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In The Beginning: The Word

In this Advent series, Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann learns from Judaism as he prepares for the coming of the Messiah.

In the first episode, Deacon Pedro and Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich explore the meaning of words in Judaism.

Deacon-structing Creation: Part 1


Many people have asked me either how we came to work on a project about the environment, or how we ended up with the format that we ended up with. My response is always that we began with one question, “why should we care for the environment?” and we tried to be honest and thorough with the answers (I think you can do this with any question of Faith or Morality – if you are honest with the questions and with the answers, you will always arrive at Truth). Each response led us to more questions and that’s basically how Creation developed.

For most of us, it’s no surprise that we should take care of the environment. We are told that we need to take care of the earth; protect endangered species, minimise our waste, use less energy – For some, it’s to ensure a future for the generations to come; for others, it’s because the earth is sacred. Then, there are others who do not seem overly concerned. Still, we are bombarded with messages from both sides. And even those who agree that we should care for our planet do not agree on a more fundamental question: Why?

When you ask a Christian why we should care for the earth or even why we should care about caring for the earth, you may be told that the creation story from Genesis calls us to conquer the earth:

“God said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”

(Genesis 1:28)

Just looking at that passage led me to many, many more questions. To begin looking for answers I travelled to Houston, to the Faculty of Sciences at the University of St. Thomas (LINK). There I met Sr. Damien Marie Savino, FSE. She is a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and an Environmental Engineer. She is also the Chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Studies at the University. Since I met her in 2010, we’ve featured her many times on our Salt + Light programs. She became my partner in our quest to find an answer to our question.

Without giving it all away (we want you to watch the series), Sr. Damien did give us a few basic pointers about Catholic environmentalism (she’s been teaching this stuff for years). She also begins by looking at the book of Genesis:

“The fact that God said that it was good, I think reflects that intrinsic good, the beauty.”

In our series, we hoped to understand as much as possible what the Genesis creation story can tell us about creation. For example, according to Genesis, creation happens in a very orderly and hierarchical manner, from the least complex to the more complex. For Sr. Savino, just that knowledge fills her with a sense of wonder.

And so we couldn’t ignore the sense of wonder. That’s really where we felt it all begins. This is a quality that all humans have – we may lose it as we get older, but we all have it. I don’t think other creatures have the capacity to wonder at things. For many scientists, like Sr. Savino, this very quality is what leads them to love the science, and because they love it, they want to know more. Every scientist we spoke with said that this desire for learning always begins with a basic love that is rooted in our sense of wonder at things.

Sr. Savino remembers those feelings as a little girl climbing trees and playing outside. She describes it like this:

“When I went to university, I took a botany class and just fell in love with it again. And it really was… I’d say it’s a love relationship, not how you would love a person, but I just came to love creation. And I wanted to learn how to speak the language of creation.”

Pope Benedict introduced the term, “The Grammar of Creation”. This is what Sr. Savino discovered at a very young age – even before she thought she would ever be a religious sister. She wanted to be a scientist. We knew then that what the Church teaches about why we should care for creation includes learning to read that “grammar of creation”.

Something else we found –this time, by looking at creation itself— is that evolution paints a picture of creation that is full of variation and many different possibilities; it is a process that is excessive.

In episode one, Physics professor, Jim Clarage says:

“Nature doesn’t always find the minimal way or the easiest way to do things. In many ways nature is very extravagant. You could have had all of human salvation history with just one planet earth but now we know that’s no how it is. There are now thousands of planets we know actually exist around other stars, so you have to ask if God is going to create all of this and nature is going to do things the simplest way. Why making 10 billion is stars the simplest way to make a planet?”

The sense of wonder makes us want to learn about things, to study them, but more basically, it is what makes us want to take care of things. And the Genesis narrative reinforces this by telling us that God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31).

This, of course led us to the question of intrinsic goodness vs. instrumental goodness. Why are things good? If we study Genesis, we can see that they are both there. Perhaps one of the roots of the ecological crisis is that we do not find the balance between the intrinsic and the instrumental good of created things. If things are only good for their usefulness to us, then “subdue” and “dominate” mean something very different than if things are good just because they are.

When we looked at what the Catholic Church had to offer to this ecological debate, we felt that it was a ‘middle road’, so to speak. We don’t have to protect all of nature and never touch it. We can use it. But how do we do this while at the same time respecting the inherent goodness, or dignity of created things.

See how one answer leads to more questions?

And so we knew we had to look at the meaning of the word “respect.”

Come back next week and learn more about how we developed our series, Creation.

CNS photo/Edgardo Ayala


Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Faith, Hope and Love


Listening to all the readings at Mass about the end of times at this time of the year makes you wonder if we should be proclaiming them as “the Good News!” Recently while visiting my parents I found a book titled, “The Final Hour.” It’s about all the end-time prophecies. I have to be honest, that stuff scares me.

And I can’t help seeing the “signs of the times” in our time: earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, war, terrorism… It seems that in our day there is much suffering and destruction.

But the truth is that there has always been suffering and destruction. Did Jesus tell us to watch for those things because those things are happening all the time? Surely, at some level he was speaking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (which took place in the year 70AD under the Emperor Nero and the leadership of Vespasian – in fact, most Christians survived because Jesus had warned them about the signs and they ran to the hills). At another level, I do think that Jesus was warning us to be attentive all the time. Isn’t that what we try to remember every Advent?

At Advent we focus on the birth of Christ 2000 years ago, but also we look to his Final Coming. I think it’s a good time to think about where we are and where we are going.

At Halloween I wrote about our Catholic traditions with regards to the dead. My colleague Vivian Cabrera also wrote about the traditions in Mexico about the Day of the Dead. These celebrations are deeply rooted in the Catholic idea that we will one day die. This is not a ‘doom and gloom’ focus. It’s a very real (and hopeful) focus that we are headed home. And we may be asked to go at any time. This is why we must always be ready.

At the recent  75th anniversary celebration of my parish, Holy Martyrs of Japan in Bradford, Ontario, Toronto’s Archbishop, Cardinal Thomas Collins reminded us of an expression that I’ve always liked: “live today as if it was your first day; your last day; your only day.” Those are wise words. That is the reason for the Catholic tradition of “memento mori” – remember your death.

And it’s hard to not think of all of this in light of the war and terror that is happening today in the Middle East and in particular with the recent terror attacks in Beirut and in Paris. Did I say that this stuff scares me?

But to be afraid is not the appropriate Christian response.

Jesus Christ came to free us from fear. In fact He came to fill us with Faith, Hope and Love. Those are the things that should always motivate a Christian.

I heard an inspiring talk by a Sister of Life once in Vancouver. She asked us what the opposites of Faith, Hope and Love are.

  • Hope is an easy one. The opposite of Hope is despair.
  • Faith is having trust in God. When we do not trust in God, we trust in ourselves. That is pride. The opposite of Faith is pride.
  • Love is a bit harder. She argued that the opposite of Love is not hate; hate is a response. The real opposite of Love is fear. That is why we believe that perfect Love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).

Having this knowledge has made a significant impact in how I live my day-to-day. The enemy wants us to be motivated by pride, despair and fear. On the complete other hand, Jesus wants us always to be motivated by Faith, Hope and Love.

How do you live your life? When you make decisions, small and big, what motivates you? Do you respond mainly out of fear? Do you act because of pride? Are you living your life in a state of despair?

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is a feast to remind us that Jesus is the supreme ruler of our lives. He is the one who rules over us and we should have no other “kings” before Him.

The Kingdom of Jesus is one of Faith, Hope and Love. When we submit to Him and His reign we make a pledge to live by His rules. Do not let what you see in the news rule in your life. Do not let pride, despair or fear rule in your life or motivate your actions. The battle has been won. Jesus Christ is the King of the universe and his Kingdom is one of Faith, Hope and Love!

CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz


Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing The Cry of the Poor: part 2


Last week we learned that the Church loves the poor. We have what we call a “preferential option for the poor.” The Church has been very good at caring for the poor and the needy worldwide. So why did Cardinal Hummes of Brazil tell Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, to “remember the poor”?

Perhaps because the Church has been so good at caring for the poor, we: you and I, have neglected caring for the poor. Because we have the Missionaries of Charity and the Brothers of the Good Shepherd and so many other congregations dedicated to helping the poor and it’s easy to say, “oh, the St. Vincent de Paul Society does that” or “that’s why we have Share Life and they provide for all those agencies that do such good work.” So we don’t do it. All we do is write a cheque, or we don’t write a cheque because we know others will and we say “when I have a better job I’ll help the poor.” In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says that this option for the poor is not “a mission that is reserved only to a few” (#188). We must all have a preferential option for the poor. Because God has a preferential option for the poor. I have to be honest, I struggle with this. I have the same attitudes that many of us have. We think, “Why can’t they just get a job?” or “if they worked harder or made better choices they wouldn’t be in this situation.” These are attitudes that we have.

James 2:1-5 we read that if we go to a gathering and someone wearing fine clothes arrives and we say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor we say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” we have become judges with evil thoughts. If I walk past a homeless person and think, “why can’t she just get a job?” I am doing the same thing.

I’ve always been moved by that reading from the Letter of James. Who would you treat better if they came to your parish? Who would get more attention? A good-looking, rich, famous person, like George Clooney and his lawyer wife, or a smelly homeless person like Sherry (LINK TO PART 1) who talks to herself?

We must change our attitudes on the poor and the marginalized. For an explanation, I take a page from my friend  Joe Zambon. Joe is a Catholic singer/songwriter and wrote a song called, “Remember the Poor.” He says that he also struggled with this same question, “why should we care for the poor?” He realized that God prefers the poor because compared to God, we are all poor. When in the presence of God, all of us are poor beggars; we are all weak, blind, deaf, disabled; we are all orphans and refugees; we are all slaves. That’s why Jesus constantly cared for the poor and the sick. That’s all over the Book of Isaiah and in other books of the Prophets it says that when we arrive in the Promised Land the blind will see and the deaf shall hear – that’s a message we’ll hear constantly during Advent. When we arrive at our final destination we will be poor no more.

But for now, we are poor. And because we are a people of signs and symbols – we live in a material world and so we have physical signs that point to something spiritual, something greater (that’s why we have Sacraments) – every time we care for the poor we are reminded of how God cares for us, who are poor, and how much we need God. There is no one who has ever lived or who is alive today or who will ever live who does not need God.

But Pope Francis wants us to do more than just care for the poor. Listen to what he writes in The Joy of the Gospel.

“This option – as Benedict XVI has taught – is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty. This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us… in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelised by them…. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.” (#198)

We are called not just to care for the poor but to be poor ourselves. Again, I struggle with this. This past Summer I interviewed another Catholic songwriter, Fr. Richard Ho Lung for a Perspectives on Consecrated Life– he founded the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica. Fr. Ho Lung was a Jesuit priest, like Pope Francis – he taught at a prestigious Jesuit school in Kingston, Jamaica – but felt that he could not ignore the poor. He needed to live with the poor. So he did. He founded the Missionaries of the Poor, a community that now exists in many countries. I asked him if it wasn’t enough that we only cared for the poor. Do we also have to be poor? He said, “Absolutely!” It’s not enough to just care for the poor; we have to be a poor Church for the poor.

Did I say that I struggle with this? I don’t think anyone is saying that we have to sell everything we own and give it to the poor – but let me leave you with this: Perhaps we need to pray and meditate on what it means to be poor. Can we simplify our lives? Do I really need three TVs? Do I need 25 pairs of shoes? Do I need to have a café latte every day on my way to work? Can we get rid of things that make it harder for us to depend on God? That’s why Jesus says that it’s very difficult for a rich person to enter Heaven. When we are rich, we have it all, we are not in need and we can solve all our own problems. When we are poor, we have nothing – we depend on others for help; it’s easier to depend on God.

Joe Zambon’s song is called Remember the Poor.

He sings,

May I never forget the poor.
Unless I go and forget who I am.
May I never forget who I am.
For I am poor.”

Let’s not forget who we are. Next time you go  to receive the Eucharist, think of who you are receiving, the one who became poor for our sake – the one who sends us to care for those who are not as fortunate as we are. Think of who we are, the poor beggars who need Christ and let’s pray that our ears be opened that we may hear the cry of the poor.

And if you’re in Toronto and happen to go by the corner of King and Jarvis on a sunny morning, don’t walk by; stop and say hello to Sherry.

CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters


Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing The Cry of the Poor: part 1


I would love you to meet Sherry. I’m not sure how she spells her name, but she told me her name was Sherry. I see her often, sitting outside the Royal Bank at the corner of King and Jarvis in Toronto. She sits there listening to her small red radio. Sometimes I give her change. Sometimes we just chat for a bit. She told me she’s from Guyana. I don’t know how old she is. I don’t know where she stays at night.

When I stop to say hello I can’t help but notice all the people who walk by. But not everyone walks by. Some people do throw some change in her cup.

A while ago I decided that people who sit and ask for change are not that scary and that even if I don’t give them any change (I can’t give change to all of them) I should at least acknowledge them, smile and wish them a good day. Sometimes I ask where they are staying and chit chat about the weather. When you’re homeless, the weather is important. In Toronto, in the winter, knowing when it’s going to be a cold night is important. Come to think of it, it’s always a cold night in Toronto in the winter.

And that’s how I came to know Sherry: I said hello. Next thing I know we are having a bit of a conversation. She tells me where she’s from. She tells me she’s staying in a room somewhere. She tells me she likes any kind of coffee… actually, “coke”, she says, “I’d like a coke.”

A few weeks ago I noticed something different. I noticed that when I stopped to say hello to Sherry, less people were inclined to just walk by and look the other way. Because I was speaking with Sherry, people were looking at us. People were looking at her. And people were throwing change in her cup. Then a man shouted from across the street. He was driving a van and was stopped at the light. He yelled that he had two turkey sandwiches and did we want them. I said, “sure” and he put on his hazards and lept across the street (through traffic – didn’t wait for the light to change) in order to hand me the two sandwiches, which I promptly passed on to Sherry. That small act changed my day. Actually, it changed my week. I hope it changed Sherry’s.

A few days ago I saw Sherry again. It’s starting to get chilly in Toronto, but it was a sunny morning and she’s found a particularly sunny spot that morning. I did not have any change, but still I knelt down to say hello. As we were speaking I noticed from the corner of my eye a young woman who walked by and stopped to wait to cross the street. As Sherry and I continued to speak (when she told me that she liked coffee and coke) this young woman came back and she put a bill in Sherry’s cup. We don’t have dollar bills in Canada, so it must’ve been at least a $5 bill. I must say, that made my day. I hope it made Sherry’s.

I don’t know where she stays or whether she has the know-how to call the number to the shelter I gave her. I hope she has a warm and safe place to sleep. I pray for her every night. I don’t know what more I can do to help – but I know now that every time I stop to say hello, not only am I treating her with dignity and recognizing her as a sister, a daughter of God, but I am a witness to all those passersby. My small action is a sign to them to not be afraid. To recognize that they too can do something small that can make a huge difference.

It is also a reminder to me of how we are all called to be poor.

When the Cardinals were in Conclave three years ago, the story goes that when the cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had the majority of votes, his Brazilian friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes leaned over and whispered to him, “remember the poor.” Pope Francis, says that up to that point everything was a bit of a blur, but at that moment he thought of St. Francis of Assisi, Il poverello, “the poor one” and knew that would be his name, “Francis.” It’s pretty clear today that his papacy has put, not just the poor at the front, but all who are marginalised, the people he calls, “the throways.” But I’ve always wondered why Cardinal Hummes said that. Why ‘remember the poor’? Had the Church been neglecting the poor? I don’t think so.

If anyone has been caring for the poor, it’s been the Catholic Church. You can’t be Catholic if you don’t “prefer the poor.” In fact, the “preferential option for the poor” is one of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching. It only takes a quick glance through Scripture to notice that not only the Church has a preferential option for the poor, but it seems God also has a preference for the poor. James 2:5 says that “God has chosen the poor” and the Old Testament if filled with passages that say that God cares for widows and orphans. God cares for the poor and the lowly. God cares for the blind and the deaf and the lame and for refugees and slaves. Jesus said that if we want to get into Heaven we have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:31-46) and that it’s very difficult for a rich person to enter Heaven (Matthew 19:24), and St. Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus Christ became poor for our sake (2 Cor 8:9). Yes, Jesus was born in a stable, he was poor; he loved the poor and God loves the poor; so does the Church.

We’re lucky in Canada that we have such a sophisticated social system for people who need help, but it wasn’t always like that. And we wouldn’t have any of that if it wasn’t for Christianity and the Church. If you go to any country in the world, who will you find caring for the sick and feeding the homeless? The Church. In the United States you can’t go to the hospital if you don’t have insurance, so what do people who don’t have insurance do? They go to a Catholic hospital. If our governments ever stopped providing welfare and other types of help for the poor and the needy, you know who would continue helping them no matter what? The Church. Because that’s who we are. There are 1 billion people in this planet who survive on less than 1 dollar a day. That means they have no access to enough food, to clean water, to education or healthcare. It is estimated that around the world, every day, some 25,000 people die of malnutrition. Who cares for all these people? The Church.

So why did Cardinal Hummes tell Cardinal Bergoglio to remember the poor? I think we’re doing a pretty good job. Or are we? Come back next week and learn what I’ve found.

CNS photo/CJ Gunther, EPA


Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Love – Questions


Last week I received two questions that I would like to address this week. The first came from Nina Giacona, who writes to us from Atlantic City, NJ.

Last week I wrote that a good definition for love is that “love is God”. Then I wrote “we are here on earth with one aim: to get to God.” and at the end of the article I added, “Love should not be our main goal in life.” Just before I wrote that, I had suggested we think of St. Therese’s Little Way, when we think of working towards holiness through love.

Nina wrote:

“NOT?? Taking into consideration the final scripture quote (1 John 4:16) containing the words “God is love” – aren’t the two words interchangeable?”

Please explain, as St Therese is my favorite girl.

I responded:

Yes – you are right. God is love – but God is much more than love and certainly much more than what our small, human minds can understand as love. If we make that kind of love our goal in life, I believe that we are missing the mark. God should be our goal in life – love is part of that.

Does that help?

Nina replied:

Yes, that helps. And so does this:

“Then, overcome by joy, I cried, ‘Jesus, my love. At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and then I will be all things.” ? Thérèse de Lisieux

 Still, I’m a bit confused.

Here’s my response:

Nina – if we were all like St. Therese! She understood love. However, most people don’t and make Christianity all about love and only love. It’s not. It’s about holiness. Living the way of love certainly will lead to holiness, but the end focus must be God. Love is not the end in itself. It is a means to an end. The end is life with God (life with Love). Love has to be anchored by our search and desire for God. That is how St. Therese was able to come up with her conclusion that her vocation was to love. She lived some 20 years of seeking, longing, desiring God before she discovered this vocation (if I remember correctly, she wrote this towards the end of her life). And then she died.

Nina replied one last time:

Now THAT explanation I understand!  THANK YOU! 

Yes, she died at 24, and was directed to write her story by her superior (who happened to be her older sister) when she was sick with TB.  Gotta love that Therese.  Not one erasure or cross-out – she just wrote and wrote.  And she was sick.  Really sick!  And she entered the convent at age 15.

I was a dope at age 15.  I’m still a dope at 55.

What if she hadn’t been directed to write it all down?

So many stories of the saints just boggle my mind, but Therese’s is my favorite.

Thank you for writing. Sometimes things are really clear to me, but they are actually not very clear at all to you. Writing to me to ask questions or challenge me will help me clarify and help us all deepen our understanding of our Faith.

I also received another question from an anonymous person:

What does the Church tell young people who are homosexual to expect from their lives? Are they called to a life without romantic love if they want to follow Christ’s path?

Thank you for asking. It is a very difficult question.

First we must understand the Church’s teaching regarding homosexuality clearly: experiencing attractions to people of the same gender is not a sin. However, any sexual behaviour outside of Marriage is. I know that for many this is not a satisfactory answer. I suspect that it’s hard to live in a world that promises that for everyone there is someone else out there and when you meet that person, sparks will fly and the two shall live happily ever after. This is what I referred to as the Myth of Romantic Love. This is a myth. Not everyone is called to Marriage and not everyone is called to romantic love.  You do not need to be in a romantic relationship in order to be fulfilled.

Anyone who is following the path of holiness by doing all he or she can to avoid sin can follow Christ and live fulfilling lives of wholeness and holiness. Let me clarify that there is not one of us who does not struggle with sin. So, if you struggle with sin, you can still follow Christ’s path! We are all called to follow Christ. Some people are called to say yes to the universal call to holiness through Marriage; others are called to do it through Single lives. Everyone is called to holiness – not everyone is called to marriage or romantic love.

The problem, I guess, has to be with how I would define romantic love. I think that by definition, romantic love is ordered towards Marriage and sexual union. I suspect that two people can live together (and love each other) and as long as they are not engaging in any sexual behaviour, they would not be participating in sin. However, can two people who are in a romantic relationship remain celibate? I suppose it’s possible. I would think it’s very difficult. This is why many experts advise people who struggle with same-gender attractions and who want to be chaste – not to get involved in any type of relationships.

We must also consider what would be considered “sexual behaviour.” Is kissing OK? Is holding hands? Sharing the same bed? This gets tricky when we try to be legalistic about Church teaching. I would say the same to any young (heterosexual) couple that is trying to be chaste. The question is not ‘how far we can go’ before we actually sin.

We also have to always look at Church teaching as something that sets us free, rather than something that shackles us. The Church’s teaching on sexuality is saying YES to God’s plan for sex and human dignity.

The bottom line is that we should not believe that the only way to be fulfilled is to be in a romantic relationship, sexual or not. Here I would add what I told Nina: Life is about holiness. Living the way of love certainly will lead to holiness, but the end focus must be God. Love is not the end in itself. It is a means to an end. The end is life with God. Love has to be anchored by our search and desire for God.

Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

I hope that this helps. Please, send me your comments and more questions. This is how we grow in Faith.


DcnPedroEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Deacon-structing Love Part 6 – The Way

Last week we looked at what love is not, based on the wonderful classic by M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled. His book is not a Catholic book; it’s a psychology book (found in the “self-help” section of your bookstore), but Scott Peck was a practicing Christian and the book is very much a spiritual book. In fact, the subtitle of the book is,” A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth”.

Having looked at what love is not, we are now in a good place to look at what love is – understanding full well that defining love is about as impossible as defining God. (In fact, that’s probably a pretty good definition: Love is God. See 1 John 4:16)

St. Paul gave us probably the most beautiful and fairly complete exploration of love in his first letter to the Corinithians:

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a)

I say it’s an “exploration” because it’s not quite a definition, rather it describes qualities that people who love have: patience, kindness; bearing, hoping and enduring all things etc. Each of these would have to be deacon-structed by themselves to make sure that they cannot be taken out of context (as in “enduring all things” could imply that if you love someone you should let them trample all over you; not so). But if you depart from the place where love is mutual (if Married love) and that love is not any of those things that we spoke about last time, and love is free, fruitful and faithful (and total if Married love), then what St. Paul suggests is a perfectly good guide for those of us who want to follow Jesus’ command to love God and love neighbour.

I began by saying that Peck’s book is a spiritual book. His subtitle says that it is a book about spiritual growth. Isn’t that what everything in life should be about? We are here on earth with one aim: to get to God. That means that our one aim is to grow spiritually. Love is part of that spiritual journey. This is why Scott Peck defines love this way:

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

And so, love is all about growing spiritually, whether it’s our own growth or someone else’s growth it doesn’t matter. In fact, if you are helping someone else grow spiritually, that, by definition is an act of personal spiritual growth. You can’t have one without the other.

So anything that is true for spiritual growth, is true for love. Here are some quotes from the book to help understand the definition above:

“Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. …Conversely, it is not only possible but necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love.”

Love is the will… This is true. This is why last time we said that love is not a feeling; love is an act of your will. We have to choose to love. We decide to love. I can wake up every morning and make a conscious decision to love someone or to be loving that day. May not be easy, but it’s possible.

“When we love someone our love becomes demonstrable or real only through our exertion – through the fact that for that someone (or for yourself) we take an extra step or walk an extra mile. Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful.”

to extend oneself… Which is why I just said that it may not be easy. In fact, I’d say that most of the time, it should not be easy. Love is work. Remember that it is growth. When we grow, we stretch – that requires effort and is sometimes painful.

“Love always requires courage and involves risk.”

to extend oneself… Love always requires risk. This is why many spiritual guides will say that the opposite of love is fear. One of the main messages in the Bible is to not be afraid. Jesus came so that we don’t have to be afraid. Fear paralyses us. On the other hand, love liberates us. And so love always will demand risk: Risk of loss, risk of independence, risk of commitment and risk of confrontation. Don’t be afraid.

“Move out or grow in any dimension and pain as well as joy will be your reward. A full life will be full of pain.”

to extend oneself… This is very difficult to grasp, because we all long for happiness and I would even say that God wants for all of us to be happy; to be full of joy. But what we don’t understand is that joy comes with suffering. But when we suffer out of love – or offer our suffering out of love – that suffering becomes redemptive. That is the miracle of the Cross. We may not be able to avoid suffering – I am not saying that we should go out of our way to find suffering – but we should not fear suffering. We should not fear risk.

“As I grow through love, so grows my joy, ever more present, ever more constant.”

nurturing… So true. If we keep our eyes on Christ and on Heaven, and we work towards holiness through love (think of St. Therese’s Little Way), not only will we grow closer to God (grow spiritually), but our joy will grow. When we love and live the way of love our joy is abundant.

The goal of love is the nurturing of one’s own or another’s spirit. This is why Pope’s Francis’ image of the Church as Mother connects with so many people. Why is the Church a Mother? Because she nurtures. When we are nurtured, we grow. If we are not nurtured, we die.

Love should not be our main goal in life. It is true that everyone has a right to be loved and to know that they are loved and we should always act with love – if we don’t, we are but a noisy cymbal, says St. Paul (1 Cor. 13:1). Our goal in life is to be in Heaven with God for eternity; to be united in love with Him Who is Love. Clearly, understanding love, seeking love and following Jesus’ command to love God and love neighbour will help bring that Heavenly reality down here to earth. As John tell us in his first letter:

“So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4:16

Write to me (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) and share your stories and thoughts.


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

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Click here to read or download the NRVC Study.

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Today on Perspectives, U.S. Bishops respond to California’s assisted suicide ruling and Sebastian Gomes continues his coverage of the Bishops’ Synod on the Family. Today he speaks with several of the Synod Fathers and delegates and we hear from Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Ghana and Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph Younan of Antioch. He also shares part 2 of his conversation with Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service.

Deacon-structing Love: The Joy of the Gospel


“Tres cosas tiene el amor que no se pueden olvidar:
Que Dios nos amó primero, que hay que darse por entero y ponerse a caminar.”
(Tres Cosas Tiene el Amor, Fernando Leiva)

This reflection on love is taking many turns depending on what is happening in my life. I guess that’s what love does: it affects every aspect of our lives. Last time, I was moved by how much everything Pope Francis said during his trip to Cuba and the U.S. had to do with love. This week I am having a similar, yet slightly different experience.

I am in Puerto Rico at a missionary symposium in preparation for the 5th Missionary Congress of the Americas, which will take place in Bolivia in 2018. There are over 100 delegates from 23 different countries representing all of Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada and the U.S. I love these universal Church experiences.

At the closing Mass, the presider (and wonderful) Most Rev. Ruben Gonzalez Medina, CMF, bishop of the diocese of Cagua in Puerto Rico, reminded us of a popular song by Fernando Leiva that says that love has three things that we cannot forget.

Three things, has love; that cannot be forgotten:
That God loved us first,
that we must give of ourselves totally,
and begin to walk

And then and there I realized the (obvious) link between love and the call to mission.


It’s no surprise that Pope Francis has been constantly reminding us that the Gospel is joy. It’s no surpirse that his first Apostolic Exhortation is titled, The Joy of the Gospel (if you haven’t read it, you must). It begins, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” The Gospel must bring joy, otherwise it is not Gospel, it is not Good News. And if we are truly missionaries, if we are truly evangelisors, it’s because we are joyful. We should be able to tell Christians, by their joy! (If you want to experience the joy of the Gospel, go to Mass in Puerto Rico!)

We are joyful because we are in love. (And therefore, in the words of the old hymn, they will know we are Christians by our love.)

Think of first learning of that new an amazing cure for (insert whatever affliction best applies to your experience). Imagine how you’d feel when you find out that it worked. Imagine how excited you’d be to tell others about it. I have friends who upon acquiring their first car – that cool car they always wanted and worked hard to acquire – couldn’t wait to show it to everyone.

Think of your first love, or when you first met your husband or wife. Didn’t you want to share the news with everyone? Didn’t you want everyone to meet him or her? You were excited and in love.

That is why we share the Good News: because we are in love. In fact, that is the Good News: That God loves us!

And that is the first thing about love that we must not forget.

Pope Francis made up a word (he does this occasionally, although this could be Argentinean slang, I’m not sure. I apologize to our non-Spanish speakers who will lose something in the translation. Read more here): “Primerear.” It is a verb and it means “to first”. You could say that it means to “make first” or to “do first”. When you conjugate the verb in the present participle form, it becomes, “primerear” or “firsting”. It implies that we are the first to do something. This is what God does: He “firsts” us. He puts us first. He makes us first. In Spanish: “Dios nos primerea.”

God loved us first. God loves us first. We are loved first by God. This, we must never forget.

And how does God love us? He loves us totally. He gives himself totally for and to us. He hands himself over totally to us. And therefore we too must give of ourselves totally.

I’ve spoken about this in terms of married love. In Marriage, we must strive to give of ourselves totally. It’s absolutely necessary for married love to be total. However, in terms of our call to love as Christians, in the context of sacrifice, we must also think of giving of ourselves without reserve. The difference is that in Marriage we give all of ourselves, emotionally, sexually, intellectually, physically, all our dreams, our fertility, our fears, insecurities, all our baggage; we give it all and in turn, we receive our spouse totally as well.

In Christian loving we don’t have to give all of ourselves as we do in Marriage, but what we give of ourselves, we give totally. And this is easy to do when we are in love with the God who loved us first. It’s easy to do when we are full of joy. In fact, it’s impossible not to do if we are in love and full of joy!

And so we have to give ourselves totally to the other; this we must not forget.

The third flows naturally from the second: we must begin to walk.

Love is not stagnant. Love is movement. Love is growth (more on this next week). The minute you stop loving, you stop growing. This is why we refer to revolutions as “movements”. We also refer to those who oppose a movement, “a resistance.” When we are passionate about something we begin a movement. Those who oppose that movement, create a resistance to the movement; they create a resistance to the motion, in essence, to bring it to a stop. We must not resist love.

When we speak about movement, however, we must keep in mind that we don’t just move. We move in a direction. In the case of Christian loving, we move in the direction of God. Love will always move us towards God. If you want to know whether you are living the Christian call to love, reflect on whether you are moving towards God or towards yourself (this is classic Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius refers these as ‘movements of the spirit’ or ‘inner movements’).

This is why we walk. This is why the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), as their hearts were burning within them, were “moved” to go. They left everything on the table, food and all, half-eaten, chairs upturned – they even forgot to close the door – and they went!

We begin to walk (and we do so “in haste” – see how Luke 1:39 describes the movement of the Mother of all missionaries) because love compels us to move. Jesus sends us: Go (Matthew 28:19). But even if we were not sent, the mere fact that we are in love and full of joy because we have been loved first and loved totally, would burn in our hearts and compel us to go.

If we love, we must walk; we must go. This we must never forget.


The final Mass of our missionary gathering at the Parish of St. Joseph in the town of Aibonito in Diocese of Cagua in Puerto Rico, was celebrated on October 1st, Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. The “little flower” St. Therese of the Child Jesus is the Patron Saint of Missions. The prayer after Communion on her feast day reads:

“May the Sacrament we have received, O Lord, kindle in us the force of that love with which St. Therese dedicated herself to you and longed to obtain your mercy for all.”

May the Lord enkindle in our hearts the force of that burning love, that we may go in love, to love, remembering always that God loved us first and gave himself totally to us. Therefore we must give ourselves totally to others and continue to walk. Pope Francis said to the youth in Rio at World Youth Day 2013 that “We go, without fear, to serve”. Today I add: We go, without fear, in love (because love drives out all fear), to serve. We go to share the joy of the Gospel!

Write to me. (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) and tell me about your experiences of missionary love and come back next time so we can continue looking at some myths about love.

Photo credit: Wally Tello

DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm