posted on April 28, 2013 21:21
Homily: Deacon Terry Ellerman
Blessed Sacrament Parish
April 28, 2013 - 5th Sunday of Easter
10 AM Service
They will know that you are Christians by your love.
A scholar of the law once asked Jesus, “What is the great commandment?”
Jesus answered, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with your whole mind, soul and body. And second, you need to love your neighbor as yourself.”
In today's Gospel, Jesus is at the last supper, his end is about to come. It is important that he is able to say what he needs to say before he leaves. He washes their feet and tells them it is important to serve one another. And then he says to them, “I have a new commandment. You need to love each other. Just as I have loved you, you also need to love one another.”
There is a difference between the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your neighbor as God loves you. If I love you based on me, it is going to be a lot more limiting than if I love you based on how Jesus loves me. So Jesus has raised the bar as to how we are to love one another.
How did Jesus love us? He loved us by showing us what sacrifice truly is, what it means to be selfless. He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance. He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross.
He loved us so much that God sent Jesus to be one of us, to be human and to know what it is to live like we live, and to show us how to live.
It's interesting that love fulfills itself by emptying itself. It doesn't make sense but it's true. The more we give the more we get. It doesn't seem right, but it is what it is. The math of Christianity - the new math - is that you add by subtracting and you multiply by dividing. So the more we give the more we add. The more we give the more we multiply. It's kind of a paradox that this statement is found in all four Gospels.
We look at St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is someone who heard this message and truly put it into practice. The prayer we all know and that sometimes we sing is,
“Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled but to console.
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and in dying that we are brought into eternal life.”
So we are asked this morning, “Do we console one another? Do we try to understand one another? Do we love one another? Do we give to each other? And do we forgive one another?”
This new commandment to love has a price, it's not cheap. It costs the lover. The language of love is sacrifice, putting the other person in front of ourselves.
How many of you have ever volunteered? How many of you who volunteer find out that you receive more than you give? We all know it's true. We don't know why it's true, but it is. When we look at this crucifix we see the sign and the symbol of love, the sign and the symbol of sacrifice. We are all called to use our time, talent and treasure to make this world a better place.
We look at our own lives and the lives around us. We find many people who are very loving people. I want to give you one simple example.
There was an 85-year-old man who went to the doctor's office. He got there at 8:30 a.m. and his appointment was at 9. He was waiting and waiting and the nurse could tell that he was pretty anxious. So she went up to him and asked, “Do you have another doctor's appointment after this?”
And he said, “No. But I have breakfast with my wife at 9 and it's important that I be there.”
So she looked at his thumb because he had cut it open and the doctor had
sutured it, and he was back for him to look at it. The nurse looked at it and it looked fine. So she went back to the doctor and he said, “Go ahead. Take the stitches out, do what you need to do.”
So when she was talking with him, she asked, “Will your wife be upset if you're late this morning?”
He said, “No.” He said, “My wife is in a nursing home and she hasn't known me for the last five years.”
And the nurse was taken back and said, “You mean your wife doesn't know you but you go every day. Why do you do that?”
He smiled at her and placed his hand over hers and said, “She doesn't know me, but I know her.”
The nurse, holding back her tears, said to herself, “That's the kind of love that I want.”
True love isn't just physical or romantic.
True love is acceptance of all that is,
all that has been,
all that will be,
and all that will not be.
The happiest people are not necessarily the people who have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have.
Would they know that we are Christians by our love at home?
Would they know that you are a Christian by your love at school or at work?
Would they know that you are a Christian by your love while you are driving in traffic, or at the grocery store, or on a sporting event?
Jesus asks us today to love one another as he has loved us.
Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.