Tuesday, May 20, 2008
“Love is not to be defined, but to be experienced.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
In the Gospel of John 15:9 Jesus says, “Dwell in my love.” This is a very simple, yet mystical statement. It has very deep meaning. LOVE is the key word. Love is a word that always be misunderstood. We usually don’t understand well the meaning of love. We hear the words: “Love ya, babe” in teenagers' vocabulary, we heard the words: “making love,” and we also heard the words: “Peanut butter? Hmmm I love it.”
From theology, we hear many definitions of love. The scripture scholars argue that love is differentiated into three kinds: eros, philia, and agape. Eros is the sexual love, philia is the parental love and agape is the divine love or the highest expression of love. Moral theology teaches us that love should be the starting point of moral judgments, because love is the highest law. Social ethics inserts that “love of the enemy” should be the requirement for deciding a war, etc.
So what is love? What does love mean? I don’t know either. There are too many definitions, because there are too many smarty people, too many conferences, seminars, books, dictionaries, or even merchandises on love. And what’s the result of these all? We are tired of love, because we hear and know much on love, but we are lack in the experience of the true love.
That is why in the Eastern tradition, definitions are often avoided or even rejected, so that people come to the experience of love. Perhaps, the smarty people out there will be very suspicious of what I’m saying. However, if they interrogate me, I would like also to ask them: “Did Jesus ever make a definition of love?”
The answer is NEVER! He always told stories, instead. In the Eastern tradition, for example in Zen tradition, experience becomes the most important thing. That is why the masters would give many riddles that destroy the discursive thinking which tries to definite something, and trained the students to experience something, to experience love, to experience God. The riddles are, for example, like these: “How was your face before you were conceived? How can you clap with one hand? How can you greet a wise man without words or gestures?” These question will frustrate the students' discursive thinking and make them experiencing the question.
I have a story.
Once a master is being told by a student: “What is God?” He answered: a piece of paper. The following day he answered: a bowl of noodle. The other day he answered: a pile of straw. The student was frustrated. One day the student run to his master saying, “Now I know the answer!” The master asked him: “What is God?” He answered: “A piece of bamboo shoot.” Then, they laughed, the student has come to an enlightenment. He has experienced God.
What??? God is a piece of bamboo shoot??? Why not? St. Teresa of Avila said: “God walks among the pans in the kitchen.” It is so simple, but so clear. Once St. Thomas Aquinas stopped writing, when he was asked by one of his friars he said: “Well, months ago I experienced the presence of God, so all I have written about God seems to me now to be like straw.”
Now the question for us is “How could we experience love?” The answer is so simple: “Dwell in my love.” Just dwell, enjoy and experience it. That’s it. Jesus wants to teach us how to be aware of God’s love always, unceasingly.
If we cannot be fully aware of simple and ordinary things, how can we aware of the presence of the almighty God, who loves us?
Brothers and sisters,
We need to exercise our awareness of the presence of God, the presence of the LOVE. Once we experience it, we will be able to cry out with St. Paul: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
Let us dwell in his love.
A homily delivered at Baltimore Carmelite Monastery
May 08, 2005