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40 Days: Unbounded love


Welcome to 40 Days, a reflective journey for Eureka Street subscribers beginning Ash Wednesday and running through until Easter. Each week we’ll bring you a reflection on a theme, followed by some reading from our archives to help you reflect more deeply throughout the week. You might read them all at once, or sample one each day of Lent.

Our seventh reflection is from Andrew Hamilton SJ, and explores the theme of ‘Love’. 



Love is a much-used word, and like domestic cutlery it tends to lose its shine. Its boundaries then shrink to the average rather than to the inspiring. For that reason we need stories that stretch the ceiling of love beyond anything we could imagine. Not because we think that we could reach such far places but because it enlarges the horizon of our lives.

Primo Levi told one such story of the Nazi concentration camp. During a typhoid outbreak when the starved inmates were preparing to go out to forced work, one of them noticed a man ill with typhoid lying in his vomit on the floor. He then bent down, washed the man as best he could, found fresh straw for him to lie on, and went out to work. In a place where humanity and hope were systematically destroyed, such acknowledgment of a dying man’s dignity at the risk of infection was a radiant act of love.

That love, of course, is also the heart of the story of Jesus’ tortured death and rising from the dead at Easter. It speaks of love’s victory in the face of total rejection and of hope in a world that shut it out. 

These are stories of the extraordinary, of love that needed to be shown in order to be imagined. They alert us to other unnoticed but also extraordinary expressions of love in our domestic world. The love shown, for example, by a man caring for his partner suffering from dementia through and beyond the loss of recognition and human response. Or by a woman whose life revolves around a mentally ill child.  Such love stirs hope in a world where calculation always puts it under threat.

Have you known examples of such love that rides over the obstacles that make for despair? 




Easter manifesto

John Falzon writes, ‘Being moved to compassion can sound almost like an act of largesse on the part of a powerful monarch. The Greek of Matthew's Gospel, however, expresses this phrase with an earthy and painful sense of compulsion, a kind of tugging at the guts or churning of the stomach. Like how I felt the first time I met children and their parents living behind razor-wire at Villawood Detention Centre. Or how I feel listening to the stories of the Stolen Generations or Aboriginal deaths in custody, or read about yet another brutal bombing of the people of Gaza while the powers of the world seem to turn a blind eye.’ [From 2012]

Read more here. 


Michelangelo and my kids will haunt me

Bronwyn Lay writes, ‘The mother’s worst fear is to hold a dead child in her arms but all those who have loved know the same fear. The woman in ‘The Pieta’ didn’t know that times would change. She didn’t know that resurrection was possible; for in the fleshy world, all she saw was that everything she lived for lay in a dead heap over her live body. Her future was murdered. Taken from her by forces beyond her control. That’s how I feel about climate change.’ [From 2009]

Read more here. 


A spiritual reading of the Egyptian revolution

Henri Boulad SJ writes, ‘There are many modern examples of the paradoxical relationship between force and weakness. We need think only of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. All this shows that in our world, our history and our humanity exists a hidden force capable of sweeping aside everything in its way. We can ignore it or pretend to ignore it; we can try to crush, to suffocate it, to strangle or to break it. But one day it will finish up on top.’ [From 2011]

Read more here. 


Good news for all seasons

Clare Boyd-Macrae writes, ‘What is different about Christian journos, with our little, tin pot publications that are often slightly daggy and lame and embarrassing? What do we have to offer that other media don't? The only distinctive thing is that we do these things as people of the Christian story, a story that suggests, despite evidence to the contrary, that somehow, and we have no idea how, the last word in this life of ours, in this universe of ours is the same as the first word, and it is a Word of love.’ [From 2013]

Read more here. 


Love creates space for restorative justice

Andrew Hamilton writes, ‘To include love in penal justice may seem impossible. But recently in court a man was sentenced to jail for dangerous driving that led to the death of a young woman. Her father then embraced the driver. The health of the victims of crime and of the community depends on people trying to make the impossible possible.’ [From 2014]

Read more here. 




Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: (Getty images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, 40 Days, Lent, Love



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