Summary: We can learn love from Jesus and Mary
Mother’s Day 2012
Spirit of the Liturgy
To whom was Jesus preaching this incredible Last Supper sermon on love? Let’s make a short list:
• Judas, the revolutionary and embezzler who had already sold Jesus out to the Jews
• Simon, the Zealot, who most likely had a history of assassinating Roman soldiers and leaders.
• John, the beloved, who spent much of the supper trying to get information so he could rat out Christ’s betrayer.
• Simon Peter, nicknamed “Rock,” who would promise to die for Jesus, but later cower before a teenage girl as he denied and cursed His Master.
And, of course, before the night was out, every one of these select disciples would scatter to the winds in terror of the High Priest’s police who dragged Jesus off to multiple sham trials and crucifixion.
Indeed, the only one at the Last Supper who showed the greatest love, by laying down his life for his friends, was the Master Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ.
But that was not the end of the story. In a short matter of weeks–fifty days to be exact–Peter was courageously witnessing to Jesus’s Resurrection, and staring imprisonment and death in the face with impunity. Simon and Andrew and all the other disciples faced torture and usually death rather than deny what they knew to be true–that Jesus had died, was raised up to a new life, and had the same life available for all who would believe, do the works of Christ, and participate in right worship through the sacraments.
What does it mean? If this motley gang of thieves, blue-collar laborers, IRS agents, fishermen and blowhards could be like Christ–all the way to death–then all of us have a shot at eternal life, even sainthood. All of us can aspire to love everyone at all times, and even to give up our lives in the spreading of the Gospel.
But what is love? Today we are bombarded with the word “love,” from ads that promise we’ll love the latest new gadget or app, to barely comprehensible hip-hop lyrics. We are prompted to follow the love-lives of movie idols, reality show stars, and singers, many of whom seem unaware that love commitments can be lifelong. But true love is not only more than that, it is something altogether different from those pale ghosts that call themselves by the name.
The Son of God, God Himself, did not need to learn love. In eternity, the Son is begotten by the Father and these two persons sharing the divine nature exist in love, a love so profound and personal that He is divine–the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, St. Thomas tells us, has a name, and that name is love. The love of God is superabundant, overflowing, and creation is the result of that overflowing love. That same love made humans exist, and the purpose of our creation was to love–to love each other and to love God. In that love we will fulfill our destiny.
But we turned our backs on love, in our first parents and in ourselves. Turning our backs on love is another word for sin. We are stuck in that sinful, weak, unloving condition because of the original rebellion and because each of us has held the black flag of that rebellion when we personally sin. But God’s love is greater yet. In love, the Son of God was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, human like us in every way except rebellion. In profound love the Virgin nurtured Him in His human nature, and taught Him the ways of perfect human love.
We hear about that love directly in two of today’s readings and today’s psalm. It is God’s steadfast love that brought about our salvation in Christ. It is that same love that sacramentally unites us to Christ and to each other at communion. Each day, as the Introit of today’s Mass tells us, we are challenged to rise and to seek the face of God, which is the face of the crucified and yet risen Lord Jesus. We can look into that face and see the love that was so great, that He laid down His life for us–for you and for me. He laid down His life so that He might pick it up again, renewed and eternal, and baptize us into that life so we could gaze on His face in love and joy forever.
I think it is clear where Christ in His humanity learned the way of self-sacrificial love. He studied the words and actions of His foster father, Joseph, and His mother, Mary. With Joseph, He took up the hard labor of a first century Palestinian carpenter, hauling great beams of wood, scraping and sawing and joining them with primitive tools to build the great Roman city a short distance from Nazareth. From Mary, he learned how to communicate with God, His Father, and to do good for others. He studied the Scriptures and traditions of the Jewish people and saw the dramatic difference between living with self-sacrificial love and living with anger and rebellion. He chose the path of love, as God the Father did, as Joseph and Mary did. His human DNA was 100% from His mother; His human spirit and soul were perfectly attuned to her spirit of love and obedience to the Father.