What is the strongest substance known to man? On the Moh’s scale, it is diamond, which is a 10. To be more precise, the hardest substance now known to man is aggregated diamond nanorods or, ADNRs, which are an allotrope of carbon believed to be the hardest and least compressible known material, as measured by its isothermal bulk modulus; aggregated diamond nanorods have a hardness measure of 491 gigapascals (Gpa), while a conventional diamond measures 442 GPa.
Or, if you like science fiction, the adamantium of Wolverine’s skin (X-men) is the hardest substance known to man, “adamantine” meaning unbreakable. True, adamantium can be destroyed through very precise molecular rearrangement, such as when it is altered by Thanos while wearing the Infinity Gauntlet – if you want to get technical.
But I know a substance, a thing, that is stronger by far. It has the power to mutate math so that 1 + 1 = 1, and it has even been known to make 1 + 1 +1 = 1. It is impervious to all evil and cannot be destroyed by it. It can prolong life when all other antidotes fail, and the lack of it has been known to cause a slow and agonizing death. It has the power to bind people together like some biological super glue, and it has the power to compel a man to give up his life for someone else. By it, slender women have been turned into She-Hulks so that they can rescue their toddlers trapped under cars.
It is love.
It is the greatest commandment, and it is the second greatest commandment.
It is the one debt that we owe to each other, for asSt. Paulsays: “Owe no man anything except to love one another” (verse 8).
Paul has been talking about the Law and that we are not saved by keeping the Law. In fact, we are all lawbreakers and unable to keep the Law. But the power of love is so great that it, alone, of all things can enable us to keep the Law, for he who loves has fulfilled the Law. All the commandments, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” “Thou shalt not covet,” and all the others are all summed up by one commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
But where shall we obtain this strongest, most precious, substance? Only from God, who Is Love, and only by first loving Him with all our heart and soul and mind. Every commandment, all 612 of the Old Testament, were given to teach us love, either for God or neighbor. Even a law such as the law of the ox that gores is about love. Why would God stoop to make a law about an ox that is known to gore people and to hold its owner accountable for what the dumb ox does? Because an owner who has an ox that is known to gore people and does nothing about it is not loving his neighbor as himself.
“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (verse 10).
What happens when we put Romans 12:1 and Romans 13:8 together? Clarity and a call.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Go, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Owe no man anything except to love one another.”
Love is the chief means by which we offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, acceptable to Him. It is by love that can withstand the pressures of this world to conform us to its image. I picture one of those monstrous machines that compresses a chopped up car into a solid block of metal-plastic waste. That’s what the world does to each of us, unless we have the power of God’s love within us. In that case, the dark Satanic mills and machines of the word grind to a halt, they huff and they puff and they paw their impersonal feet and hiss and pop, but are powerless to change us. By love, we are transformed from the grotesque deformities of the image of God back into His image, the image of His Son.
But love is a sacrifice: to love you must give up yourself to another. To God, this is natural and delightful. But to man, it is loathsome and weak and unnatural and hard.
Love is the armor of love by which we withstand the pressures of the world, and that armor of God is none other than Christ Himself, the love of God incarnate in us. To put on Christ is to put on love, and to put on love is to put on Christ.
Put on Christ, and you will not need to worry about the Law because love will by its very nature keep the Law. But to love the Law is not a restraint but a wife with whom it is one flesh. To love the Law is not to see the Law as the Law that must be kept but which love really doesn’t want to: it’s the Law that is one flesh with love and also its desire and end.
But this work of casting off darkness and resisting the world is contrary to our old man. And therefore in this world love is sacrifice: it is a giving up of oneself to another, God or neighbor, even when doesn’t want to.
But love has a yet stranger power. Love that begins by sacrificing for the good of another, even when it doesn’t want to, eventually is transformed by its own power into a love that truly desires to do what is loving, in spite of the cost to itself.
Love is the power of God and the power of the Cross. It is the mark of one touched by grace and who lives by faith.
It is the power of the Father and the Son and the Spirit to be one God, and it is the power of God made man in Christ. And now it is also the power of God in you.
It is love. And it is the strongest, most precious substance known to man.
Prayer: Ah Lord God, Thou holy lover of my Soul, when Thou comest into my Soul, all that is within me shall rejoice. Thou art my Glory and the exultation of my heart. Thou art my Hope and Refuge in the day of my trouble.
Set me free from all evil passions, and heal my heart of all inordinate affections, that being cured and thoroughly cleansed, may I be made fit to love, courageous to suffer, steady to persevere. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing fuller or better in heaven and earth; because Love is born of God, and cannot rest but in God, above all created things.
Let me love Thee more than myself, let me love others as Thou wouldst have me do, let all I do show that I truly love Thee, as the law of Love commandeth, shining out from Thyself. Amen. (Thomas a Kempis)
Points for Meditation:
1. How have you experienced the love of God in your life?
2. How have others shown you love?
3. What sins or other problems in your life would love solve or resolve?
Resolution: I resolve to dedicate myself today to performing one specific act of love toward God or neighbor.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day