In high school, I had an excellent American Literature teacher. Let’s call him Mr. Mario Monti.
Mr. Monti showed us he cared. He prepared his lessons. He encouraged questions. He cracked jokes. He also corrected us. Mr. Monti kept things interesting … even the poem, Huswifery. He’d have us pray to JC and the Boys (the Apostles). He conducted his classroom with authority and ease. Above all else, he loved teaching and he loved us. We all loved him in return. Long before I got there, he was a school legend.
Mr. Monti had a most memorable ritual for dismissing class. When the bell rang and we were packing up our books, he’d say with a smile, “Remember, God loves you and so does Mr. Monti.” We all would loudly respond, “In that order!”
Besides being an unforgettable memory of a great teacher, Mr. Monti’s words express a great truth: God loves us and so do other people. From parents and siblings, friends and romantic interests, to schoolteachers, co-workers, and casual acquaintances, we’re (at least meant to be) surrounded by love. Surely, the love of these different people will and should differ. A mother’s love for her child is quite different from the love neighbors share when they greet one another from their front porches. Each human interaction has its appropriate kind of love.
When love is missing or misdirected, things go wrong. That’s why our class response completes the truth Mr. Monti spoke. Loves exist in an order—and the foundation of that order is the love of God. Why? Simply put, we creatures love what’s already lovable. But when God loves, he creates and makes all things lovable. He sets up the universe for different loves to thrive harmoniously in it. Our own response in love entails both that God has first loved us and that our loves belong in a world of ordered loves.
So, remember God loves you. Remember the other people in your life who manifest that love. And then, love back … in that same order!
Image: Nikolaos Gyzis, The Secret School