When John Paul II was elected Pope, I read some of his poems, among them “The Goldsmith’s Shop”. It tells the story of a woman who was abandoned by her husband and decided to sell her wedding ring. The goldsmith weighed it and, looking at the woman, asked her: “The ring weighs nothing. The scales don’t even move. Is your husband still alive? Because my scales have a special power: they weigh not the metal, but everything in people.
A married person weighs nothing alone. Among friends, only love that has been reciprocated tips the scales. In a community or family, only the love that is shared, that which serves others, is of value. “Love is my weight,” said St. Augustine. He meant love of God and love of neighbour. Selfish love is light as the wind. It weighs absolutely nothing.
Pedro Casaldáliga drank this song from the fountain of St. Paul:
If I had in me
all the radio stations
the rock stages of the whole world,
the pulpits and the professorships
all the parliaments, but I had no love
It would be just… noise and just noise.
If you had the gift to fill stadiums
and perform miraculous cures
and a so-called faith, capable of moving
mountains, but had no love
It would just be… a religious circus.
If you distributed it in Christmas hampers
and charity parties
the goods he had earned – good? bad? who knows?
Who knows? –
and even spent my health
to be more efficient, but without love
I would be only… a pure shadow.
The patient is love and is available
like a mother’s lap.
It has neither envy nor pride.
He does not seek profit like the banks,
but knows how to be free and supportive,
like the Christmas table.
does not tolerate injustice, never,
celebrates the truth.
It knows how to wait, impertinent in forcing
the door of the future.
The love that weighs, that is worth, that counts, is this love that is available, this humble love that is given without bills, free and without charge.
The fact is that love is counterfeited as a branded product. Love written, love sung, love filmed, love put on the floor, love pasted on the walls. Mere sexual attraction or even physical relations with a person without having any moral relationship with him or her is called love. The simple carnal act, performed without any kind of love, perhaps between strangers, is called “making love”.
Far be it from me to condemn love expressed in sexual self-giving. Christians see sex as one of the ways for the total encounter of two beings, soul and body. And there is nothing more beautiful or purer than this meeting of two beings, in mutual self-giving, mutual respect and mutual recognition. That love which seeks in the beloved not mere personal satisfaction, pleasure for oneself, but the happiness and perfection of both. This love has an infinite weight.
The same is true of another love that also tips the scales: the love between parents and children, between people who live under the same roof, with whom we work, with whom we travel, with whom we entertain ourselves. And the love professed to all human beings, especially the weakest and poorest.
I am more and more convinced that we are worth what our love is worth. And that if we clean our car, choose our clothes, go to the hairdresser, work out at the gym, we should also dedicate part of our time to taking care of our own heart. There live the feelings that make us happy or unhappy, useful or useless: aggressiveness, irritation, indifference, vile desires… or else kindness, gratitude, a kind word, a well-timed compliment, encouragement, an affectionate gesture.
Where our heart inclines, that is where we incline. We defend with all our intelligence and all our willpower what our heart desires. Love makes us blind to the faults of others or sheds light on their qualities. According to our heart, we see in every face a person or we are indifferent to an animal, a tree, a post or a machine. The heart chooses the ideas, the kind of relationships, the politics, the system we fight for. Love turns words into weapons or into bridges that unite and reconcile.
It is said that some people have “a heart of gold”. Next to them we feel beautiful because they give themselves as a gift. They share sympathy and generosity in handfuls and not in pharmacy doses. Everyday expressions: “hello, good afternoon, thank you, please, excuse me”, have weight, a tone and a cordial accent.
We hear all the time, and rightly so, that we have to control our body weight. Too much fat ruins our health. But let us not fear that it will increase the “weight” of our heart, the tonnage of our soul.
Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf
(PHOTO: Roman Kraft)