“… Love calls for love in return.” Teresa of Avila
The great Carmelite reformer, mystic, and saint, Teresa of Avila, was known for sometimes blunt statements about the spiritual life and life in community. She insisted that the spiritual life was not about being gloomy or depressed. (“God, deliver me from sullen saints.”) Life in community required all to share in the daily work of the community so all might share in the joys of relaxation and the natural world. She knew that the fundamental reality for Christians is the love of Christ, a love that reaches beyond church buildings and monasteries into all of creation.
One of her statements, a sentence from a larger work, struck me today.
“Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return.”
What does this mean in my life or in your life? Take some time to reflect on this with me. Be practical. Some might find it means minding a tongue that can speak spitefully or spreading gossip. Some might find it mean patiently reading a story to a small child for the fifth time in one day. For some it might mean getting up and out to door to work. Others might be called to smile at a panhandler and offer a friendly greeting rather than walking past with eyes averted.
Then move to the larger world – regional, national and international concerns. What does love mean in these contexts? How responsible am I for what happens in my city, county, state or nation? Does it matter whether I get involved in political debates or not? Do I have any responsibility to those less well-off than I or to the children of other families? Do we as a nation (community) have responsibilities to protect and support those to whom we are not related by blood? What does love demand of us? What does it mean to love? Can I act in love and still support the national and international status quo?
I don’t have answers to these questions for everyone. I don’t even have answers to all of them for myself. I know I fail all too often to “love in return” in practical ways. Yet I believe these questions must be raised and it seems to me that Teresa of Avila’s reflection on God’s love offers a challenge for us today.
“… love calls for love in return.”