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The Joy of Love

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Perhaps one of the most famous passages about love is Paul’s description of the qualities of love found in 1 Corinthians. Notably absent is any notion of love as a vehicle for personal fulfillment, but rather, how love must lead us toward the dignity of the human person that leads us toward joy. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis delves more deeply into the writings of Paul to expound on what the qualities of love should mean in our lives.

Paul begins his passage with the patience of love. In patience, the lover must not only avoid giving offense but take deliberate action (Francis 91). None of us are perfect and it is unreasonable to have an expectation that any person or any personal relationship can be perfect. Without patience, we will always be disappointed that we lack that perfection that we think should exist. However, in love we should recognize, accept, and respect the dignity of the other (JPII 221). True love requires deep compassion for others, in spite of the conflict between reality and expectation.

In contemporary culture, love is often reduced to feeling or sentiment. Kindness should not be understood in such a way, but as an imperative to do good (Francis 94). The willing of the good of another should be accompanied by action to support the will. The passive will of love is a shallow kind of love, not the kind of love that seeks communion with the beloved. Yet, practical acts of charity are insufficient without the love to accompany them. The lover “must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift” (Benedict XVI 34).

Love is not about how I feel nor about what benefit I can gain from it. Love in this way is inordinately directed inward whereas it should be directed outward. If love is understood this way it is transient and ephemeral, subject to whim and often changing. Modern culture suffers profoundly because it does not adequately understand the underpinning of every human desire: the love by which we are made and cannot live without (John Paul II 223). This kind of love requires the good of the beloved and to be in relationship with them. This entails self-denial for the sake of the other. This kind of love rejoices in the right.

We rejoice in the dignity of the other without a hint of egoism or self-benefit (Francis 109). Joy is not possible without the ability to rejoice in the well-being of others. Otherwise, we reject the good of others by taking joy in their failure. This kind of ego-comparison can perhaps lead to a temporary and fleeting happiness, but it is always a game of loss. In the end, none of our accomplishments will last and the only thing left will be the love of persons.

When understood properly love is a source of unending joy. This kind of love prepares the way for freedom of excellence and true human flourishing. This love must be focused on the other without undue selfish motivation. Pope Francis, through the words of Paul, helps to demonstrate the qualities that true love has which helps point us toward the joy which each of us seek.


Works Cited

John Paul II. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2007.


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