6th Sunday of Easter
Acts 10.25-27, 34-35, 44-48; Ps 98; 1 John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17
"Jim...I knew You'd come."
Horror gripped the heart of a World War-I soldier, as he saw his lifelong friend fall in battle. The soldier asked his Lieutenant if he could go out to bring his fallen comrade back.
"You can go," said the Lieutenant," but don't think it will be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you may throw your life away. "The Lieutenant's words didn't matter, and the soldier went anyway.
Miraculously, he managed to reach his friend, hoisted him onto his shoulder and brought him back to their company's trench. The officer checked the wounded soldier, then looked kindly at his friend.
" I told you it wouldn't be worth it," he said. "Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded." "It was worth it, Sir," said the soldier. "What do you mean by worth it?" responded the Lieutenant.
"Your friend is dead." "Yes Sir," the soldier answered, "but it was worth it because when I got to him, he was still alive and I had the satisfaction of hearing him say...."Jim...I knew you'd come."
When we speak of the law of gravity, it simply happens without our knowledge. So when we speak of the law of love, it also happens spontaneously whenever we feel the inner pull in our hearts for love.
The Law of Love
The New Law is a law of love (Gospel) that is valid for everyone. It is universal and requires universal love, for theological love, by nature, cannot exclude. This is made manifest in the opening of the doors of the Church to non Jews (First Reading), in which Peter discovers that “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Responsorial Psalm). Knowledge of God through faith leads to an all-giving love for God (Second Reading), and here we see that the fulfillment of the New Law is tantamount to a life of the theological virtues.
God is Love
“God is love.” Such an affirmation is simple and absolute. Nonetheless, to enter into this mystery and truly understand it requires more than intellectual knowledge. To know that God is love requires our participation in his divine love. Authentic knowledge of God is only born in a simple heart that is open and attentive to him. Ultimately, this knowledge of God, of divine Love, is a personal experience.
Love is the Source of Life
Initial knowledge of divine Love might begin with opening Sacred Scripture and discovering the Creator who finds joy in his creation. In the beginning, creation was in harmony, a sort of silent dialogue between the Creator who contemplates the goodness of his handiwork, and creation’s loving response to God (see Genesis 1; Proverbs 8.22-36; Job 38-39; Daniel 3.52-90). Divine Love is the source of all life. It is an inexhaustible life whose characteristics are gratuitousness and gift: bonum diffusivum sui (by its nature, goodness is expansive), as the Scholastics said. This self-generating love brings about a beloved with the capacity to love in return, because Love is not satisfied in loving. It desires love in return. Man’s response to divine Love establishes a communion between Lover and beloved that results in peace and mutual benevolence. Nonetheless, the mystery of evil has ruptured this communion through original sin. “Man”, says late John Paul II, “is constantly tempted to distance himself from the source of love” (Veritatis Splendor). The harmony is broken, and man still searches for peace, life, and a solution to this tragedy.
Love Revealed in the Son
Beyond man’s own grasp, God turns to the world once again with his immeasurable love, revealed in his Son as an authentic passion. The whole life of Christ is “passion”: the ability to suffer. His whole life was a progressive and ever-increasing revelation of the love of the Father which peaked on Calvary: the ultimate act of self-giving and expansion of goodness in the form of shedding his Blood. His self-oblation is his gift and gratuitousness. “It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was” (John 13.1). Out of love Christ offers himself to the Father as innocent, expiatory victim for the sins of the world: “Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies the punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53.5). Upon giving his life, he not only re-opens the gates of heaven, but he gives us a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15.12).
This is the New Law
This new commandment is a compendium of the New Law, which, like goodness itself, is given to creatures. And it is in living this new commandment that man rediscovers his happiness and peace, his very life. “Jesus asks us to follow him and to imitate him along the path of love, a love which gives itself completely to the brethren … to the end.” Nonetheless, “Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being…. To imitate and live out the love of Christ is not possible for man by his own strength alone. He becomes capable of this love only by virtue of a gift received. As the Lord Jesus receives the love of his Father, so he in turn freely communicates that love to his disciples” (Veritatis Splendor 20-22).
Gift Given to Us
This gift is the Holy Spirit. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the cenacle and breathed on them saying: “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20.22). The reception of the Holy Spirit regenerates the human person and, in putting him in a state of grace, makes him a bearer of the Blessed Trinity, of divine Love itself.
God is Dwelling in our Heart
The danger of love becoming a nebulous term, or remaining on the level of a platitude, is overcome by the fact of the divine indwelling: the real presence of God dwelling in the human soul. Regardless of the fact of God’s presence in some souls and his potential to dwell in all souls, experience has shown us that his loving presence is not enough for us to fulfill his commandment of love. It is only the condition. Each one of us has experienced how there is an interior struggle if God’s law is to come to fruition in us: “in my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates” (Romans 7.22).
Real Love is Sacrificial
If God’s presence is the prerequisite for the fulfillment of the commandment of love, our will is not far behind in this common enterprise of love. There are two principles of growing in the love of God:
- Learning when to give in to God, what to give to God, and what to give up for God. Weaning ourselves from self-love will require the surrender of our hearts to him.
- Showing this in deeds. Such a love becomes more sacrificial in its relationship to goods and more enduring in trials.
Growth is the Proof of Love
In the spiritual life there is a law of continual growth: If we are not advancing we can be assured that we are falling behind. God demands such growth of us, with our whole heart, mind, and strength. On the one hand, outside of God’s grace there can be no merit and no growth. On the other, the more profound our love in our actions, the more meritorious they will be. Divine Love in our souls is a measure of holiness: God’s grace in our soul increases to the degree in which we let God live and love in us and through us.
The Path of Love is Strenuous
Since our love for God determines how much we love our neighbor, nowhere else in Christian spirituality is God’s grace more necessary to continue to love one another. God makes sure to place unlovable people in our path so that we can exercise the supernatural and theological virtue of charity and imitate his Son Jesus Christ in all his works and relationships. The love of God in our soul makes us love those unlovable, humanly speaking possible only when we open our hearts to the grace of God. In this case it is God’s love that propels us to love in a virtuous, selfless way. It is God himself, together with our cooperative will, who loves those souls through us.
An act of love can transform our environment. It can be accomplished through hidden acts of love in our homes, communities, and in our society. It could be paying a visit to a sick person, consoling someone who is desperate and in pain; or caring the elderly in our neighbourhood.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD