Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13, 2012: 6th Sunday of Easter (B)

Click to hear Audio Homily
Typically moms shower their children with unconditional love. I experienced my mom’s love for me through her cooking. The meals were always abundant and delicious, and she always cooked my favorites. As I reflect back into my childhood, there were a few occasions when I dreaded going home from school. My mom was the disciplinarian in the house, and on the days when I brought home my report card from elementary school, I usually lingered outside our home longer than usual. Although I knew mom loved me, on those days I feared that I didn’t deserve that love, and sometimes I feared for my poor calves. As a young child, it was difficult to process this unconditional love that at times seemed conditional; I feared that affections and approvals would be withheld for not living up to expectations and responsibilities. How do we make sense of this unconditional love that seems conditional to us?

The first step in understanding this begins with a great spiritual axiom that we heard today in the letter from St John that we should memorize by heart. St. John wrote, "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins." God's love is a love that anticipates our every need first, even before we recognize that there is a need. I think a person doubts God’s love if he himself has never really loved. If he does not know what love is, then he thinks of it as a fleeting passion. How sad it is to know that many believe that selfish passion is real love.

Love is far from a passing infatuation. I have learned from my own experience that love is a firm direction of will. Yes, we have to choose to love. Real love is a force of spirit that surpasses all flesh, endures all struggles. Love that can die or weaken with any change in circumstances, such as illness or job loss, is not love. True love is faithful and there is no sacrifice that is too great for true love. Love that is worthy of the name will always have this eternal quality. In Jesus, eternal Love became flesh and through Him, we came to see real love. Jesus knew His Father’s love and knew it well. He said in today's Gospel, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  His love was a love that was so great, that He gave his life for our sins.
Jesus said, “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love." So we know that without condition the Father and His Son love us. God is God and He doesn't need us to complete Him. He is perfect and self-sufficient in Himself. His love for us is freely given, without condition attached. Did Jesus add a condition when He said, "IF you keep my commandments?" Is Jesus saying that IF we are good enough, holy enough, or free of sin, then He will love us?

We must focus on His words, "Remain in my love." Jesus’ desire is for us to receive His love, freely, without fear, and without anxiety that somehow a string is attached. God's love for us will never diminish despite any mistakes we may make. I often encounter people who believe otherwise; they presume God was so disappointed with their mistakes and failure to keep His commandments that His love was withdrawn until it was earned again. How contrary this is to God's way! What kept me outside of my parents’ house on report card days was fear. I presumed, out of fear, to stay away, therefore I cut myself off from mom’s unconditional love for me.

Here is the second part about ‘remaining in His love.’ Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love...I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” So that is another spiritual axiom to memorize. If you want to keep the unconditional love that you receive, then you have to give it away. Once you stop giving the love away to others, the flow of love stops, it becomes stagnant and selfish. Mothers tend to have a keen sense about this and so they teach it to their children, always reminding them to love.
It is amazing that God uses ordinary men and women like us to reach those who live in darkness. We carry God’s light within us. Our very presence in a room will insure that others become aware, not only of the grace that surrounds us, but also of the grace that surrounds them. Therefore, do not ever think that it is useless to bring Jesus to another, regardless of his condition.