In a European village many years ago, a young man was courting the daughter of a rabbi.

“I love you,” the young man proclaimed.

“Do you?” the woman asked.

“I love you deeply,” he insisted.

She paused for a moment.

“Do you know what gives me pain, what hurts me, what makes me sad?” she asked.

He was taken aback by her question. He stammered that he did not and could not possibly know what hurt her. “I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me and you ask meaningless questions!”

“The question is not meaningless,” she said quietly but firmly. “For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you possibly say you love me?”

We have been created in the image and likeness of the God who created us as an expression of his complete, unconditional love. Our reason for being is to manifest that love in the world God created. To follow Jesus is to be ministers of such love, to be agents of reconciliation, to be the means for God’s love to be realized. Such love begins in our service to others, in lifting up their hopes and dreams as we work to realize our own, to find our happiness in the happiness of others. Christ’s teachings on reconciliation and forgiveness challenge us to embrace an attitude of compassion that understands and acknowledges the hurt and pain that exists in the lives of everyone of us. Only in understanding the despair and disappointments of those we love — and of those we find difficult to love — can we begin to break the cycle of hatred, fear and vengeance that entraps us and plunges our world into war and violence.