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Not only is today the 6th Sunday of Easter, but it’s also Mother’s Day. So, with that in mind, I’d like to wish all moms a very happy Mother’s Day. Thanks to you who have brought forth and nurtured new life with generous hearts, for which we are eternally grateful. Thank you for your patience, guidance, and sacrifice in fulfilling your calling as moms, especially when we were unreasonable, selfish, and annoying. So much of what you do is quiet and unnoticed by anyone except God. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful and well-deserved Mother’s Day.
On this day where we take time to give thanks for our moms, it’s a perfect segway for jumping into the challenge presented by our gospel. Jesus talks about love and how it defines the relationship God has with us. The ultimate expression of a loving heart is the willingness to give up anything and everything to save and protect the life of someone we treasure. Of course, this is what Jesus does for every one of us on the cross. This is what so many moms are willing to do for their children, although thankfully, they seldom have to pay the ultimate price to prove their love. Most often it is expressed in the little gestures we hardly notice to protect our bodies, minds, and souls.
Now, it is great to receive this sort of love from someone. I hope every person in this church knows what that feels like. I pray for those who do not. Being loved in such a complete and unselfish way transforms you! In any case, it’s not good enough simply to receive this sacrificial love from God and others; we have an obligation to give it as well. This is relatively natural for us to do with the people we like. But annoyingly, Jesus doesn’t make any exceptions. He says, “love one another as I love you.” Then, just a few lines later he says, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." and then he concludes by repeating: "This I command you: love one another."
But who is one another????? Who are we called to love in the same way that Christ loved us?????? Is it our friends? Yes! Is it our family? Yes! Would this include our co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, and even those who do not love or respect us? The answer is yes! Christ's command to love one another covers everyone, no exceptions! As Christians, we do not have the option of loving only those we like nor do we have the option of liking all of those we must love. Christian love is much deeper; it is more than a passing feeling or fleeting passion.
Jesus’ command demands our reflection today because now, more than ever, there seems to be a hateful mentality in our society, even among those who call themselves Christians. Sadly, it is not unusual to encounter people in this city, people in this archdiocese, people in this parish who have made exceptions to who receives their charity. Christ's command to love one another extends to each and every person made in his image and likeness; and this includes every person on earth, regardless of their color, nationality, creed, or political views. This law of love embraces the whole range of humanity from the unborn child to the terminally ill and elderly. As Christians, we must love all persons, whether they be close to our heart or someone who seems to have a God-given gift for getting under our skin! As followers of Christ, we must love even those with whom we struggle or don't see eye-to-eye.
Perhaps the reason why we find it so hard to love one another is because we don't understand what love truly is. To love as Jesus loves does not simply mean saying nice things or always grinning and bearing it, or giving someone everything they ask for. Loving as a Christian is always about wanting what is best for ourselves and others in order for all to be saved. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for an individual is to respectfully challenge them with the truth in the hopes of preventing them from hurting themselves or others. Every parent knows about this side of love. Sometimes it means saying things that are difficult to hear or unpopular. Far too often we avoid sharing the truth because we're concerned about being "politically correct" or disliked. As a result, we dilute the gospel message and put people’s souls at risk!
Friends, our gospel promises wonderful things to those who keep Christ's commandments; by following them we gain the privilege of becoming Children of God!!! To make it even simpler, Jesus tells us that the heart of every commandment is this: love one another as he has loved us. Nothing could be more simple; nothing could be more difficult. In fact, living this type of love is humanly impossible; we cannot do it on our own. We need God's grace to love like Him, especially when it comes to those people who might be difficult, hateful, or just entirely different from ourselves. That is why we are here today, in this Church, at this Eucharist. Our example of love is seen on the cross; Jesus gave his very life for all people, even those who put him to death. We are called to that same level of love.
Understandably, there are times when people feel like all this preaching is great on the theoretical level, but what is a practical way to live it? It’s one thing to talk about love for all people, but something else to show it to the person who is selfish, proud, irritating, inconsiderate, or never wrong! The best advice I have received is to start with the one I see each morning in the mirror.
Join with me in praying for the grace to love one another as Christ first loved us. Thank him for the people who have modeled that love in your own life. Be that example for someone else. May those beautiful words of Christ reign in our hearts: "I no longer call you slaves, I have called you friends. Love one another as I love you."