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  • Writer's pictureFr. Gustavo

Packing love for the journey

"And the greatest of these is love..."

You faced the dreaded moment before. It is the last day of a long holiday trip, your clothes all neatly folded. Alongside and spread all over the bed there are one thousand and one gifts for family and friends, mementos from your trip. Menacingly looking at you are the open jaws of an all too small bag.

You already discarded all socks, the worn out but extremely comfy sneakers, a couple of t-shirts that not even Goodwill would take, and a few buys that were pushed on you at the tourist traps.

As the clock ticks you begin to try squeezing stuff one way or another to find yourself starting all over again. Buy another bag and pay extra baggage fee? Nope. Shipping? Price and possibly custom fees? No way! An extra carry on? You already have your backpack filled to the brim, the carry on, a neck pillow, the tablet case, your jacket. Just one more thing and they’ll make pay for an extra seat! I know how you may feel. I’ve been there too.

I am not an “influencer” or a packing whisperer. But over the years I found that the best way to pack whatever appears unpackable is to place at the bottom, the largest and oddest shaped object. Never mind if it doesn’t go all the way to the corners. But once you find the best fit, start filling all the nooks and crannies created in the process with everything else. You may be surprised finding out how much you can stuff in such a way.

The packing experience, it seems to me, is an excellent illustration of what St. Paul meant in writing about the greatness of love.

For true love is unwieldy, challenging, and certainly at times uncomfortable. Made-for-TV love is wine, roses, and the couch. The gift of love, on the other hand, pushes us hard into areas where out of fear we wouldn’t go. For loving from a distance is easy – we all love God’s children, isn’t it?

But what about the cantankerous neighbor, the nagging boss, or the girl from a different race that your son insists dating? What about the people with whom we may not share absolutely nothing but just being brothers and sisters in Christ? What about those that we would not give them the time of day, but for whom Christ died on the Cross?

What about those who should have known better? Or the run-away girl that found herself pregnant at sixteen? What about those who are trying to find out who they really are – but whom God knew before they were born?

Love is an odd-shaped gift. Love will push our boundaries. Love will stretch out our hearts and will push hard so that we finally have room to pack into our lives God’s gifts of hope, mercy, and compassion.

In the original language, the word usually translated “greatest” is “mega” which not only speaks about importance but about size. Let me suggest that until we learn to pack God’s mega love first into our hearts, there will little room left for other gifts. If we pack God’s love first, we will soon find that more room would be available for other gifts. And, as a further blessing our heart will be enlarged to receive even more and more.

And then, one day at the end of our journey, we will be surprised to find out that the gifts of hope, mercy, grace, compassion, and kindness that we spread with generosity not only transformed the lives of many, but in fact, transformed us into the likeness of He who loved us to the end.

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