I spent the morning with a wonderful faith community, St. Paul in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. This was the only Mass this weekend for St. Paul, St. Peter and St. Joseph. We had seven Confirmations, along with seven young people who made their First Communion. It was heart-warming to see the three parishes come together for the one celebration. When I arrived an hour before Mass this morning, a group of Knights of Columbus were in the kitchen frying bacon, ham and pancakes, and scrambled eggs were also to come a little closer to breakfast time, which was served after Mass. I think everyone who came to Mass, stayed for breakfast!
Today’s Gospel served up the great teaching of Jesus from John’s Gospel, Chapter 13: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” If Jesus had only said: “Love one another”, this would have been challenging enough, but he went on to add the main ingredient, “as I have loved you”, which keeps us from “redefining love”. Love, in the Master’s plan, is always initiated by God. God created us in love, from love, for love. Each human life, and all creation is drawn from Divine love, and called to a participation in the same Love, through the person of Jesus Christ.
The love with which Jesus loves us is not a self-serving love. Jesus gives us the standard of all love, human and divine. This great commandment calls us to (1) receive God’s love, (2) to share this love with others (3) and to be willing to forgive others. Christ came into the world, sent from the Father: “God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son,”(John 3:16). Christ, in His earthly ministry regularly maintained this “communion of love” with the Father. This is the first step also for us, if we are to keep His great commandment. We must open our self up to God’s love; receive this love, and be continually nourished in this love if we are going to be capable of loving others as Christ loves us.
Christ also says in John’s Gospel: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) It is easy for us to say we love Jesus, but the proof is in our keeping His commandments, and the greatest of these is love. Jesus not only taught love, but showed us how to love. Jesus also said: “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” Here indeed is a great insight into real love. Love is about serving God, and serving others.
Our culture today spends a lot of time centered on self, and asking: “what do I want to do?” This question in and of itself is not bad, but the Christian must move to the broader questions: “What does God want me to do with my life for Him?” True Christian love is centered on the Other, and others. In marriage, spouses live for each other, and for their children, and in the process, enrich the Church. In the priesthood, the priest lives for Christ, and for His people. Religious live their lives for Christ, and for the good of His Church.
Finally, to love as Christ is to be willing to forgive. “I did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved.” (John 3:17) Christ’s life and love was one of forgiveness and mercy. He always forgave sin, loved the sinner, and always admonished never to sin again. In our love for one another, in our love for the Church, we, too, must always be ready to forgive. How many times have we stood in need of such forgiveness? What shape would our relationships and lives be in had others (and God) not been willing to forgive us our many sins? What we have received, we must be willing to pass on, in love, to others. This is truly to love, as we have been loved first by Christ.
Let us continue to live the Truth, in Love!