Would you do anything for love?

As a boy I remember being intrigued by my brother’s collection of rock music, especially their graphic album covers. Among them was the album of Meatloaf, A bat out of hell, whose stunning cover of the LP, showed a muscular biker bursting out of a graveyard on his powerful motorcycle with a rather large menacing bat hovering on a nearby tombstone. How appropriate for this Halloweentide! As well as great rock songs Meatloaf was also noted for epic explorations of the nature of love. In one of them he declared emphatically ‘I would do anything for love’, but added enigmatically ‘but I won’t do that.

Would you do anything for love, or are their limits?

In the marriage service bride and groom declare their unconditional love for one another; they vow to take each other as they are 'for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. There are no exceptions to these vows in the church marriage service. There is no, ‘but I won’t do that.’

On All Saints' Day, we celebrate those men and women who would do anything for love: love of God and love of neighbour; those people who made their life’s work the living out of the golden rule.

In St Mark’s Gospel, a scribe, a teacher of the Jewish law asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment. It is a direct question that receives a straight answer. In St Luke’s Gospel, the enquirer seeks to catch out Jesus and asks ‘who is my neighbour’ to which Jesus replies by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan and forces the scribe to answer his own question. The parable amplified the duty of care, for neighbour to include all with whom we come into contact.

But in Mark, Jesus replies directly, much to the satisfaction of the questioner.

The Eucharist in some churches still begins with the Summary of the Law, the law that should be engraved on our heart, and be at the centre of all we do and say as Christians. It emanates from the Jewish ‘Shema’, ‘hear O Israel that the Lord, your God is one……’ from the Book of Deuteronomy. The Shema should be said by Jewish people every morning and evening.  

To love God absolutely, completely, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is the obligation of every Christian. It is easier said than done, but it is a matter of priorities. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also, said Jesus. We will put most effort into what we consider most important; we may do anything for love. At times it is not easy to love, or be loving. There may be things we need to do, that we do not want to do. Sometimes we may have to love in spite of ourselves.

A friend of mine told there were times when he did not want to go somewhere or do something, when he had to force himself to go. But rather than go with an ill humour, he would  pretend that he was going to enjoy it, and with that disposition he often found that he did. A positive frame of mind produced a positive outcome. This can be part of loving with all our mind.

There may be times when are tired, mentally or physically but a need arises that demands our attention and we do it, out of love; we go the extra mile, we do our duty. And the satisfaction we may derive from doing it, greatly outweighs the guilt we would feel by not doing it. That can be loving with all our strength.

When we are passionate about something or something when we consciously put them at the centre of our lives,so that our love flows through our body like the bloodstream, that is loving with all our heart.

When all of this is married together, when love becomes our second nature, our automatic response and defines who we are as people, that is loving with all our soul.  

St Teresa of Avila saw this working out of love as spiritual union, like a marriage of the soul and God, where the two became completely united like rain in a river, or the flames of two candles burning together. She saw this coming together as a foretaste of the joys to come in heaven.

We celebrate this ultimate spiritual union in the saints, the church triumphant.  Inspired by their example may we strive to do anything for love, without exception.