God Is Love

The day that Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, was published, I left my building for lunch and found myself in the elevator with two young women.

Believe it or not, they were not discussing the document. Let’s listen in.

“But have you seen their salads?,” Woman #1 asked. “They use the same lettuce for the salad that they use for the sandwich and that’s, like, so not what a salad is supposed to be.”

“I know!,” replied Woman #2. “The salads are so lame. It’s like, you know, vegetables and chopped lettuce and like, shouldn’t, you know, a salad be big leaves?”

“Exactly!,” Woman #1 said. “A salad is everything—but without the bread, you know?”

“Yeah!”

“I mean,” Woman #1 continued, “you can have, like, tuna salad and I guess chicken salad. But you know what I mean, right?”

“Uh huh.”

The doors opened and we made our way out into the lobby and headed for the street.

“And sometimes the salads are so small,” Woman #2 complained. “Why do I even bother?”

“Yeah, right. And you know, I like, try to eat salads a lot so I’m like, saying that I’m healthy, but the stuff they gave you is just so not worth it.”

“Uh huh.”

We parted ways on 57th Street. My head hurt. I have no idea who the women were, or where they were eating, or who was responsible for this crime against lettuce.

But as I walked up the street, my thoughts turned back to the pope’s encyclical. I had read some excerpts that morning.  It is a passionate plea for love—true Christian charity, the kind that takes our faith back to its very roots. The encyclical is about pouring out one’s life for another—giving body and spirit and soul to another child of God, for that very act leads us closer to Him, who is love. God is love. Yes. Deus Caritas Est.

Benedict has spent considerable time and energy writing about how we are to enact that love, and bring it to the wider world. He has taken the grand view of history—and the grand view of the Church, I think. Instead of engaging in quibbles and quarrels about liturgy or theology—what many expected from the man some called the Enforcer—he stood on a hill and surveyied the landscape. What was missing? Love. (Cue Burt Bachrach: What the world needs now is love, sweet love …)

The Gospel is so clear. Love one another. It seems so simple—and yet it is so hard.

I picked up my sandwich at the corner deli, and headed back to my office. I didn’t see the women from the elevator anywhere. But I realized that if I am to take Benedict’s teaching to heart, I need to love everyone—even strangers I bump into on the elevator.

God help me.

Let us ask for divine guidance.  Let us strive to give of ourselves. Let us seek to be understood—and to understand.

Let us love.

And, of course: Let us love lettuce.

Amen.

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