April 24, 2016
Acounsellor talked to the children in a bible camp about the Risen Lord Jesus. She began like this, "Tonight I tell you about someone whom you all must meet. He is a person who loves you and cares for you, even more than your own family and friends. He's a person who is kinder than the kindest person you have ever known. He's a person who forgives you, no matter how often you do wrong. No matter what you do wrong, he is always ready to accept you, to love you and to understand you."
The counsellor noticed a little girl getting more and more excited as he talked. Suddenly the little girl could hold back no longer. She shouted out, "I know the man you're talking about. He lives on our street..."
It is true that to be a Christian is to be someone who shows others, in practice, some of what Jesus is like. It is important that the people recognize us as belonging to Jesus by our love for one another.
When St. Paul and Barnabas return from their mission they celebrate the success of building a community. The Book of Revelation concludes with a celebration of the final community where God dwells among the faithful. The Gospel of John gives us Jesus' farewell discourse in which Jesus celebrates the glory of God and relates it to the quality of love that the disciples must show in their community. When the Risen Lord sitting on the throne says, "See I am making all things new," he clarifies that what new is Christian community with its new quality of love.
Jesus views this love command as a summary of all his wishes. In practice this broad challenge includes a willingness to serve others, to wash their feet as Jesus did, and to lay down one's life for others.
The disciples' love is rooted in Christ. Christian community is to be characterized by Christ's love. In fact, it is easy to talk about love rather than to love. How difficult it is to love unselfishly. "Love one another as I have loved you." The risen Lord shows us how to love. To really love is to put the other persons first. It is simple and frightening at the same time. How many of us could claim to love like that? A few kind gestures, a commitment or two, and we have a good conscience. We give a little of ourselves, a few crumbs, and in no time we are so proud of ourselves. We brim over with self-congratulation.
True love, like true friendship, is more difficult. It calls for effort, and it causes pain. It is not enough to say 'I love you,' or 'I care for you,' and do nothing about it. The deepest pain comes when our love is not returned; when we meet with no response. Then it becomes really hard to go on loving. Often we flatly refuse to love those whom we consider, for some reason, unworthy of our love. It is not that we hate them. It's just that we refuse to accept them into our hearts.
It is easy to love people who are far away. It is not always easy to love those who are close to us. It is easier to give a few dollars to relieve the famine in Ethiopia than to relieve the hunger, the loneliness of those living next door or those on our street. In other words, it is easy to love at a distance, but not so easy to love at close quarters.
But does Christ really expect me to love that woman next door who never stops gossiping? That lazy fellow I have to work beside every day? That trouble makers in my class? That unfriendly bus driver who never smiles? That bad tempered supervisor? That neighbour's cheeky spoiled brats? That poor dirty person on the street? That spouse who never appreciates me? I would have wished that they were in Ecuador or India, and they needed my help, I would be moved with pity and send them a few dollars. Unfortunately they are right on my doorstep.
Yes these are the people Jesus asks us to love. In this and every Eucharist, we come to Jesus, the source and model of love. One more time we renew our love with his command. We must begin by loving the people near us. That is where our love for each other must start. But it doesn't have to end there because only by our love for one another, the people will know that we are the disciples of the Risen Lord.