Fr. Paul's Homily
Occasionally, I will have a member of the parish stop by after Mass to share with me the lastest joke! This week, she handed me this one: A young man was chosen for a prestigious award at his school. When he arose to make his acceptance speech before the student body and parents, he begin by saying, “I want to thank one person who has made this day possible…my Mom. She is an amazing woman who has shown me how to life with courage and conviction. I owe everything to her.” At this point the young man hesitated, as if he was having difficulty with his text. A small smile appeared on his face and he said, “Sometimes it is hard to read my mother’s handwriting.” Happy Mother’s Day!!
Today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, we also have these beautiful readings that touch on the call to love. In the Letter of St. John we learn that “Love is of God” and that “God is Love.” Both of these relate to a mother’s love and how this love is a reflection of God’s Love for us. In the Gospel, St. John goes on to say that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.” Such love will bring great joy, a joy that truly is from God. Let’s talk about this today.
The Golden Rule says “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
But Jesus goes beyond the Golden Rule. We are not simply to love our neighbor as we love our self; we are to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us. That is a different and much more difficult standard. You see, the Golden Rule is from the Old Testament which also gave us “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This teaching is based upon fairness, not love. For example, when the candy bar is split between two brothers, we try to split it exactly in half, so that each brother receives the same. It is difficult to do this, so there is usually complaining from one of the brothers who says, “I got the smaller piece!” All this is based upon the Golden Rule and it often leads to further complaining because we never feel like we got an equal share.
Jesus’ teachings take it a big step further. He calls us to love one another with the same love by which he has loved us. How much did Jesus love us? He gave his life for us, which is not an act of fairness but rather an act of pure, unconditional love. Now, let’s talk about the love of a mother. Can you imagine if the love of a mother was based upon, “An eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth?” If a sick child roamed into Mom and Dad’s room at 2 AM, would the mother say, “You didn’t give me a hug before you went to bed, so I am not going to help you now?” Of course not!! A mother’s love has to go beyond “fairness”.
I might go a step further and say that it is motherhood that teaches many women how to be selfless and self-giving, just as fatherhood teaches many men. Marriage may teach self-giving, but a person can remain on the “fairness” level in marriage, expecting that good behavior will enable good behavior between spouses. But once a child is born, you simply cannot expect a balance between mother and child. Being a mother or being a father pushes us to love unconditionally, as Jesus did. We then fulfill his words, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
To love as Jesus loved will give us great joy, a joy that comes from God. In some ways, it seems to be paradoxical: how do we find joy if we are giving to another? First, we must realize that joy is not about collecting. Joy is not about collecting more toys, more vacations, more balance in the retirement fund. While we might like all these, they do not provide joy.
Joy is comes from deep within, as a quality of the Holy Spirit. It can be sustaining, and actually grown, in the midst of great suffering. Joy puts a smile on our faces when others might not even understand why. Or, joy might put a tear in our eyes when we are overwhelmed.
There was a beautiful story in Reader’s Digest recently. It was written by a woman in Rhode Island. She wrote that only three times in her whole life did she see her father cry.
The first time she saw him cry was when she was seven. His mother, her grandmother died.
The second time she saw him cry was at the airport when her brother departed for Vietnam.
The third time she saw her father cry was when he was in his 80s. Her mother, in late-stage Alzheimer’s, resided in a nursing home. Her father had visited her mother, his much-beloved wife, daily for ten years except for three months when he broke his foot.
After his foot healed, he returned to the nursing home. It seemed like such a long time since he had seen his beloved wife. He said, “I thought Mother forgot me, but when she saw me, she smiled and said, ‘I love you.’” Then, his daughter said, her father sobbed. Joy is much deeper than happy. Joy is of God.
All this is possible if we remain in God’s Love as the source of our love for others. Deacon Mike pointed out last week that the Gospel about the vine and branches included the word, “Remain”, 8 times! Today’s Gospel builds upon this:
“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,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.”
So, Jesus calls us to “remain” in his love. “To remain” is to stay where we are. To remain in God’s Love is to realize that God’s Love is already here and we need to stay with it.
We all experience a restlessness that is always pushing us to discover something new. We are never quite content with what is already present in our loves. Yet, sometimes, what we are looking for “out there” is already “in here.” Sometimes the looking for something better keeps us from seeing what is already true.
Jesus wants us to know that the Father and the Son loves us. This is meant to be a sustaining reality that is always a gift to us. When we know that someone loves us, we find a new strength and courage to face the challenges of love. Jesus is reminding us to “remain” in this special love that is from God. We do not have to go anywhere to find this love…it is already here
Jesus went on to say that we remain in his Love if we do what he commands us. What does he command us? That we should love one another as he has loved us. So, remaining in God’s Love is sustained through our willing to love one another.
So, if we want to know God’s Love, then love others. So, God’s Love is meant to be active, engaging, people centered.
How many of us feel spiritual dry inside? How many of wish the Love of God was more deeply felt with in us? I imagine many of us would say “Yes” to these questions. Well the best advice I can probably give is the advice of Jesus: “Go love someone the way that Jesus loves us…radically and way beyond fairness.
One morning in 2012, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, city transit bus driver named Kris Doubledee, 38, made an unscheduled stop on a busy street corner. The passengers all watched him as he got off the bus and approached a man on the sidewalk who was barefoot.
Doubledee asked the man if he had any shoes; the man said no. So the bus driver removed his own shoes and handed them to the man. “Here,” he said. “You need these more than I do.” Then Doubledee returned to his seat wearing no shoes and continued on his route.
A passenger asked him why he’d done that. Doubledee explained that he’d seen the man standing there before and just couldn’t bear the thought that he didn’t have any shoes. (3)
Do you want God’s Love in your heart? Love someone like this bus driver. Love someone like a mother loves her children!