love, which Paul describes in his Letter to the Corinthians, is demanding.  But its beauty lies precisely in the demands it makes.  Only those able to make demands on themselves in the name of love can demand love from others.”

There is no lesson in life more important than learning the difference between real love and pizza love. And there is no decision in life that we can make that is greater than deciding to love others with the kind of love, the real love, that Paul describes in his Letter to the Corinthians.

Yes, there are many things in life that are important. As St. Paul reminds us: faith, hope, and love are all important- but the greatest of these is love.

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Written by
Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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Written by Deacon Donald Cox
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