6th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
Every year on the 6th Sunday of Easter, I am tempted to put on my philosophy professor's hat and dive into making the proper distinctions among the various kinds of love – caritas, eros, philos, agape. But I remind myself that you did not come to Mass for a philosophy lecture. You came to Mass to hear the Word preached and to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. But then it occurred to me that by coming to hear the Word preached and by participating in the Sacrifice of the Mass, you are here to more perfectly receive the Self-Gift of God, who is Love! No, don't worry. Despite this revelation, I'm not going to lecture you with philosophy. What I am going to do is attempt to show you Who God is as Love and how we imperfect receivers of His love often miss the mark when receiving Him. To understand Who God is as Love and how we often miss the mark receiving Him, we can start here: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Christ loves us with the love of his Father. If we will remain in his love, we will keep his commandments. God as Love is our end, our goal, our telos. We miss the mark when we fail to keep His commandments.
So, God is our end, our telos. Commenting on the reading from 1 John, the CCC teaches: “God's very being is love. . .God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (221). Who God is is Love. God doesn't love sometimes and not others. He is Love. God doesn't love this and hate that. He doesn't pick and choose who or what gets to participate in His Being as Love. All created things live and move and have their being in God by nature. As human persons – rational animals – we are given the chance by grace to participate here and now in the Divine Life, in the exchange of Divine Love that is the Blessed Trinity. God the Father created us for this. God the Son re-created us for this. And the Holy Spirit ensures that the invitation to share in the Divine Life is always fresh, always new. So, when we say that God is Love we are saying – in part – that God Himself is our ultimate Good. He perfects us. Makes us whole, gives us life eternal. God as Love is our target, our goal, our only objective. He alone is our final design and our perfect destination. Everything we say, do, and think is best done with hearts and minds intensely focused on this Good.
So, how do we get ourselves in trouble, knowing that Divine Love is our ultimate goal? The most common way we get lost along the Way is by confusing human love for Divine Love. Human love has come to be understood as little more than an emotion, a fleeting twinge in the gut, or an infatuation. A soup of neurotransmitters in the brain. We also use human love as a tool of manipulation, or a weapon against our enemies. How often are we told that if we truly loved sinners, we would approve of and applaud their sin? How often do we tell ourselves that if God really loves me, He would approve of and applaud my sin? Merely human love is all about unconditional acceptance and approval of whatever choices we make. Even if those choices are obviously harmful, maybe even deadly. Human love – to be truly loving – participates in Divine Love. God loved us into being. His love holds us in being. So, any real love we experience and share is an imperfect expression of His love. To remain in Christ, to remain in the Father's love, we must obey the Lord's commandments. These are the stones that line the Way and keep us from confusing human love with Divine Love.
Jesus tells his disciples that he is revealing the truth to them so that their joy may be complete: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” In the same way that our Lord loves us, we must love one another. Our Lord loved us to the Cross. He died so that our suffering may be turned to joy as we live and die for one another. He died in the Father's love so that we may know the Way of perfection through the pursuit of holiness – living in the world w/o being consumed by the world. We remain in Christ by striving everyday to become more and more Christ-like. To love, sacrifice, and forgive as he loved, sacrificed, and forgave. Being Christ-like is not about dismissing sin as irrelevant to love. Being Christ-like is about recognizing that true love and disobedience cannot co-exist. We do not love ourselves or our neighbors when we pretend that sin is not sin. When we soothe a seared conscience by congratulating ourselves on being tolerant and accepting. We always, always love the person. That's a given. We can never love the lie that takes that person off the Way of Divine Love. Remain in Christ's love. Love as he loves you. And remember: his love found him on the Cross.