04/15/2018 - "LOVE OF BRETHERN - WHY LOVE AT ALL?"

LOVE OF BRETHREN - WHY LOVE AT ALL?

On Easter Sunday, entering into the death and Resurrection of His Son Jesus, we heard an astonishing truth - Father God has declared his judgment on us, and his judgment is this: we are worthy of love.

How do we know God loves us? And, what do we do about it? Well, the short answers are these: How do we know God loves us? He told us so. What do we do about it? Love each other. Let me go a little further in depth with those answers.

God loves me.

You see, you and I were created to be loved. We could not have figured that out on our own, but in the midst of human history, God chose to reveal himself to a particular people, Israel. All throughout Salvation History, He revealed His faithfulness, mercy, jealousy, strength, compassion, desirousness.

God demonstrated deep and unshakeable commitment to bringing that people into a loving relationship of trust with him. That commitment was so strong, that, in the fullness of time, His Son, Jesus, was born of the Virgin Mary, to die for our sins, and to rise so that we might have a way to new life. That’s a pretty deep level of commitment. In fact, that is the ultimate level of commitment.

The willingness of the Father to suffer the death of His Son, the willingness of the Son to undergo absolute agony for no wrongdoing - this has set the bar for us for all time - this is Perfect Love.

So, why does God love us so much??

What could we possibly have done to make him think that being in a close relationship with us could be worth all of that?

Well - nothing. There is nothing we could have done to bring that about. He himself brought it about, and he did it before we were created. God didn’t make us, look at us, and then decide, “Okay, I suppose I’ll love this little thing I’ve formed” No! Rather, the very reason He chose to bring us into being at all, was so that we could be in a loving relationship with him.

The catechism words this reality so beautifully: “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.

For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence.”

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.

In the course of its history, Israel was able to discover that God had only one reason to reveal himself to them, a single motive for choosing them from among all peoples as his special possession: his sheer gratuitous love.

On Easter Sunday, when we heard about God’s plan for our lives from the perspective of God the Father, we heard Him say this: “I created you so that I might share my eternal life with you.” That is the very reason we exist. We are supposed to be sharers in his divine life, a life of perfect love.

We are supposed to participate in perfect love. That is our design, the plan for each one of us, inside this church and out of it. Every single person ever born was born to that end. So he seeks to adopt us into His family as Sons, and make us over in the image not of Adam, by our birth, but “like Christ”, through our re-birth in baptism.

St. John in the second reading put it this way: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by Him.” When we believe in Jesus, we are “begotten by God”, that phrase, literally born of him, his Sons.

And this is a great mystery that we are made his Sons, when there’s such an enormous difference between what He is and what we are. But He had a plan to close that gap, it was made possible by his Son, God Himself, becoming what we are, and he now moves at all times and in all ways, to make us like Christ, to make us his Sons, able to share in his life, able to love like Him. Jesus showed us the way to be both a human and a Son of God; he was the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

So we love others

So, what did he show us?  What is that way? In the second part of that declaration by John just heard, he says that everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. This is Jesus, yes, but also, all of us! We have been adopted into His family, to be made like Him. So if we love the Father, then we love our brothers too, his other sons. We can’t love the Father, and not love his children. Let me say that again: We cannot love the Father, without also loving His children. They necessarily go together.  

Let’s return to the scene of the Last Supper, Holy Thursday, the establishment of his continuing Sacrament of encounter with us, and listen to the words He tells his first apostles.

Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” He’s spelling out here the way to become like Him and share in his life - “love each other, like I’m showing you how.” He also tells them that night, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We see this playing out in our first reading, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common… so there was no needy person among them.”  

As they were bathed as individuals in the water and the spirit, as they were bathed in this reckless love of God, they came out of the waters of baptism as a community of believers, of one heart and mind. This unity bore tangible fruit: there was no needy person among them. They were aware of one another’s needs, and they were invested in meeting those needs in action, not just in sentiment alone. This was what made the Christians look so different from the rest of the world, they loved each other so well. And it should still be the hallmark of the Christian community.

You and I, are called to extend the Victory of Jesus over the spirit of this world by loving everyone with the very same love of the Father. In the gospel reading today, we hear Jesus say to those first followers, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

We as the church are invited to participate in that very exchange of God: we recognize the needs and hurts of others, and we experience God giving them His love through us! Through our words, thoughts, touch, compassion, and action.

Our acceptance and belief in the Father’s Love and in Jesus’ victory gives us a new vision: we are outward focused, liberated from the tiny prison of the self, focused on the other.

GREATEST DEAL IN ALL OF HISTORY

On Easter, We heard the father offer us the greatest deal in all of history: You hand me your brokenness, I hand you my love. We are recipients of the ultimate mercy. And because we are destined for Glory, to share in God’s glorious life, you and I will be called upon to share in this very exchange of God.

When faced with the brokenness, betrayal, and hurt of others, we will not judge or condemn them, but rather we will pronounce the very same judgment of God upon their lives: they are worthy of love. We will receive hurt, wounds, betrayal, and in exchange, we will give love, God’s love!

Over these next weeks, we’ll dig even deeper into how we can do that in practice. For now, let’s take the words of St. John home with us today, to settle into our minds and spirit:

“For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.

And his commandments are not burdensome.

It might sound like an unreasonable demand, this loving the whole world with the perfect exchange of God’s mercy, but - in a blessed irony - this is actually where we will be most alive, most rejuvenated, most free.

This commandment is not burdensome. In fact, the Catechism shows us that it is just the opposite:

“Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest!”

“Love itself is the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.”

During the week remember to pray for each other.

Fr. Michael