We often hear many commencement speeches at graduation ceremonies, as well as celebrities and motivational speakers speaking about passion and dreams. It seems like everyone is told to chase their dreams and live their passions. That is all good and nice at times, but one, too, often finds out, sooner or later, that passion is short-lived and we do not always get to live our dreams.
We do not always get what we want in this life or get to experience all that we desired… and the hardest lesson to learn is to recognize that, even though we do not get what we want, there is nothing really wrong with that reality. When we do not get what we want, it does not mean that God is smiting, abandoning, ignoring, or playing games with us. Many times, these trials and messy parts are just opportunities for us to find a deeper understanding of life, how to love, and to be faithful in times of uncertainties.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote about the two different but complementary loves in his encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” which are both reflections of God‘s own love. He reminded us of eros, which is passion-centered and sentiment-based love, and agape, which is self-giving and sacrificial love. Both of these loves need each other because they complement one another to help us both be passionate and genuine in loving and giving ourselves to those who are around us.
When we say that God is love, the love that we are talking about there is agape in Greek and caritas in Latin. This is the personal, intimate, self-donating, sacrificial, faithful, persevering, and deep love that comes from the very understanding, existence, and reality of who we are! In other words, agape is genuine, self-giving love in action. However, agape love is not the only thing that exists. We also need the passionate, relational, attractive, appealing, and sentimental side of love, else life would be dull and incomplete. We call this love eros, hence the common misnomer and understanding of erotic. Without a doubt, eros and agape are parts of who we are, different types of love for different times and seasons of life, whether it is the willingness to be motivated and driven at times or to be faithful and self-giving at others.
Passion and faithfulness have to go hand in hand. Attractive, dreamy, thoughtful, and human qualities of love are good! They are not bad, and we do need them, but they are not the only ones that we live, judge, or understand the quality of life and love. Perhaps the natural void and emptiness that get created when eros is gone intensified many people’s misunderstanding and struggles the most. People often think that they have fallen out of love with the other person, lost their passion in life, no longer feel attracted, attentive, or focused on the initial matter, hence no longer have the will to go on. When eros runs dry, people quickly think about giving up! That is why those are the times when we need to ground ourselves in agape. Contrarily, when things get dry, it does not mean that life or love is not meaningful anymore, we just need to learn how to love in different, creative, personal, intimate, and self-giving ways.
I have “fallen in and out of love” — the eros-based love — with the priesthood many times in life. There were many times when the dream, what I thought would or should be, or the passion-based love for the priesthood were not there anymore! Those were the times when temptations and despair crept in, the Devil played with my mind, and my thoughts made things overwhelming as if there is nothing left to live for. Those were times of desolation, but they were also moments when God invited me to seek agape love by going deeper, be grounded, draw life, be still, and remain faithful to the God-given decision made prior in peace even though there is not any more feeling or passion left.
I have heard people who go through these periods of dryness simply wanting to give up! Trust me, I had been there and done that. The temptations and despair were real because they seemed natural or so human at those times, too! Nevertheless, even in the valleys of dry bones, the deserts of nothingness, or dark storms that shake things up around us, God is still there. It is, therefore, important in those moments to turn to Him, to the relationships that nourish us, remain faithful, keep walking, and seek help as needed.
In times of desolation or depletion of eros-based love, we tend to give up, fill the void, medicate ourselves, numb the feeling of emptiness with the immediate gratification of lesser goods, or simply give up. Those who are the times when we need to reach out for help, be grounded in our relationship with God, as well as being honest, transparent, and accountable to our circles of support so we can find nourishment beyond the finite, limited, self-centered passion and dream that were only meant to be initial, temporary, or time-based springboards for something greater. We might not get what we want, and that is OK. We might not get to live our childhood or grand dream and passion, and that is OK. Just remember that we do not always get what we want, but we are always called to love! We can never stop loving, perhaps just in different ways than we used to know or have come to be comfortable with. When eros runs dry, do not forget to burrow, be grounded, and choose agape love!
Throughout the Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ talked much about the trials and tribulations that will happen at the end times. He did not mince His words! He did not tell them the things people wanted to hear, things that seem to be motivational and inspirational. He spoke the truth in love — radical, self-giving, transformative, faithful, and everlasting love — that is beyond anything that this world can offer, try to scare, or do their best to deter us. Jesus dared His disciples to love as He did!
The early Christians experienced many of those things in their own times and thought it was the end; and many believers, too, experienced trials, tribulations, and persecutions throughout the world’s history and thought it was the end time, but we are still here. No matter what trials, hardships, temptations, or manipulative measures that this world may throw at us, we need to not give up just yet! The Lord reminded us that we will suffer much. We may at times, be betrayed and handed over by the ones who are dear to us, hated by all because of the truth and who we are as His disciples, but not a hair on our head will be destroyed. He did say in Luke 21:19 to us who are His disciples that, “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”
Choose Christ! Choose to love and remain in love in good times and in bad. Choose to give ourselves in sickness and in health. Choose to care and to be faithful through our perseverance now and for the rest of our lives. Please remember that when we speak of God‘s for us, we are reminded and called to understand and commit our love to Him as well! Therefore, when eros runs dry, especially in times of trials, nothingness, passionless, shattered dreams, the valley of dry bones, or endless desert, be focused, stay strong, be grounded, and choose to give life through the real, personal, and intimate agape.
When the temptation to fall out of love is strong, personally choose to give and stay in love with God! God is love! When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke about love, especially in the hard times, He spoke about this agape and caritas — self-donating, giving, willing the good of the other, persevering, faithful, personal, intimate, and everlasting — love. As a matter of fact, He did not just speak about love with empty words or short-lived passion, He chose to love even when He was betrayed, forgotten, abandoned, ignored, handed over to die, suffered tremendously, and ultimately rejected by His own people!
Christ gave Himself up on the Cross so that we have life in Him. He continues to give Himself in the Eucharist so that we are nourished by Him. God is love and this love is everlasting, self-giving, sacrificial, personal, and intimate! So, if we have received Him who have given us His everything on the Cross and every time at Mass, we should also choose to love as He did by willing the good of the others, choosing to do what is right, persevere, stay faithful, and give ourselves genuinely in every situation to every person. Let us choose to love as He did for God is love!