Today, the readings focus on love, and so I want you to try to imagine little Fr. Terry kneeling down at age 15 at his wits end with his seven siblings and asking God: “God, why did you put these people in my life?!?” Unfortunately, the frustrated boy only hears God answer back with a kind sense of humor: “Because that is the only way you would love them.” That may not be historically how it happened, but I do learning that lesson of Love along the way of growing up.
First let's get this straight: God defines what love is, not us – and so The Cross is the definition of love. Secondly, love gives life. Any love in our world is diffusive, expansive, contagious. If we love in one part of our life, we will find it easier to love in other parts of our life. If we are generous with our love, we will also help others to be generous with their love.
BXVI Began his pontificate teaching about the central mystery of our faith: who God Himself is. His answer, taken from our reading today, is also the title of the encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, God is Love.
Two Parts: First on God's Love for us, then on our love for others.
p1 Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John's Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should ... have eternal life” (3:16)... Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.
Here we see that God's love must come first, otherwise we are unable to love.
p18 If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God...Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment.
Here Pope Benedict has reechoed Jesus' new commandment from today, which is a sort of requirement for staying in God's grace: “if you love one another as I have loved you, you will remain in me.” God, who loved us into existence and sustains us every single moment by His love, wants us to stay with Him, but we have to freely choose to love, to sacrifice ourselves completely or in part for another, like the Cross.
Families are meant to be schools of love, houses of love, where we courageously, day after day, step out onto the precipice of loving like this so that we can find God ever more deeply in our life. This is not easy! On Mothers day, we remember so many courageous women who have loved in this way, and we take time to thank them, and to pray for their perseverance in that love. We pray for other who are struggling to love that way in the midst of difficulty.
The Church, in many ways, is also a mother to us. She teaches us how to love and to respond to those in need. From her we receive the grace of the sacraments, are taught to hear the word of God, and receive teaching to guide our steps in the truth and freedom of the children of God. Today, in a special way, let us be grateful for: Our mothers, by birth or adoption, who nurtured us and supported us through life. Our Church who takes on the maternal role of guiding us through life. And our Blessed Mother, who protects both the Church and all its members, her sons and daughters. And Let us pray that Our Lord, to whom we come every single Sunday, will continue to strengthen us with the courage to love deeply those around us.