Hey, everybody–#LoveWins! #LoveIsLove! Now we’ve got marriage “equality”!
Right? Well…actually, no. The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has made clear that secular culture has little or no clue about the real meaning of love. And we Catholics are now struggling to understand how to express lovingly the truth about marriage and love itself.
Ironically, our attempt to do this is now called hate. Why? Because “love is love” is actually not love. It’s just a reflexive statement—a tautology—that means almost nothing.
H2O is H2O!
Ah, let us bow in awe at the profound simplicity of this statement! Things are what they are—who knew! Two hydrogen atoms plus one oxygen atom is what it is!
So, why can’t I sprint a 50-yard dash across a pond in summer?
Why can’t I go figure-skating on the fog?
Why can’t I do a high-dive at the Arctic Circle?
While a molecule of water is always H2O, it’s not always liquid, is it? And that changes what we can actually do with that molecule. You can drive a Mack truck through water vapor, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to do that through an iceberg.
H2O always “equals” itself, but solid ice is not liquid water, and neither of these is water vapor.
This is true about “love” as well. If we focus on the classic three-way understanding of love (setting aside a fourth known as “storge” or familial love—read C.S. Lewis’s “The Four Loves” for more on that), we can see that philia-love is not eros-love is not agape-love. Love is love, but different kinds of love have different requirements. Culture has simply decided to ignore the vital fact that eros-love applies to man and woman and not to two men or two women. Culture has decided to drive the Mack truck into the iceberg.
Hey, Catholics: Make Some PBJ Sandwiches…
So, how should Catholics respond to culture? Of course pray, study, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. But here’s another analogy to keep in mind—a hugely important one—if we are to proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season, we are called to combine two essential ingredients into one—truth and love. Love and truth. It can never be one or the other—it has to be both. Truth is like peanut-butter; love is like jelly. Put them together and start giving PBJ sandwiches to people who need the nourishment of both.
We cannot survive without either truth or love. We need both. We Catholics have both. And we are called to share both. Catholics need to make “truth-and-love sandwiches” to feed a culture that still cannot understand why “love is not love.”
There are times when people we encounter only want the “sugar” and not the “protein.” But that means their cultural PBJ isn’t made right—it’s missing the peanut-butter. Serve up the whole sandwich anyway. It’s not optional, and we’re not the Holy Spirit. We have to let the Holy Spirit do His job and help others understand their own hunger for both truth and love.
Keep in mind, the Holy Spirit owns the diner. We just make the sandwiches.
For a more eloquent (and magisterial) take on this, check out the first part of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”—it’s a breathtakingly beautiful description of the unbreakable bond between truth and love.