love is what we are born to do

In 1981 Pope John Paul II wrote a letter on marriage and family life (Familiaris Consortio) built around the principle that human beings are made for love. Learning to give and receive love is not an option for us, John Paul II reasoned, but an unceasing need and an inescapable responsibility because it is what God brought us to life to do. Fashioned from love, we become ourselves in loving and being loved. We are, as biologists might put it, genetically wired to love. In more theological language, it is everyone’s lifetime vocation; it is what every human being is called to do. “God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman,” John Paul II wrote, “the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” Nobody escapes the call to love. I can run from it and spend my life contradicting it, but that will be a terribly expensive choice because I cannot erase the most persistent need of my nature. As Vincent Genovesi observes, “Because we are created for love, nothing else can fulfill us ultimately; lacking fulfillment, we cannot be truly happy. In light of our destiny, our only chance for lasting happiness is our persistent willingness to love.” This does not deny that loving well is hard work, or that there are sometimes deep hurts and unbearable losses in love. But it is hard to give up on love, and awfully hard to stop wanting to be loved, because giving and receiving love is what we are born to do: “Love is not an option for human beings, it is a requirement. It is the most profound statement of who we are.”

Happiness and the Christian Moral Life: An Introduction to Christian Ethics. By Paul J. Wadell

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