Sunday, 2 May 2010

5th Sunday of Easter, Year C, Shaftesbury

Jn 13:31-35
Everyone, I think, knows that Christianity is about ‘love’ –but love is often seen as something for the weak, or something vague and meaningless. But if we think of the context in which Jesus told us to ‘love’ we should see that it is neither of these.

Jesus gave His great commandment, ‘love one another’, on the night before He died. As we heard in that passage, it was just after Judas had gone out from the Last Supper to betray Him. His death is intimately connected with His commandment: He said, ‘love one another, as I have loved you’ –and He loved us unto DEATH. And this is what His love means.

Some people speak as if love was just a cosy feeling. And the saints of the Church do speak of “affective love” –what wells up in our affections, and what we need to foster and encourage within us.
But if love was ONLY a feeling then it wouldn’t be something that would lead us to death.
Love, in what the saints call “effective love”, is a decision of the will. A CHOICE to love someone.
“Effective love” does not mean liking, does not merely mean being attracted to help those I like.
Such love means choosing to act in the best interests of another person, even to act in the best interests of someone I don’t much like.

Jesus said, ‘By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples’. We might ask ourselves if this holds true for us: would the love we have make others say: ‘That is a follower of Jesus Christ’.
What would such a person look like? One who loved?
He would think of the needs of others before his own
He would he willing to be interrupted in his tasks in order to help someone
He would be patient with people, ‘Love is patient’ (St Paul, 1 Cor 13)
He would be willing to do difficult things, not just easy things

When people look at me, I know they often do not see such things.
They do not see a perfect disciple, a perfect sign of Christ.
And the same might be said of you.
Sometimes when we deal with our family, or friends, or others, we can try to love, but struggle. It is hard to love a child when he is screaming and throwing a tantrum. It is hard to look like the loving Christian who is a sign of Christ.
Are we therefore hypocrites?
Being a Christian is not about being a hypocrite, it’s about aspiring to standard that is above us, above us because it comes from above, from God.

But two final points: if it’s hard to love: WHY love? And HOW can I even attempt it?

In terms of WHY, it must be acknowledge that there are many in our society today who have abandoned even the attempt at loving, abandoned the attempt at LIVING FOR OTHERS: Living for SELF is the explicit goal of many.
But it does not take much analysis to see that this is not a NOBLE way of living, or a worthwhile way of living.
We should love because love is something we see as desirable to be.
But even more fundamentally, we should want to love because Christ FIRST loved us, and chose to die out of love for us.

And that last point also explains HOW I can hope to have the power to love:
Through Him
JC called His command to love a ‘new’ commandment, and it is new because we seek to love after His example, and by His power –the power of the resurrected Lord whose grace enables us to do things that by ourselves we cannot!
A command for the tough, not for the weak, but a command that is possible, because of Him.

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