Tenderness is the ability to feel with and for the whole person, to feel even the most deeply hidden spiritual tremors, and always to have in mind the true good of that person.
(Love & Responsibility, 207)
My vision of love is very soft and squishy. It is hand-holding in dusty summer streets and warm bodies on cold winter nights lit by candles.
It is dirty dancing in dark bars and laughing softly late at night.
It is sudden sweetness you never expected, and someone who was a stranger saying your name.
Each day, I find that weak vision of love challenged by something stronger.
Something sterner, grander, and more mysterious than I invent on my own.
It's a vision of love that permeates John Paul II's writings. It is challenging and startling.
It is much more other-centered than I can even begin to imagine, and ultimately more Joyful than anything we could create on our own.
It reminds me of how full of my self my vision of love is.
I was walking up to communion today, and I was smote by the realization of how generous Christ was: to not only die for me, but to make Himself available to me over and over and over again. That is an extreme sort of generosity.
The stark contrast between His love and my own selfish heart was almost too much for me to bear.
Turn around, I thought. You can't receive Him. Not like you are. You are too different than He is. You are staring Love Itself in the face. But there you are: dirty, selfish, dishonest, greedy, about to receive pure gift. You are so far from His goodness, the Sun and the moon are closer than His heart and your poor, stony heart. You are not worthy.
But what else am I to do but receive?
A broken person, struggling towards completion; a bent person, attempting to straighten myself.
The entire hope of the Eucharist is that its love is medicine. That we can be transformed into Him. That the food I consume does not become me; but I become the food that I consume. I become Him. I am transformed into an image of Christ, radiating His life wherever I go.
As I pray the prayer of John Cardinal Newman:
Lord, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go;
penetrate and possess my whole being that my life may be only a radiance of yours,
I am comforted by the knowledge that this dispersion of fragrance can occur even when I act like a total screw-up.
My prayer is that the fact of the Eucharist will continue, even if I cannot feel it, even if I do shoddy work of radiating that love.
Even if I do not always act in a way that manifests Christ, may Christ still make Himself known through me, imperfectly though I cooperate with that grace.
The fact of the Eucharistic transformation still takes place, and I must seek to cooperate with it, so that I may be transformed into that generous, constant, perfectly un-selfish love.
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
---Love (III), George Herbert