Homily 4-28-2013 Making things New: Living in His Love
Life isn't meant to be boring. Boredom is a sign that something is wrong: our actions, our priorities, our perspective. In our society, which is driven by a constant search for entertainment, it is easy to be bored – except of course at Mass during Father Terry's homilies, which have only gotten better every single week these almost two years, right? Not exactly. So, we often experience the feeling of boredom, whenever we aren't entertained because we have trained ourselves to expect those feelings to come from outside us. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Do you think the apostles Paul and Barnabas were bored? These guys were travelling by land and sea all over the Mediterranean Middle East and bringing the Good News to their brothers and sisters of Jewish faith as well as the pagans, or Gentiles. They were not bored, they were driven, and driven by something very powerful, by an idea and a relationship that helped them to see the world with a new set of eyes. Life was not boring for them, it was an adventure that continually offered something different around every corner.
Paul and Barnabas, like John's vision in Revelation today, were able to see the world transformed by God. As John saw “a new heavens and a new earth,” so Paul and Barnabas realized that in Jesus, everything is transformed so to speak into what it never was before but was always meant to be.
Take, for example, the new law to “love one another as I love you” that Our Lord gives us today in the Gospel. Jesus' new commandment here is based on the OT passage of Leviticus 19:18 - “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If Jesus is pretty much repeating this old command, then what makes it new? Is it because He said it, and thus affirms it as more important than it was once understood? Perhaps it is because he extends the definition of “neighbor” as in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Or maybe it is because of the glory he is about to receive when he gives the commandment, now that Judas has departed to hand him over? Yes, this is the reason. What makes this commandment new, then, is not the call to love, but the as I have loved you. The cross, the place where Jesus' glory is made visible to the world, the source of our new life in His death – this shows us what love is: here we see what “as I have loved you” really means.
Love means sacrifice. Sacrifice means giving without counting the cost, giving when it hurts, giving because we are not thinking of ourselves but of another. Parents know this well. We don't have to teach you how to love your children, it just happens, it's natural.
However, even if it's natural at some times, at others it is absolutely unnatural. Case in point: love your enemies: this kind of love isn't easy. In fact, We can't fulfill this commandment on our own powers, from the outside looking at Jesus and trying to imitate the love we see on the Cross. It can only be possible because we are already united with Him by the Gift of the Holy Spirit. We have to be in Jesus already, so to speak, in order to love this way. This is why in the sacraments, we are united to Christ.
So loving as the Lord commanded us may sometimes be natural, is always a challenge, but above all it is never optional. Love is mandatory: commanded. Jesus doesn't say: “I give you a new suggestion.” We have to love. At the end of our life, God's examination will not be a pop quiz. We know what the questions are.
The Sacred Liturgy, especially its highest form in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is heaven on earth. Sacrament of Eucharist is the most perfect encounter with God that we can experience on this earth. This is where we get the strength to love as Christ loved us, unto the end with humble obedience and complete self-sacrifice. Beg our Lord today in the Eucharist to help you to love by first pledging to love Him and be loved by Him. Then the new commandment to love as He loves you – no matter how unnatural and difficult it may seem – will find root in your life. And that love will make all things new for you, and you will never be bored again.