The Importance of Love

November 30, 2006

Four Candles

I was reading a sermon from one of my favorite priests, Zelda Kennedy (the sermon can be found here), and enjoyed this story.

Four candles slowly burned. The ambiance was so soft that one could almost hear them talking. The first candle said, “I am Peace, yet the world is so full of anger and hatred and fighting that nobody can keep me lit.” Then the flame of peace went out completely.

The second candle said, “I am Faith. I am no longer indispensable, therefore it doesn’t make sense that I stay lit another moment.” At that moment a breeze softly blew out Faith’s flame.

Sadly, the third candle said, “I am Hope. People don’t seem to understand my importance, so they simply put me aside. I haven’t the strength to stay lit.” And, waiting no longer, Hope’s flame went out.

Suddenly a child entered the room and saw the unlit candles. “Why aren’t you burning? We are supposed to keep you lit until the end.” Saying this, the child began to cry. It was at this time that the fourth candle answered, “Don’t be afraid; I am Love. With Love we can relight the other candles. With shining eyes, the child took the candle of love and relit the others.

The flame of love should never go out in your life. And with love, each of us can live a life of peace, faith and hope.

I love Zelda’s stories.  She told me this story at one point in my spiritual journey and I had forgotten the story until now.

What I was learning at that point in my life was that love is a verb, not a noun.  Love is not a feeling, but an action.  Love requires something of us.  It is not passive.  It requires us to give something.

Love your neighbor is not the same as “feel good about your neighbor”.  This may sound elementary to some folks, and like heresy to others, but it was a radical lesson for me.  I had always associated love with an emotion.  I know now that it is not.   The Samaritan’s feelings for the man on the road were superfluos to the situation.  What mattered were his actions.  He loved his neighbor because he ensured that his needs were accounted for to the best of his ability.  The text makes passing reference to “being moved with pity”.  But I don’t think that is the point.  If he had been “moved with pity” but not done anything, would he have loved his neighbor?  No.  Love often requires sacrifice, or at least action.

 It does seem like it is hard to find a way to light the candles in today’s society.  Many times it feels like the edges of the world are pushing us to draw inside- to protect ourselves- to live in fear, in darkness.  We hear, though, again and again and again in Scripture that the way out, the way to light those candles of peace, of faith, of hope– is to love.  To be able to serve- not in a self-depricating way that gives up our own dignity, but in a way that enhances it.  To reach out in compassion, to relate, to understand even if we don’t agree.  When we do, we find ourselves in the center– in a Holy Place, where the God that dwells within us is able to be free to move us to act, where we become instruments of God, where we can surrender to God and begin to see the abundant world God has set all around us.  The scarcity fades away with the fear, and the scales fall from our eyes moving us from darkness to light, that we might live in the hope that we may be given the grace to work for the reign of God on earth, and see just even a peek of God’s glory and overwhelming magnitude in the process.

j

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