The Inefficiency of Love

This culture [of death] is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency… The first to be harmed are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion of personal dignity—which demands respect, generosity and service—is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they “are”, but for what they “have, do and produce”. This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.

John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

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The Inefficiency of Love

2018 has been a year of conflicting expectations. This Sunday was the latest installment, as the Feast of the Ascension coincided (in most of the United States, at least) with the celebration of motherhood. How do these days shed light on each other?

A mother’s love

Life is not about efficiency. No one knows this better than mothers. They give life to their children. They become surrounded by life, small life, completely dependent life. So they know something about life.

For this life, everything must slow down. They release what the world holds up as the standard—efficiency—to accept something more precious.

Mothers listen to their children’s rambling stories. They explain things over and over. They let their children “help”. Most importantly, they show love always for the least-efficient among us. Such love is terribly inefficient! To really give someone a hug, you have to drop everything—and force the other person to drop their everything—to participate in love.

Efficiency is not effectiveness. The paradox is that, to be effective, to reach the goal we desire, we must not focus too much on efficiency. For the inefficiency of love is the way we really get what we want.

The Feast of the Ascension

When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”

Acts 1:6-7

I said no one knows this better than mothers, but that was an exaggeration. God, Who is Love Itself, knows it best. He established the times and seasons, knowing what is best. He created these extremely inefficient creatures. He became one. Even His sacrifice on the Cross, which was the center of His mission, was inefficient:

Cuius una stilla salvum facere
totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
[Blood that but one drop of has the power to win
all the world forgiveness of its world of sin.]

St. Thomas Aquinas

At the Ascension, He ended His mission on earth. He accomplished all that He was meant to do. Though the disciples see for themselves that not everything is perfected, He leaves.

Why did He do all of this? We can’t know all of the whys, but we know the most important one: His was a mission of love. Inefficient, drop-everything love! And He Himself has put this paradox of love into every mother’s heart: love is inefficient.

But perhaps inefficient isn’t the right word. Efficiency cannot measure love, for love transcends it. Rather, we should say, love is perfectly overabundant.

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