By Sister Denise Colgan
Music legend Tina Turner released one of her biggest hits in 1984. In it, she asked an essential question: “What’s love got to do with it?” During this fourth week of Advent, perhaps it would be a good idea to ask ourselves the same question. What does love have to do with our journey through these last days of preparation?
It would be easy at this point to ascend to the flowery heights of figurative language and paint a rapturous picture of love with words. There would be nothing wrong with a picture like that; our faith rests on the belief that all creation is beloved by God. This love is all-inclusive, all-merciful and unconditional to a degree we can scarcely take in; even when we may exasperate God—and, like Ahaz, the evil king of Judah, we “do not ask for a sign”—God is there, providing what we need, not impeded by anything that would stop divine generosity. Indeed, the psalmist and Paul both seem to speak in awe of God’s presence with us. With lofty images and tone, they both convey the utter magnitude of God’s love and care for us. What better example of this than God becoming human, and making the ultimate sacrifice to save us from death and destruction and separation? We are gifted with so many individual and communal examples of God’s faithful love every day. Maybe, then, we need to ask a slightly different question: What does our love have to do with these days of Advent?
Everyone has their own favorite understanding about what the nature of love is. I can only suggest that, in part, it is a choice that binds us to one another, and to God. It is what reminds us that we are all in this lifetime journey together. As members of the human family, our hearts can swell and forget all else but the others before us when we dive into love’s depths or let ourselves be enveloped by its acceptance and affection, as well as its hope, peace and joy. That is love at its finest. That is when the connections between God, our individual selves and one another are at their strongest.
That is not to say that love is always easy. It can sometimes seem so; however, it can also be very difficult. Joseph was faced with an almost impossible dilemma. What the angel told him must have stretched the boundaries of his understanding of reality. The emotions that must have roiled through him surely caused him great confusion and perhaps, also, wonder. Nonetheless, Joseph could let himself go in the process of responding in love to both God and Mary. I believe he did not forget himself, or deny his turmoil. I believe he merely laid his burden down. Perhaps he was able to surrender in the moment, to look beyond anger, disappointment and hurt to make that leap of faith into love, with love, and for love.
In these few remaining days of the Advent season, when we take a few quiet moments to breathe and remember what this time is about, we may ask the question, “What does love have to do with it?”