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  A Christian Faith Magazine February 2003, Volume 8, Issue 7  
Ti Voglio Bene
Rev. Paul Check
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Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa

What do you mean when you say "I love you?" In popular American culture, accurately (though sadly) represented by shallow and vulgar television programs and movies, these words have been given it shallow and vulgar meaning. " I love you" translates as "You have something that I Want" or "You can satisfy one of my needs or appetites." We can laugh at or scorn the way we see characters on TV behaving in the name of "love" and imagine that we are unaffected by their selfishness. But Catholics are not immune from being tainted by this understanding of the nature of love. Human society has been wounded since Original Sin, true, but the damage done by personal sin to our culture in recent decades has been enormous. We only have to consider the increase in the number of abortions. divorces, teenage pregnancies and suicides, sexually transmitted diseases, etc., to realize that our concept of love has been perverted. The instability of American family life: and the routine attack on innocent human life have their roots, as Mother Teresa would say, in a failure to teach people how to love.

The Italians have a couple of different ways of expressing love for another person, one of which is the phrase "Ti voglio bene." Literally translated it means, "To you, I wish well," or "To you, I wish the good." In other words, "I love you" really means "I want what is good for you." A noble or worthy human love has a kind of self-forgetfulness about it, because it concerns itself with what is best for the other person. In his well-know description of love in First Corinthians, St. Paul reminds of us of exactly this when he writes that love is patient, kind, without envy or self-importance, and that it does not become irritable or take pleasure in another's misfortunes. (I Cor 13:1-13)


Of course, St. Paul studied in the school of the Master of human and divine love, Jesus Christ, who said that "The Son of Man came nor to, be served, but to serve." (Mt 20:28) I think that we could properly say that Our Lord only "took" two things during His earthly life: our human nature and our sins. The rest of Jesus' life was spent giving, and in doing, He was teaching us how to love. Our Lord showed us that "I love you" means "I offer my life or you." In what is known as His "farewell discourse" to His disciples, Jesus said to them, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (In 15:13)

The day to day business of human love can be difficult, even discouraging. But our sacrifice and perseverance in desiring the good of those we love. never goes unnoticed or unrewarded. Pope Pius XII wrote, "There come at times in one's life days in which dawns the hour of heroism or victory, whose only witnesses are God's angels-and they invisible witnesses."

0 Lord, to each of us everyday You say, "To you, I wish the "good--the good of your soul." Transform our hearts by Your own self-forgetful love, that the love we in turn give to others may be generous, sincere, and lasting.

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