Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.
St. John paints a gorgeous picture for us of what Heaven is like in our second reading today. He describes it as beautiful as a bride to meet her groom, a place where there is no pain, where every tear is wiped from every eye, where God chooses to dwell with his people forever.
Yet our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that the attainment of such blessedness is not a given; St. Peter and St. Paul tell the brothers “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” Being a Christian ain’t easy.
One of the hardest things I do as a priest is to preach the truth with every word and with every action of my life. And I know that’s a primary struggle for every Christian.
We live in a world that constantly changes its values and morals but we worship a God who does not change. We worship a God who says his truths are eternal. Yet how often, and how easily, the Church is dismissed as antiquated and out-of-touch.
The problem is compounded by the fact, yes the fact, that the Church doesn’t love as it ought. If the Church loved as it ought, there would be no question of her authority. Jesus promised that through his new commandment to love, “all will know that [we] are his disciples.” We would know the truth and the truth would set us free.
Now, when I say “Church,” I’m not talking about just the Vatican or the bishops; I’m talking about you and me. Each of us, if we are to call ourselves Christian, is responsible for making it clear in our own lives how important God is.
Whenever a Christian chooses something other than love, we make it all the harder to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and we make ourselves and the whole Church less credible.
It follows logically that if we have not been won over by love in the deepest recesses of our hearts, we will not only not be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, we will also be dead weight slowing down the mission of the Lord to proclaim salvation through the forgiveness of sins. And we certainly won’t win over anyone’s hearts. We cannot give what we do not have.
Everything the Church teaches about faith and morals is 100% free from error; yes, emphatically yes: the Church speaks to us the will of God. These are the teachings that we can and must live our lives by.
They are teachings that guarantee the promotion of true justice, giving to each person what is due to them as human persons. They are teachings that ensure that the dignity that every person deserves is always upheld. They each are a marble step on the real stairway to Heaven. In living them out, we are assured of joy and blessedness in this life and the life to come.
Yet how hard it is to follow without love.
Do we have any fans of the now-old show 24, where Jack Bauer saves the world 8 times over? Or Indiana Jones, or any other movie, really. In so many films, one character, who sees a bigger plan and wants or needs the cooperation of another character who doesn’t see the bigger plan always uses the line: “I just need you to trust me!”
How many times did Jack tell his reserved and afraid-of-punishment techie coworker Chloe “I need you to trust me!”
Or another character in some other film says “We’re going to jump off this moving train while it’s crossing this huge ravine!”
The lady he’s with says “WHAT? Are you crazy??”
He responds with “I need you to trust me!” and because she has a love for him that leads to an implicit trust, they jump and land on big puffy airbag and are safe.
Or Arnold’s famous line “Come with me if you want to live.” Because of Sarah’s love for her son John who tells her everything’s ok, she trusts this particular T-101 and follows.
You get the point: Fr. Michael watches lots of TV.
No, it’s that we are capable of doing just about anything if we love the person who is asking us to do it. Do we love the Lord enough to do what he asks us? Does our love for him lead to an implicit trust?
But it’s time for a serious question: what is love? (Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more).
For real, though…what is love? Jesus said “this is my commandment, love one another.” What does that mean?
Do we love one another with the same love that we love a pancake breakfast? Are we to love every single person with the same love by which we love a spouse? Are we supposed to love each other with the love we have for our country or our favorite TV show?
Of course not. But how do we define and (more importantly) live the love the Lord has called us to?
He told us himself: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Repeat)
Do you know what the most important word in the command is? … “As.”
Love one another as Christ loves us. And how exactly did Christ love us? (Point to the Cross)
That’s how we are to love. That’s what true love looks like. True love can hurt. True love gets us out of ourselves and hones us in on the true good of the other person.
The whole of our Christian life revolves around, starts in and finishes in love. It’s not a warm fuzzie love, and certainly not a false love that says “You’re OK, I’m OK,” but a love that says I will die for you.
Think of it this way. As you come forward to receive communion today, you’ll hear the words “The Body of Christ” but hear also the Lord saying “He I am for you. Will you take my hand? I need you to trust me. Preaching my truth is hard in this changing world, but I am with you.”
When the host goes into your mouth, you’re jumping off the train of worldly values and into the Heart of God. You’ll find no softer landing spot.
Being a Christian, particularly a Catholic, isn’t easy. It never has been and it never will be. But the more we forget about ourselves and focus on loving one another as Christ loves us, the sweeter the task becomes.
Praised be Jesus Christ, Now and Forever.