Love is All or Nothing

We often speak of love in limited terms. I love this person. I really love that person. We speak of loving this person and not that person or loving a lot or a little as though we could measure out and apportion our love.

On yesterday’s feast of St. Luke, I received an e-mail reflection from the Center for Action and Contemplation, adapted from Richard Rohr’s The Good News According to Luke. It beautifully expresses the fallacy of quantitative thinking when it comes to love.

Is there at least one place in your life where you are giving and receiving love? If it happens in one place, it can happen everywhere. If you are truly capable of loving one person, you’re capable of loving more than one, and eventually even your enemy, and finally all. Love is one piece. Love is all or nothing. You either express love or you don’t. The flow is either outward or it is inward. Luke illustrates this most especially in his unique and utterly subversive presentations of the “Good Samaritan.”

Love is love.

For me, it is easiest to understand this when I am in touch with God’s abundant love. I sometimes have an image of existing in a sea of God’s love, totally surrounded by and infused by that love. Surrounded and infused by the love which gives me existence – and gives you existence and gives everyone else existence. God’s love is endless – we all have it all.

When I am in touch with that, I recognize that my love is not separate from God’s love. The love I receive from God is the same love I share with others. If we truly love, we can love all and love totally.

I’m not saying we should never use quantitative images to illustrate love. Elena and I still often repeat the line we developed when she was young, “I love you to the edge of the universe and back again…times infinity.” (Actually we often add “…times infinity, infinity times.) I see that as our feeble attempt to expressing that abundant, endless sea of love. We know we can’t measure love, but in a world in which we use the word “love” so freely – I love strawberries, I love the Mets, I love opera, etc., we seek some way to describe our experience of the love that is our gift from God – a gift intended to be shared with all.