6th Sunday of Easter - Year B - 2015
When we think of love today, most people think of this warm and fuzzy feeling that leaves us head over heals – we talk of being knocked off our feet. Love in the movies is accompanied by cheesy music and passionate kisses that make the ladies kick up their heels. Love in the fairy tales is something that makes everyone live happily ever after. Love in our culture is a feeling, an emotion, that comes and goes as quickly as the wind – when its good its good but when its gone its gone. People talk as much about falling out of love these days as they talk about falling in love. It seems to be a falling – something that happens to them.
But love – real love – authentic love – is something completely different. Love isn't primarily an emotion – it is, rather, primarily a decision: Beloved – let us love one another. The ones we like and get along with, and the ones we don’t like so much or get along with at all. John didn't say let us love those who make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside – nor did he say – see who you find yourself loving and keep loving them. John said let us love one another. Look to your left, look to your right, look across the room – and love those people, all of those people, whether you like them or not – love them anyway. “This I command you: love one another.”
So love – real love – is a decision…but what kind of decision? Today’s readings point out that love is first of all a steadfast, unchanging, faithful decision to remain in relationship no matter what. Remain in my love. We love when we are all in, all the time, forever and ever amen. When the going gets tough, the tough might get going – but in love, when the going gets tough, those who love one another stay right where they are. Remain in my love. When illness weakens the body and requires more help, and the nerves grow raw, and the energy tank reads ‘empty’, love means staying and weathering the storm. When financial troubles hit, or relationship difficulties make it easier to leave rather than face the uncomfortable situation, love stays. Remain in my love.
Love is a steadfast decision to remain and to lay it all down for the good of the beloved. ‘In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His Son into the world so that we might have life through Him.’ Sometimes love means letting go of those things we hold most dear. ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ And if love means laying down our lives, then mustn't it also mean to lay down our preferences, our likes and dislikes, our preconceived notions when doing so is for the good of the other? In our culture folks seem to be saying over and over again, ‘I’ll love you if…’ I’ll love you if you change to fit my mold, if you’ll do this or stop doing that; I’ll love you if you become who and how I want you to be. But that’s not love – true love, authentic love, says ‘I’ll love you even…’ I’ll love you even when you aren't loving me, I’ll love you even when you anger, or frustrate, or disappoint me.
Love is a steadfast decision to remain and to lay it all down for the good of the beloved. We sometimes confuse love with affection or preference; and that’s partly because our language isn't precise about the difference. We say we love ice cream and pizza and puppies, using the same word to express how God loves us and how we must love one another. But that misleads us into thinking that love comes and goes, and is based on what we like. In the Greek of the New Testament, the word we translate into love from today’s readings has a very clear definition: desiring, choosing, and bringing about what is best for the other person. That’s the way Christ loves us – not an emotion, but an act of the will, a steadfast decision to lay it all down for the good of the beloved.
And as Christians, following Christ could not be any clearer – our need to grow and practice and develop into people who love according to the model of Christ could not be more explicit. Beloved, let us love one another…As the Father loves me, so I love you…Remain in my love…This I command you, love one another.’
So how are we doing at being a people of love? In our families and our relationships with one another in this parish? Beloved, let us love one another – brothers and sisters, let us be steady and constant in being a part of this community of faith, consistently desiring, choosing, and bringing about what is best for the other person in all things.
Jesus, of course, is the only perfect example of authentic love lived out in life and death. But isn't it beautiful that we meditate on authentic love today as we celebrate Mother’s Day together. We honor Mary’s authentic love – her love for God, for Christ, and for us – in the way she lived her yes every day of her life. In fact, it is impossible to ever become a mother without a woman doing her best for about nine months to choose every moment of every day to bring about what is best for the child she carried within her. And that sets up a lifetime of love that motherhood is all about.
For most of us, if we ever need an up close and personal example of what it means to live a life of love, we need not look any farther than our mothers. And I can think of no better way to honor our Moms today than to strive to live each moment of our lives loving one another, just as Christ loved us.
Beloved…let us love one another.