SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
(Acts 10:25-26.34-35.44-48; I John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17)
These days not only young men say to their girlfriends, "I love you." Mothers say it to their children and spouses to each other. Even friends and family frequently repeat it to each other. The words bring a sense of peace and well-being. Yes, the phrase can be overused so that it becomes trivialized. Even still it provides a mode of satisfaction.
Certainly the love between a couple married for twenty years or the love of parents for their children differs from profane love. Profane love is associated with greed. The person who loves profanely has his own good in mind, not that of the beloved. This is certainly the case when the person says, "I love chocolate" or, "I love New York." Greedy love is also indicated when speaking of "making love." What matters to the person who "makes love" is the pleasure that he receives. He ignores the fact that the act is vicious and may ruin at least the soul of the other.
In the second reading, the presbyter John makes the intriguing comment that "God is love." He means that because God created the universe to share the good of his being, true love is the willingness to give oneself for the good of the other. When Jesus commands in the gospel today that we love one another, he has this kind of love in mind. You see this love in adults taking care of their parents. During lockdown we heard many stories of people taking care of all the tasks of their elderly parents so that they would not be exposed to the virus.
What prevents this love of Christ is the self. We worry that if we engage in service for the other, we will lose something precious to us. The loss could be outings for recreation, the comfort of having one’s time off work for oneself, or the peace of mind when we get involved in other people's problems. But there is something else at stake here. The self always wants more. The inner desire for attention and admiration is never satisfied. Instead of trying to satisfy this voracious appetite, we should be mindful of the duty of Christians according to Pope Saint John Paul II. He said that first we must accept the love of God for us as individual persons. Convinced of His love, we will do everything necessary to unite ourselves with Him. As Jesus never tires of telling us in this Gospel of John, we have to love one another to have eternal life.
Father Henri Nouwen was perhaps the most renowned writer on Christian spirituality of the second half of the last century. He wrote many books on how to get closer to God. His last writings focused on the community of disabled person in which he lived. He said that the disabled person that he helped every day taught him an essential truth about life. That truth is that one’s mind does not make the person an image of God, but it is the heart that leaves concern with self behind to give oneself to the other in love. Then we can say that if we are going to live according to the nobility of our being, we have to love like Christ.
Today is Mother's Day. We toast our mothers first for giving us birth. In this age of abortion, carrying a baby to term can represent a great sacrifice. But even more we celebrate our mothers today for giving themselves to us in love for all of our lives. This is the kind of love that Jesus wants us to give to one another. We are not going to do it with the same dedication and intensity that we have for our mothers. Nevertheless, we are going to show the willingness to sacrifice ourselves for others. It is what Jesus did for us and what he asks us to do for others.