Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; First Letter of John 4:7-10; Gospel of John 15:9-17
In our popular language, the word “love” is so often used and misused, that it has almost become devoid of meaning. Love is a word so frequently exploited in the media of songs and television, movies, novels and small talk, that it has been reduced to almost, or next to, nothing. Such “love,” only in words, without any backing, is worth nothing.
In our popular culture a similar thing is found in the phrase heard so often at the supermarket and other places of business, “Have a nice day.” We might sometimes or often conclude that those who say it to us might just a well be saying something else entirely, for the depth of sincerity that the phrase “have a nice day” usually carries.
Love that is only words, devoid of actions, is of little value. On the other hand, love put into action is finer than gold, more precious than diamonds, and a force that can move the world. Hence, for all its misuse and misapplication, we must not throw out the word “love,” for it is actually the basis of our religion, that is, our fundamental belief as Catholic Christians that “God is love.”
True love gives life, for genuine love is something generative, found, for example, in the sacrifice of spouses for each other, or parents for their children, or children for their parents. We firmly believe that God, who is love, so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who gave himself in love, even to the extent of death on the cross, for the salvation of the human race.
The example of sacrificial self-giving of our Lord is the fullest expression of love we can imagine, which transforms lives and brings eternal life, and is being offered to us in Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
In the Gospel today, from the Evangelist Saint John, we hear Jesus say, “May my joy be in you and may your joy be complete.” Many today have an incorrect notion of Christianity, thinking that it is a sad religion, without happiness or joy. The Lord is constantly assuring us that he has come into the world precisely to bring us happiness, but not a superficial one that is shallow or fleeting, something that only makes us “feel good.”
Rather, the happiness or joy offered to us by God is something that transcends feelings, is eternal and to be sought with all one’s heart, on good days and bad. Such happiness doesn’t begin or end in this life, but is from eternity and intended to last beyond this life, without limits in its origin, expression and endurance.
God’s grace, according to Sacred Scripture, is life and light itself. We are called to share in that same light and life, without fear, regret or limit. When we do so, we are truly joyful persons, for we possess all that we need in this life and the next.
Love that comes from God is without cost, of course, but to really possess such a great thing as God’s love, we are asked to fulfill God’s commandments, which are summed up in the beautiful words of our Lord, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
To give oneself in love for others may at times seem to be an act of futility. What’s the point, we may ask, when the recipients don’t seem to care that they are being loved or refuse to love us in return?
We are more comfortable in our day and age, perhaps, with the familiar philosophy of “every one for him or herself,” or “tend your own garden,” or “look out for number one.” However, that is not the way of the Gospel precepts or in accord with the call to know and possess Christ’s love.
“Love one another as I have loved you,” is difficult to do, this we cannot deny, but it is not beyond our abilities. It is a challenge, to be sure, but is not an impossibility. We call God “Father” because God is a person, not an idea, but one who acts in tenderness toward his children.
Our love for one another, asked of us by Christ, is an extension of God’s great love which in fact calls us into being, sustains us and brings us everlasting life. When we love we are carrying on God’s creative work.
In a loving and uncompromising way, we must invite Love, that is, God, into our lives. When we do so, we are on the path to becoming whom we are meant to be, a child of God, participating in God’s life, which never ends, even when we die.
The Eucharist celebrated at every Mass is the commemoration of the Lord’s great act of love for us. In order for us to possess true life, God has poured out love for us in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Beloved, in whom we are redeemed. By our love for one another, here and now, we extend the love we have received in Jesus Christ, to all those we meet.
May the Body and Blood of the Lord be our strength for the pilgrimage through life, however long or short the time remaining be, so that we might be friends of the Lord, who are appointed to bear fruit that will remain, believing that what we ask in the Father’s name may be given to us.
In describing the goal of the monk, Saint Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354 to 430 AD, the great Church Father, said something that is applicable to all who follow Christ. Of the monk, Augustine says, “He is, he sees, he loves. The eternity of God is his life, the truth of God is his light, the goodness of God is his joy.”
May this be our goal as well.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB