If love pricks the heart never heals.

You can’t walk out on love. You can walk away, but a love that is real will follow. It will stay with you, because it has become a part of you. Goethe puts it in the plainest possible German, in his little poem “Heidenröslein.”

Sah ein Knab’ ein Röslein stehn,
Röslein auf der Heiden,
War so jung und morgenschön,
Lief er schnell es nah zu sehn,
Sah’s mit vielen Freuden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
 
Knabe sprach: “Ich breche dich,
Röslein auf der Heiden.”
Röslein sprach: “Ich steche dich,
Daß du ewig denkst an mich,
Und ich will’s nicht leiden.”
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
 

Here is the translation of Matthew Bell:

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Urchin saw a rose—a dear
Rosebud in the heather.
Fresh as dawn and morning-clear;
Ran up quick and stooped to peer,
Took his fill of pleasure,
Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red,
Rosebud in the heather.
 
Urchin blurts: “I’ll pick you, though,
Rosebud in the heather!”
Rosebud: “Then I’ll stick you so
That there’s no forgetting, no!
I’ll not stand it, ever!”
Rosebud, rosebud, rosebud red,
Rosebud in the heather (2).

 

When love is deep, when truth is rock, when beauty captivates, we are changed forever. The rose pricks and the mark remains.

Elisha foolishly thinks that he can set his world in order before responding to Elijah. He can make the prophet’s preaching one more fact, one more element of his world. Love grants the lover no such leave. Elijah caustically responds, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” (1 Kgs 19:20).

And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9: 58-62).

 

Some think that the Gospel is a wisdom, one which they can accept and use, or spurn and shelve. But the Gospel is not erudition, not a teaching. It is the offer of a person, and, if one has encountered the person of Christ in the sacred scriptures, in the church, which proclaims them still, one cannot walk away, not without leaving behind the self that matters.

Sometimes a preacher or a theologian loses faith—It can, you know, happen to anyone. We can stumble out of love—but he or she continues to preach, to teach, telling the self that the world is still being served, that the Gospel has a humane and salutary effect. But the Gospel is a person, not a program, and nothing is less compelling, less fruitful, than a voice that no longer loves the Lamb. Words exchanged between lovers have power. Words about agendas are only propaganda.

An old Jesuit once said that “the Catholic Church is like the Hotel California. You can check out, but you can never leave.” Love doesn’t vouchsafe that choice. If love pricks the heart, it never heals.

1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21  Galatians 5: 1, 13-18  Luke 9: 51-62

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