6th Sunday of Easter
05/17/2009
Readings
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

In the English language the word “love” covers a multitude of meanings. We say that we love chocolate, that we love our house, that we love that TV show, that we love our children and that we love God. Yet no one would claim that we mean the same thing by all of these “loves.” We understand, instinctively, that we do not love chocolate as we love our children. In today’s readings we hear from the Apostle of Love, St. John, about how God defines love.

First and foremost, God is love (1 John 4:8). For anyone who might reduce love to a simple feeling or emotion, this statement is nonsensical: is God simply how I feel? But John describes for us what love really is: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1 John 4:9), “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). There is a commonality in these two descriptions: love is self-giving; it is sacrificial. Furthermore, love is active; it is not merely a feeling. Love reaches out and works for the good of others; love does not look for one’s own benefit, but instead seeks the benefit of others, even when that involves enduring pain or suffering.

Unfortunately, this is the opposite of the modern definition of love. Too often we conceive of love as something which makes us feel good or is to our benefit. When asked why we love someone, we might reply, “she makes me happy.” It is true that love brings happiness, but this is an effect of love, not its origin. Love, according to the Scriptures, always points away from self, because it is a pouring out of self.

With this in mind, we can understand more clearly the revelation that God is love. He is not a stern judge looking to punish wayward souls, nor an absent landlord unconcerned about our lives. Instead, he is a passionate father who gives his very life to his children. Our very creation is a result of his love, and he desires this love to be shared by all created beings. Furthermore, our redemption is an act of his love, 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” (1 John 4:10). And our destiny is his love, as we are called to live in that loving embrace for all eternity. In response we are called to be like him: “This I command you: love one another” (John 15:17).
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