To manifest God’s love for us in our relations with others, we must learn to live chastely and respectfully.
In fidelity to our vocation, we vow never to abuse or use another person solely to satisfy our own desires. We strive to develop the disposition of empathy for the joys and sufferings others undergo. We respect their deepest identity as precious gifts of God. We express our care in outpourings of charity, loving and serving others as we have been so lavishly loved and served by God.
The word “chaste” means “to chasten” or to refine and purify. Chaste love is what cleanses our heart of egocentric impulses that threaten to manipulate others for our own pleasure or to violate their integrity spiritually, psychologically, or physically.
Respectful love heals the animosity, resentment, and hurt that threaten to destroy our relationships and to alienate us from God and others.
Lack of loving respect is a disintegrating force eroding trust between persons and undermining social obligations that direct us to celebrate our equality in dignity.
Chaste love restores in us and others abiding respect for the loving mystery that embraces all of humanity. In short, an increase in chaste, respectful love increases harmony in society whereas its opposite (unchaste, disrespectful pretenses of love) erode the very fabric of our world as a whole.
Genuine expressions of love allow us to accept ourselves and others as emerging from the Holy and as having a role to play in the divine unfolding of life at every level, from natural conception to natural death.
The height of loving self-respect paradoxically implies the deepest possible humility. The more humble we are, the more we accept our own limits and blessings and those of everyone around us. We love our gifts and imperfections as part of God’s plan for our unique emergence and participation in the life situations allotted to us.
Christian love is a healing and freeing power in culture and community. It is what motivates us to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. It seeks ways to incarnate the virtue of charity extended to nearby neighbors as well as to distant populations.
Such love draws scholars to engage in breakthrough research; artists to create future masterpieces; scientists to launch experiments to eradicate a range of deadly diseases for the benefit of untold millions.
What motivates us to continue a good work once it has begun is love, even though we receive few, if any, immediate rewards or the laudatory praises of grateful voices.
We may or may not see the fruits of our charitable efforts to help those abandoned in body and soul, but we go forward, propelled not by self-interest but by quiet dedication, selfless service, and loving care.
Only love in imitation of Christ can turn greed into generosity, cruelty into compassion, petty outbursts into patient encounters.
The awareness on the part of believers that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us gives a divine dimension to the expressions of our love for God, self, and others. Jesus told us
that whatever we do for the least estimated persons on earth, we do to him. He taught us to respect one another because of his redeeming love for all of humankind.
In union with Christ, we move from disrespectful disunity to respect for unity amid diversity.
The fruits of chaste respectful love are too many to enumerate, but they would certainly include the right blending of gentleness and firmness, courage and candor, commitment and dedication to duty—virtues that typify our spiritual identity in Christ.
To love as Jesus loves is the finest way to be both receivers and doers, contemplatives and practitioners, who give to others not parsimoniously but out of an abundance of care and concern.
Parents who love in this way oversee the physical and spiritual well-being of themselves and their children. The goods they receive from the Lord are for them first and foremost goods to be given away. They are content to decrease that Christ may increase. Their love is an expression of what Christ wants them to do for the good of others.
Beyond such attributes as personal charm, skill, and learning, we hunger and thirst for the spiritual enlightenment that only love for God can give us. Thus illumined, we understand that our love grows stronger when Christ stands between us. He alone can help us overcome the unchaste, disrespectful aberrations of love inherent in our fallen condition.
The chastening of our heart results in the liberation that accompanies self-effacement; it animates us to do whatever we can to help others find their true self in Christ.
To love as Jesus loves results in the healing power of forgiveness; it brings an end to vindictiveness and the refusal to disagree agreeably.
The chastened love of parents, friends, teachers, pastors, and colleagues is the greatest gift we can hope to receive. This way of loving forecasts the fullness of love to be revealed in eternity.
Only there will our search to love and be loved come to its destined end. Only then will God himself purify us from all traces of selfish living by opening eyes, once blinded by sin, to the splendor of salvation.