Love is the Bull's-eye
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "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.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that well remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another."
Love is the bullís-eye of the good news of Jesus Christ. We know that. We have heard about the centrality of love countless times. Still, it is our mission to experience, ponder and live the love of God with greater depth every day of our lives.
The love of God is an infinite, bottomless fountain that God desires to shower upon us: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you." God created us with the ultimate purpose of drawing us up into his perfect love for all eternity. Our almighty and eternal God longs to share his perfect love with you. This is good news.
When Godís love is truly experienced, we are so filled with his love that we then begin to share it with others. This is the newness of Christís commandment to love. We are not simply invited to love others with the best love we can muster up in our human weakness, but to love like Christ, with his love flowing through us: "Love one another as I have loved you." This is made possible by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, forgiving us, healing us and sending us out to be Christ-like witnesses in the world. We become similar to a reservoir, pouring out into our broken world the love of Christ. His love constantly flows into our lives through the sacraments, the Scriptures, Christian fellowship and a growing awareness of the awesome fact that in spite of my lowliness, God truly loves me.
Love demands sacrifice. "There is no greater love than this, to lay down your lives for your friends." Love, by its very nature, involves dying to self in order to raise up the other. Genuine love includes truly desiring the greatest good for the beloved ó to the point of freely sacrificing our needs and desires in order to build them up and care for them.
Love brings a thrilling joy to the soul. To love like Christ is to know a deep and abiding joy not to be found among the ordinary things of this earth that fade like the flowers of the field. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete." God always gives generously; so, he wants our joy to be complete ó deep, abiding and life-giving. This joy arrives in surprising packages: from moments of trial, children, unexpected visitors and acts of sacrificial love.
Godís love is remarkably personal, never generic. "It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit." You and I have been personally chosen by God to draw close to him, to dwell in his presence through prayer and the Eucharist, to be formed and shaped by his truth and love. In addition, we have been deemed worthy of Jesusí friendship. "I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father." Jesus is many things for us: redeemer, healer, Good Shepherd and teacher, etc. However, Jesus extends to you the offer to be your friend. Do you believe that?
Finally, God wants you and me to spread this love to the whole world. "Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations." His plan for the kingdom of God is that we play a critical role in the spread of the good news to every corner of our world. No human being is excluded from this invitation to share in his love and truth. Not one. The first Letter of Timothy proclaims boldly that God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth" (2:4).
The sacred Scriptures are abundantly full of surprising examples of this offer. The Syrophoenician woman, the Ethiopian eunuch, the Samaritan woman at the well and Matthew the tax collector, to name a few. Todayís first reading from the Acts of the Apostles provides another instance. Peter is summoned by God to the house of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. After hearing Peter preach about Jesus, Corneliusí whole household, full of family and friends, is converted and baptized.
There is not greater news traveling the internet: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you."