We hear in the Gospel: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” The depth of that statement is often missed. Jesus is saying that the same, intimate relationship that he experiences with his Father is also passed on to us, his disciples. Living that reality of being unconditionally loved empowers us, as Jesus says, to “love one another as I love you.” We are part of this magnificent circle of love with the Father, Jesus, and one another.
This word “love” appears in one form or another in this Sunday’s readings an amazing twenty times. God’s meaning of ‘precious,’ unconditional faithfulness needs to be our focus for ‘love.’ Our experience of human love is ideally a reproduction of it. Too often, it is a poor reflection.
Is there perhaps a short circuit in the way we view love? Our personal experience includes the fact that we are conditioned to think we need to earn love. That has been the experience of every one of us at some level:
- love from our teachers earned for good grades and conduct;
- love from our employers earned for success in the work place;
- love from parents earned by some, unfortunately, for being ‘good’ boys and girls.
- love earned by others by always trying to do the right thing
But that is the wrong emphasis. We need to learn, regardless of our age, that love is not about getting but true love is about giving. After all, don’t we have the supreme example in the life of Christ? His whole life was about giving, right to the end, when He gave His life for us so that we could always know His Father’s love. Could you ask for a greater gift or a greater example? Does the truth of Christ’s personal love for you, proven from the height of the cross, fill you with awe and find an ever more generous response in your spiritual life?
So what do we do with that? Well, allow me to offer you a suggestion. I ask you to examine your definition of love. The love of your spouse, the love of your partner, the love of a friend, the love of a relative. If these people – or others – are important to you, then ask your self – “How much of my love for that person is about getting or is it about giving?”
You see, to me, the joy – the absolute joy – of loving as Jesus did – is giving and not expecting back. Giving because we truly love a person – or persons – and are joyed when we can make that person’s life easier, better, happier, or just simply more pleasant.
Do we do that with our spouse? Did we do with our spouse when alive? Can we mark the days on our calendar when the loves we have in our life are not about what did they do for me but rather what I do for them?
Didn’t Jesus tell us that today? Didn’t he say?
“A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”
Since love is about self-giving, then the greater the self-giving, the greater the love. When we put our lives at the service of others, when we live in order to give and not to take, when we are willing to suffer so that someone else can rejoice, then we may call ourselves his disciples. The command to love each other is the logical result of our personal worth as people loved by the Lord. If Jesus loves my brother or sister so much that he gave his life for him or her, can there be any excuse for me not to show respect and deference on their behalf? Charity is the badge of every true Christian.
On a personal note, some of the greatest joys of my life have come from being of service as an ordained minister. Whether in a home for the mentally ill, or in an assisted living facility, or in a prison, or hospital or at a death bed, the fact that I have been so blessed that I could give some of His love to another is what has kept me going for almost 40 years. There may have been times I was fatigued, or disillusioned, but I focused on Jesus Christ, I focus on the love of God. I focus on my faith and sometimes I have had to discern whether the institution, of which I am a part was acting in the love that we are commanded to follow.
The joy of giving is not about self-centeredness – it’s just the opposite. It is about giving so much of yourself that you realize the more you are emptied, the more you are filled. The more that your love is about giving, then the more you become his disciple.
Look, we are all flawed. No one of us can be the perfect model of love. But we can start today with a new perspective or perhaps a fuller perspective. We can recognize that we are loved by Him – we can’t turn it off or turn it away – we can’t hide from it nor can we escape it. God loves us – period. His Son came to prove that love and give us the greatest gift we could receive.
Isn’t it time that we begin to return that love or perhaps return that love in greater measure? Isn’t it time that the “me” disappears and the “we” appear – the “we” of God and me? Isn’t it time that we allow the fullness of His love to spill over from our lives and touch the lives of not only those we love but those around us.