“Can’t buy me love”

Larry King’s interview a few years ago with Ringo Star and Paul McCartney, the two surviving Beatles, brought back a lot of memories.

As a child of the sixties I still enjoy the music that made that group famous. They produced one hit after another and their songs are still popular among people of all ages today. Just turn on any oldie station and you will hear what I mean.

One Beatle song that has floated in and out of my mind lately is the tune, “Can’t Buy Me Love.” And how very true this statement is.

In my work with young adults, especially on college campuses, I have listened to many love stories. The joy and pain experienced in these relationships were expressed in many ways. Students, like all of us, want to be loved. We all want to be special to somebody.

A hard lesson learned by most of us, especially in the days of our youth, is that true love cannot be bought or manipulated. No matter what we do, none of us can make another person love us. Real love is a gift freely given. The same holds true for God.

God’s love is constant and unconditional. Even though we read this over and over in the Scriptures, we sometimes behave as if we have to earn God’s love. Too many of us have the attitude that if we do certain things then God will really love us. We think that if we obey and live the golden rule we will get a kind of credit with the Lord.

It’s like when I was a kid, there was a time when I kept track of the number of years out of purgatory I accumulated by the indulgences I earned for saying certain prayers. Looking back I can hardly believe that I thought the more I prayed and did good things the more God would love me. Today this sounds so ridiculous, but I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one who thought it was true.

Fortunately we don’t have to do anything for God to love us or to earn our salvation. Jesus saved us and revealed God’s abundant love. However, does the fact that there are no conditions on God’s love mean we can behave any way we want and still stay in God’s good graces?

If the question is, “Will God always love us?” the answer is yes. However, like in all relationships, God’s love has to be accepted and reciprocated. Unlike most of our human brothers and sisters, God never stops loving us. Nothing we can do, even sin, can destroy God’s faithful and lasting love.

When we sin and walk away from God, He waits for us to return. God never withdraws his love. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son, God continues to love us even when we fail.

Sad to say, some of us are like the older brother in the story. We think that if we obey all rules and do what is expected of a good Catholic, God should certainly love us. Our thought, often unconscious, is that the more good works we do the higher the place we will get in heaven.

It is a relief to know that we can’t, and don’t have to, do anything to earn God’s love. God just loves us. God made us and Jesus saved us out of pure love. There are no strings attached. God’s love is a free gift.

This belief in God’s unconditional love should transform our lives. When we truly believe someone loves and respects us it motivates us to spread that love to others. There is a domino effect. When we are loved by another person we want to be the best we can be for that person. Our motivation is not to get something in return but simply because we want to share our love.

When we become convinced of the unconditional and faithful love of our God we will be motivated to live lives that please God. We will desire to live God’s word and be better lovers. And when we fail, and we will, we will have the assurance that God is always ready and willing to forgive us. God’s love knows no bounds.

We can’t buy love but we can certainly spread the love that God has lavished on us.

Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind. Contact her at mlavonis@cscsisters.org.