Introduction

The word “love” seems to be the most widely used and, at the same time, the most widely misunderstood. Many people use languages, signs and symbols to express their love for the people they consider dear to them. The million-dollar question that stands in need of an answer is, “What does the word love mean and what does it mean to love someone?”

This article seeks to expose the authentic meaning of the word love with the consideration that love is a language capable of being communicated and understood by all. In a world characterized by individualism, violence, hatred, subjectivity, selfishness and poverty, love is the answer to these predicaments, and the authentic meaning of love needs to be revisited. When we love, we don’t lose anything and we don’t regret anything.

The meaning of love

Generally speaking, to love is to desire and work for the good or the well-being of another person. Even though people understand love from different perspectives in society, authentic human love is but one reality. This one reality involves a perfect blend or harmony of two most important aspects of love: eros (understood purely as an emotional aspect of love) and agape (understood as the selfless or sacrificial aspect of love). If any of these two aspects is absent from the understanding of love, then what we have is not authentic human love but a caricature. In other words, we cannot truly say we love someone unless we actively seek or desire the good of that person in everything we do or say (agape). At the same time, we cannot humanly say we love someone if we are purely emotionless toward the person (eros).

Love as a language communicated and understood by all

Like every other language, love has its grammar (phonology, morphology, and syntax). St. Paul, the great apostle, teaches us the grammar of love in his first letter to the Corinthians when he writes: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….” (1Cor. 13:4-8).

The language of love is, therefore, built on the above virtues listed by St. Paul and everyone is capable of communicating and understanding this language of love. Love is the debt we owe to each other (Rom. 13:8) and the greatest sign of love is the Cross.

My personal experience of communicating love

I hail from the Southwest Region of Cameroon, Africa, and I was ordained a Catholic priest on the 30th of April, 2014, for service of the people of God in the Diocese of Kumbo (Northwest Region of Cameroon). I have been a priest for eight years. One of the most exciting moments in my life, when I had to communicate love to other people, occurred when I worked as an assistant coordinator of the Diocesan Social Welfare/CARITAS Office.

In this office, we had the task of catering for the needs of the people in the diocese and beyond. We provided pipe-borne water to over 61 villages and provided tuition to students. We also provided food for families and individuals, assisted in training about 700 young people in entrepreneurial skills and general education, and supported the victims of the ongoing crisis in Cameroon, etc.

What touched me most was the joy that the beneficiaries of these programs expressed whenever I visited them. Some of them did not speak the same language as I did, but our hearts spoke to each other and the language of love was at work. I can’t really express the joy/fulfillment I had assisting these persons and even now, when I come to think of it, I am filled with joy.

Needless to point out that I didn’t know most of these persons. There were people of different walks of life and religious beliefs. Coming to the United States of America and serving in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and precisely at St. Brendan the Navigator Parish, I have also come to experience excess of love from my pastor, parish staff, neighbors and members of the Greater Bay Area Ministry.

Conclusion

The world, our families, marriages, friendships and communities would be better if each and every one of us could communicate the language of love. It does not hurt to love because God is love. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1Jn. 4:16).

 

The Greater Bay Area Ministerium, an interfaith group, envisions a world in which faith unites, rather than divides people. It gathers monthly to support one another and our community. The group can be reached at 338-4482 or on its Facebook page, GBAM – Greater Bay Area Ministerium.