Love will never be silenced

The other evening I was visiting a friend at a nursing home. As we were returning to her room, we approached a resident who was crying. This was a resident with dementia. I told my friend that I’d catch up with her in a few minutes. I stepped near the resident who was crying. I asked what was wrong. In an instant she had let go of her walker. She was holding onto me and crying on my shoulder. I thought, “OK Lord, what do I do now?” 

I listened. She told me she had been coming here for years, but now she could not pay. She was afraid. The part of my brain that loves puzzles figured out that she thought she was on vacation. I smiled and told her things would be OK. I said that I’d pay. She stopped crying. She said, “You would do that for me?” I led her towards where we could “pay” (nurse’s station). A visibly tired CNA saw us as she turned the corner. She gently asked, “What’s up?” She reminded the resident that it was her bath night. I moved ahead to whisper to the CNA. The look on her face plainly said she thought I was crazy. However, suddenly she giggled. She smiled and spoke to the resident. She said, “You’re all paid. Let’s go to the hot tub for a special bubble bath.” The resident calmly went to her bath. 

Even though disease had ravaged her brain leaving many deficits, the disease couldn’t stop the resident from recognizing and appreciating the agapé love given in the TLC shown by the CNA. This is because such love is of God. Charles Morgan said, “There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is God’s finger on man’s shoulder.” 

Kahlil Gibran said, “Work is love made visible.” All day the CNA had been showing her love to all the residents she assisted. Her job was to ensure the physical needs of the resident before her. At that moment though, she had a choice as to what level to try to reach the resident. She reached deep within to find then share God’s love. Karl Menninger said, “Love cures people — both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” The CNA’s light-hearted reaching out and the resident’s tranquil response each, in its own way, reflects God’s gift of peace to the hearts of those who choose to live in His love. That peace and joy is the “cure” of which Menninger speaks.

There is this persistent and false idea that in order to love deeply one has to love one person (or group of people) and reject all others. Political leaders were frightened by Jesus’ idea of one’s neighbor defined as each and every one of God’s children. In their fear, they branded Jesus as “not one of us.” They had Jesus crucified in an attempt to bring to an end His radical ideas. 

Instead, Jesus’ death served to inspire communities founded on love. Jesus’ words: “I give you a new Commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should also love one another. That is how all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13: 34). Community members took care of everyone — even their persecutors! The politicians must have wondered what the secret was.

In essence, God followed the revelation of the Commandment to love one another with the gift to make fulfilling that Commandment possible. God sent the Paraclete to provide wisdom to be able to live in love in any situation. In addition, the Holy Spirit gives each of us different gifts by which we can actively share God’s love with the world. As St. Paul says, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Cori 12:7).

Oscar Hammerstein said, “A bell is not a bell till you ring it. A song is not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart isn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.” The secret is that the more one loves, the more one can love. That is the essence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. As Kahlil Gibran reminds us, when we love we are in the heart of God. In choosing to share God’s love with the world, one has tapped into God’s infinite love and mercy. Even better, we are not only allowed to, but are encouraged to continually tap into this power. Are you connected? Can you feel the power? If not, reach for the peace and joy that is to be found in living within the heart of God. If you do know and feel the power, share with others this wonderful mystery of our Christian faith. 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River.

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