06 May 2018

"Love is in the Air"

Sixth Sunday of Easter
     So clearly, St. John is focusing on love this weekend.  Our second reading, from the first Letter of St. John, says "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God."  And in the Gospel, also from St. John, we heard, "'As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love....This is my commandment; love one another as I love you.'"  As John Paul Young sang, "Love is in the air."
     And this weekend, as we have our second grade students receive their first Holy Communion, we celebrate what love is: love is the gift of self.  Jesus gives Himself in the Eucharist because He wants to remain with us, so that we can remain with Him.  And if we remain with Him, our joy will be complete.
 Love, as seen in the Eucharist, is a sacrifice.  We are so often told by basically every secular source, that love is about me.  Love is supposed to make me happy.  Love is a good feeling that I have with another.  Love completes me.  But that's not what Jesus shows us in the Eucharist.  What Jesus shows us in the Eucharist is that love is concerned with making the other person happy; love sometimes is not accompanied by any good feelings; love is about helping the other get to heaven.
   Because in the Eucharist, we receive Jesus' sacrifice of His own life on the cross.  In the Eucharist we receive Jesus' Body and Blood which was poured out for the one He loves, His Bride, the Church (that's us!).  If love was about the self, Jesus would not have died for us.  If love was about feeling good, Jesus would not have been crucified.  As St. John says, "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins."
     Love is difficult; it's not easy.  Love is difficult even when the beloved loves you.  It's always a joy to celebrate anniversaries of couples at Mass.  When I see a couple that has been married for 25, 40, 50, or even 60 years, I see their joy and happiness with each other.  What I don't see on those days are the days that they maybe weren't so in love with each other, the days when maybe they didn't have good feelings towards each other, the days when the maybe they wanted to kill each other (metaphorically speaking, of course...I hope).  Because we are human we fail at love, because we have a tendency to be selfish, which is the opposite of love.  We are afraid to be selfless, because we are afraid that the love we express will not be returned.  That's part of what makes love so beautiful: it requires great vulnerability.
     But love is even more difficult when the beloved does not love you, even if it's just temporary.  Parents know this all too well: those moments when your own child says that they hate you, that you're a bad parent, that they never want to talk to you again, because you took away their iPhone, or grounded them for bad behavior.  Kinds don't usually mean it, they are generally just taking out their frustration.  But sometimes we do find people that generally have o love for us, who maybe even wish us ill.  But we are still called to love them.
     Love doesn't mean letting them engage in destructive behavior, or letting them do anything they want.  That's not love, that's apathy, not caring either way.  But loves means  we do what's best for the beloved, even if it's not appreciated or understood.
     Jesus tells us that love means laying down our life for our friends.  If anyone could say that, Jesus could, as the following day (this Gospel recounts what happened at the Last Supper), Jesus would lay down His life for His friends, the Apostles, for His Blessed Mother, and even for those who hated Him.  Whenever I hear this passage I think of our military personnel who lay down their life for our country, even if laying down their lives doesn't mean paying the ultimate sacrifice, but is led out by delaying their own plans for life, being away for their families, and daily doing jobs that many others never want to to.  I also think of our police officers, and specifically for me our State Troopers.  Law enforcement personnel daily also lay down their lives for the citizens that they serve.  Sometimes they, too, pay the ultimate price and sacrifice their lives.  Other times it's the nights or days that they're away from their families, interacting with people with whom most other people would rather not come into contact, and running towards danger while everyone else is running away.
     The reason why we especially honor veterans and first responders is because they show love in a way that many of us could not even fathom.  But mom and dads also sacrifice greatly; employees sacrifice for the good of their company; kids sometimes also know how to sacrifice for others in simple, yet profound ways, like sharing a favorite snack with a friend who doesn't have much food.  Love is not only a vocation for the great, it is a vocation for everyone.
     So as we who are prepared to receive the Eucharist today come forward, may we be inspired by love.  Not by a false sense of love which focuses on the self, but on true love that focuses on sacrificing for the good of the beloved.  May the sacrifice of love that we receive in the Body and Blood of Jesus help us to live out Jesus' message that we hear from St. John: love.