Friday, May 29, 2009

Sixth Sunday of Easter...God first loves us

My dear friends in Christ

Grace and love and peace to you in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I love spring. I love the fact that we aren’t going to get anymore snow on the ground. I love feeling the warmth of the sun on my head and arms as I sit next to my camper on a relaxing day off. There’s just something about this time of year that makes our readings explode of the page for me. LOVE! Our readings today are filled with love. It made me thing: it’s one thing to say that I love the sun. It’ s another thing to say, “I love you.” It’s a lot harder, a lot more intimate, isn’t. How do we show that we love one another?

There are safe ways to show love to one another. There’s the hand shake. There’s the high five. And, as we might remember from the election, there’s also the “fist bump” that the President and First Lady like to exchange. All of these are signs that are pretty safe to do with anyone you meet, right?

Then, there are more intimate ways of showing love. There’s the hug. Now I know some of you think that a hug should be bestowed on almost everyone and probably don’t agree that it’s more intimate. I can remember being seminary with just such a guy. At the end of a class where he had disagreed with a professor quite vehemently on a point, the seminarian wanted to hug the professor. The stuffy professor immediately fired back, “That’s why these tables are here, to prevent you from doing that! I think we’d all agree that a kiss is very intimate, right. It’ s not something you do for just anyone. During the next few months, I get to celebrate several wedding and, to be honest, my favorite part is when they exchange the kiss at the end of the liturgy. To me, this is something so beautiful about a man and woman exchanging that first kiss as husband and wife and doing so in front of the congregation of friends and family.

As I was praying about this, I asked myself, how do we show love to God? So far, none of the ways I talked about demonstrating love work for showing love to God. We can’t shake hands with God. We can’t hug God. We can’t fist bump God. So what can we do? We can sit in prayer and think in our hearts over and over again “I love you.” It’s really a powerful exercise and one that I encourage you to do sometime. But, that’s not very active. Love usually involves action. I show love by doing those simple actions to people. What are the actions I can do to show God love. What did our readings tell us to do?

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an expiation for our sins.” This quote from the second reading today sums it all up. The point of love is not that we loved God but that he loves us and gave us his son so that we might life through him. Oftentimes with the sacrament of reconciliation, I hear people express statements that seem to infer that they have to earn God’s love. People seem to think that, since they haven’t done a good enough job as a Christian, God won’t love them anymore. But, that’s not possible. God is love. And God, who is love, cannot but love us. This amazing realization is what Peter was teaching in the Conelius’ house. This was so astounding to Cornelius that he felt like Peter himself must have been some kind of god, instead of just working for him. Peter’s reaction of lifting him and telling him that he is not a god would have seemed rather harsh to the people around. It reminds me of Pope John XXII who decided to abolish the tradition of kissing the pope’s feet. He didn’t want people bending over seeming to worship his feet just to show him honor and respect. A hug was better for John XXIII.

Nonetheless, even though God is love and loves us dearly, we are told that we need to live in God’s love. In other words, this doesn’t mean that our lives can be terrible and God sits by like a neglectful parent still loving even when the children are wreaking havoc on the neighborhood. We are told to keep the commandments. Of course, Jesus simplified them down for us to love God and love neighbor. All our life needs to be filled with this. We are told to lay down our lives for our friends. We shouldn’t put our own needs and comfort first, in other words. We need to be looking around to see who is in need in order to be of service to them. Lastly, we are told to go and bear fruit. To me, this is why I feel honored to be present when a man and woman express God’s love for them in marriage: because they can go forth and bear the fruit of children. It’s what makes the marriage of husband and wife unique and worth celebrating and why it is such an honor to watch them exchange their first kiss as husband and wife. For one second, we get to witness two people experiencing God’s love for them and it inspires us to live in that love too.

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