Love (charity) is at the center of our Catholic, Christian life. There is no way of finding something else that would prove superior to love. It is the main operating system of our way of life, to the extent that it is oriented toward God, and His presence to us as Jesus Christ. Indeed, God is love.
But what do we make of this love, when we have such admonitions, straight out of the Scriptures, as: “…love your enemies…” (Mt. 5.44), “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 19.19), “…you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22.37), “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15.13)
This is a tall, sweeping, order, so much so that we ask: is it possible, even with the help and grace of God, to measure up to this expansive set of directives? The love of enemies that Jesus proposes: is it equivalent in strength to love of my friends and family? This love of neighbor as myself: is this always an ideal, given that some of us may not love ourselves as we ought—or so we are told? And this love of God with so much vehemence and energy: is it possible to love a God Whom I have never even seen or heard, as compared with those around me whom I do see and hear? Or do I have among my friends anyone for whom I would be willing to lay down my life? And where is family among the kinds of people whom I should love: is it not a special category deserving special recognition and treatment among these groups, or is it sufficient to presume they are included in among the rest?
Or maybe there is a variety of loves, so that love is not one and the same thing, for everyone alike, regardless of the kinds of people involved, but rather changes from group to group, so that love for an enemy, for example, is a different kind of love from love for a neighbor. Would there be different kinds of love, for different kinds of people, so that one kind is suitable for the Lord, for example, but not for an enemy, or for a spouse, but not for a neighbor?
And then there is the difficult problem of having to make choices among my loves: as in an emergency, when I have to make a choice between friend or enemy, or between an old person or a child. What do I do in these cases? Perhaps we should listen to the word of the Lord at that moment: “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” (Lk 12.12)