Pentecost +20

When I was a kid, my sister had this awesome Buick Regal, maybe a ’77 or ’78, and she was the type of girl who had, like, 100 cassette tapes in her car. My favorite tape cover was Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell, which had a rocker guy busting out of a graveyard on a Harley while being chased by the devil. Twenty years after that Meat Loaf released Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, and he finally had a number one hit in both England and the U.S., with I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). The video seemed to be on a constant loop on MTV, back when MTV played music videos; Michael Bay spent more money on that video than the budget for Four Weddings and a Funeral, which came out the same year. The song spurred lots of controversy, because what “that” might be that Meat wouldn’t do for love is still up for discussion, but I do find it interesting that there was at least one thing Meat wouldn’t do for love, despite his enthusiasm otherwise.

There wasn’t much that we know of that Jesus didn’t do for love; even if we concede that Jesus and Meat Loaf were probably after different types of love, Jesus didn’t even say no to the Cross when it came to love. We are, in some ways, bombarded with and, especially if you’re a teenager, completely confused by love.

“It means sex to some. Thrill to others. Feeling wonderful to most. Love should fix things, change them, renew them. It ought to make us feel better about ourselves and the world. It must make life light and easy, a joy, an ecstasy, bliss. As (another) song says, “Love is all you need.”

“Imagine the embarrassment and confusion then, when such a word, in the ironic play of God and the transcripts of history, shows up as the summation of the law and the prophets….(Jesus) was responding to a question posed by a lawyer, of all people, who was wondering which commandment of the law was the greatest. His response? “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Now at first sight this answer was not earthshaking in its originality. The great Shema, a prayer that devout Jews recite every morning and night, is straight from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:5). This command to love God absolutely was to be “written on the heart” and drilled into the memory of every child. Mary, we may suppose, did her job.

“The second part of the answer—“You must love your neighbor as yourself”—is lifted from Leviticus (19:18). What might have raised some eyebrows is that Jesus puts both of these commands on equal footing. The second is just like the first: our love of neighbor mirrors our love of God. Jesus, mind you, was not asked for two great laws, but he gave two as one. The entire will of God and purpose of our life is to love God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves.”1

Uh-oh. That almost sounds like the purpose of our life is not to make ourselves happy. Or to find our best life now. Or to follow our dreams, or, God help us, our hearts.

Love, rather, “involves heart and will, soul and life, mind and strength. It requires a covenantal fidelity. It makes demands. Love is not mere ardor; it is arduous. With Jesus, love is (practically) irksome. Not only does he identify love of neighbor with our love of ourselves and of God; he makes it quite clear that love is serving others, even laying down our lives for them.”2

That doesn’t sound too much like Meat Loaf chasing Dana Patrick around Greystone Mansion dressed up like Beauty and the Beast. It sounds like love can be hard work. It sounds like love demands that we always want the best for the other, even if that involves us taking second best, or maybe taking nothing, or maybe even sacrificing everything. If that sounds like Jesus, that’s because Jesus did do anything and everything for love, the love of His Father and the love of us. Now it’s up to us to do the same.

1John Kavanaugh, S.J.


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