There is a foundational aspect to the line of the Little Mandate  Love…..love…..love, never counting the cost., we will now reflect upon for it is rooted in both the Great Commandment [Mt. 22:35-40; Mk. 12:28-34; Lk. 10:27] and in Jesus’ further teaching on love: “…. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [Jn. 13:34,35]
In some respects, love is a translucent reality, with a type of fragility about it because we are emotional beings, prone to misunderstandings and snap judgements if we experience other failing to respond to us the way we truly need or simply want.
In other respects, love, not the emotional aspect but the cause of our existence, the purpose of our lives, in a most sacred way through baptism, is a foundational reality.
Love and pain are inseparable as constitutive of our lives because while we hunger, and rightly so, to be beloved, and we are because Love Himself, the Holy Trinity, has created us as beloved persons, we keep tripping over the complex aspects of ‘human’ love: eros and philos, and the challenges of living out, by first accepting it, agape.
Eros is highly emotional and physical as it is romantic love, but often the love aspect gets trampled on by sheer lust and becomes demanding ‘love’, which is not authentic love at all. Philos is mostly authentic love of deep friendships, a treasured experience in anyone’s life and while it too can become demanding of other, usually is mutually kind and somewhat selfless.
Only agape, because it is the love of God poured into us, unconditionally, and the way we are called to love one another and self, is the experience of the pure reality of love, which love is always self-gift without any insistence that we be beloved from other in return.
Unfortunately, it is only in the Greek that Jesus’s triple ask of Peter if he loves Jesus is clear, so here the Greek is inserted in italics: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you agape Me more than these? He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I philos You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I philos You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape Me?” Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you agape Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I philos You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. [Jn.21:15-17]
By the time the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles Peter would grow from philos love to agape love to the point of that no greater agape than to embrace martyrdom for Christ.
The commandment laid down in the New Testament demands from man love for others, for his neighbours – in the fullest sense, then, love for persons. For God, whom the commandment to
love names first, is the most perfect personal Being.  Within the agape of sacramental marriage the desire and act of eros – if self-gift dominates all aspects of the desire and act – becomes purified of lust and thus the marriage bed becomes a type of altar where the self-sacrifice of spousal self-gift is offered as holy oblation.
Aided by the Most Holy Spirit we can not only love others and self as Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit love us, unconditionally, but also embrace the struggle and cross of loving without counting the cost. No easy task that, but it is when we forego counting the cost that the emotional component is purified and loving, that is agape-unconditional-self giving to other loving, becomes true joy, joy whose origin is the Holy Spirit’s gift to us.
The key to the grace, indeed the mystery, of actually loving as Christ does, without counting the cost, is to take up, as faithful disciples of Christ, our shared carrying of His Cross, that is to carry our cross of which the transverse beam is our very selves, the beam which stretches from horizon of our birth to horizon of our earthly death, pierces through the veil between time and eternity, and the upright beam, divine ladder which enables us to move upward from being, as it were, planted on the earth, through every stages of our life, the lives of the human family whom we love, serve, pray for, right to were we are stretched out, crucified, face to face, eye to eye with the Crucified One Himself, Our Beloved, in whose arms we shall die and be lifted up with Him, by Him, through Him, into the heart of the Holy Trinity.
One way to understand this, appreciate it with joy and trust, is to stand contemplating Jesus on the Cross, arms outstretched, cruciform.
This is the month of March, traditionally, as is each Wednesday, dedicated to St. Joseph, whom Pope Francis speaks eloquently about in PATRIS CORDE , and therein gives us examples of loving without counting the cost we can surely imitate as we strive to live out the LITTLE MANDATE.
Pope Francis begins by asserting St. Joseph loved WITH A FATHER’S HEART…….that he had courage to become Jesus’ legal father, indeed St. John Paul calls St. Joseph the Custodian, thus the protector, of the Redeemer.
The following are words by Pope Francis about St. Joseph revealing how St. Joseph is the model of loving authentically, like Christ, like Our Blessed Mother, without counting the cost:…..He turned his vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart, and all his abilities……Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, His history and His plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that He can work even through our fears, our frailties, our weaknesses…..In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat”, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane…… We should always consider whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are also mysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care and safekeeping. The Son of the Almighty came into our world in a state of great vulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child. In this sense, Saint Joseph could not be other than the Guardian of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church. In his continued protection of the Church, Joseph continues to protect the child and his mother, and we too, by our love for the Church, continue to love the child and his mother…..Joseph acted as a father for his whole life. Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person……Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust. Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration…..We need only ask Saint Joseph for the grace of graces: our conversion.
Let us now make our prayer to him: Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.
 LOVE AND RESPONSIBILITY, Karol Wojtyla [John Paul II]; p.40; William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1981 ~ italics are mine
© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph