Session 10: The Meaning of Love

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

10A:

  • What is love?
  • Can you love someone even if you don’t like them? Or they don’t like you?
  • Do you think “sacrificial” love is possible? Is it wise?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

10B:

  • Who is the most loving person you have known personally and why?
  • Who is the greatest example of human goodness you have heard or learnt about? What makes them so special?
  • What do you think is the purpose of life?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

10C:

  • What do you think of the idea that God loves us and wants us to love him in return?
  • What do you think of the idea that we can know God through his Son Jesus Christ?
  • If you knew God were listening to you, what would you tell him or ask him?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #321 to #342 – loving one another in community [10 pages]
  • #359 to #366 – putting God at the centre [5 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

10A – What is love?

Let me give you two classic definitions of love. The first definition: Love seeks union. We want to be united with those we love. If I love someone, I care for them, I miss them, I want to be with them, I want to share my life with them.

The second definition: Love seeks the good of the other. If I love someone I want to do good for them, to help them. It’s not just what I can take from this relationship, it’s also what I can give.

Both of these meanings are in the bible. The love that God has for his people Israel in the Old Testament is like a bridegroom seeking his bride. And Jesus speaks about himself as the Bridegroom who seeks to be united with his Bride the Church.

The other meaning is there too, the sacrificial one. God calls his people to care for the poor, the widow, the stranger, the outcast. Jesus teaches us to be servants to each other. He gives us the example of his own life. He washed the feet of his disciples, gave them his Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and offered his life in sacrifice on the Cross.

The bible shows that you need passion and affection; and you also need sacrifice and sheer hard work. It’s true for our families, our communities, our schools, our places of work. We need a love that seeks union and a love that seeks the good of the other. When they come together, that is the deepest meaning of love.

10B – How to love your neighbour

Jesus said to his followers: “You must love your neighbour as yourself”. Then he went further and said, “Love one another, as I have loved you”. And he went even further and said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”.

It’s a radical call to love without conditions, without calculation, without expecting any reward. It’s tough! And let’s admit that sometimes we do not like this teaching. We are called to a sacrificial love that seems to go beyond the normal call of duty and even beyond what seems reasonable.

But it doesn’t mean we become everyone’s doormat. Sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves, to stand up for others, and to stand up for justice. And it doesn’t mean that we are without joy. So many of the encounters that Jesus has with others are filled with joy. There is a lovely phrase. It goes like this: “Life grows by being given away”. We receive more, in unexpected ways, when we give more.

The story of the Good Samaritan is probably the greatest illustration of what it means to love one’s neighbour. A man has been stripped and beaten and abandoned by robbers. A Samaritan traveller is the only one who is willing to cross the road and help him. He is moved with compassion; binds up his wounds; and cares for him at the nearest place of lodging.

The Good Samaritan goes the extra mile. His love is kind, compassionate, generous, practical, selfless. It’s a sacrificial love, but it is filled with tenderness and affection.

This is the kind of love we are called to have for others. For those we are close to, who are sometimes the hardest to love: family, neighbours, colleagues at work. For those we see each day but never acknowledge. For the unexpected visitor, the stranger, the foreigner. And especially for the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the lonely, the elderly, the dying.

This is what it means to love your neighbour. This is what it means to be a Christian.

10C – The love of God

A lawyer asked Jesus a question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

The most important thing in our lives is to know the love of God, and to love him in return. This is our deepest calling. It is also our deepest desire, even if we are only dimly aware of it. St Augustine said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. We can never find ultimate happiness in the passing things of this world.

It’s impossible to love God as we need to without the help of Jesus Christ. He is our friend, our brother, our Saviour. If we believe in him, he unites us with himself, fills us with the Holy Spirit, and lifts us up to the Father in his own prayer.

If we put Jesus Christ in the centre, everything else falls into place. It doesn’t mean that all our difficulties disappear, but we can make sense of them, and know how to move forward.

The love of Christ sets us free – free to love God and free to love others. That’s something we all long for, even if we will live it in different ways. And if we discover it for ourselves, we will want to share it with others.

St Catherine of Sienna said: “If you become who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire”. And then, when we leave this world at the end of our life, we have the hope of sharing eternally in the fire of God’s love, in the glory that Moses saw in the burning bush, the glory that shines from the face of Jesus Christ.