TEXT: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday June 16, 2019

Solemnity of th Most Holy Trinity

June 16, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,

celebrating the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One,

but also three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

We call it a “mystery” because

it is something that we would have never known

if God Himself hadn’t revealed it to us.

And it remains a “mystery” because

it’s something we will never fully understand

because its divine and infinite nature is so far above

our limited human intelligence and experience.

This doesn’t mean it’s irrational or imagined

—no more than brain surgery is irrational or imagined

simply because it isn’t understood by 99.999…% of humanity.

It just means it’s too big for our little brains to wrap around.

 

But, I also say it’s a “sublime” mystery

because it reveals something amazingly wonderful about God:

that He is a personal communion of three persons

sharing one life and one love.

So that at the heart of God’s very being…who He most truly is,

is this eternal, total, complete, mutual self-gift

between the three Divine Persons in love,

that is at the center of their absolute unity.

 

And I say it’s “the most” sublime mystery because it is really

the beginning of all meaning in life

and the end to which all life is directed: living in the love of God.

The Bible begins by telling us that we were created

in the image of God.

So that when Jesus reveals that God is a Trinity of Persons

we come to understand that human beings

are created in the image of this amazing Trinitarian love

in order to share in it, both on earth

—by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,

and loving each other—

and in heaven.

 

What a glorious Feast.

 

Today is also, of course, Father’s Day.

It’s great when this secular holiday

falls on the Catholic Holy Day of Trinity Sunday,

because the Trinity is really where Christians come to understand

the true and profound meaning of Fatherhood

Because, in a certain sense the Trinity is a Family:

first there is God the Father

—from whom the Son is eternally begotten,

and from whom, with the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds.

And today we remember that Divine familial relationship within God

and see that we are created to live and love in the image of God

most fundamentally in human families of father, mother and children.

 

Now some might say, there’s a problem with this: where’s God the Mother?

Well, first of all, we shouldn’t limit our understanding of the Fatherhood of God

to the human confines of human sexuality—male and female.

God is neither, male nor female,

so God’s “parenthood” is revealed in both Fatherhood and Motherhood,

although differently in each.

So that God can say in Scripture:

that he is [Deut]: “the God who gave you birth.”

and [Isaiah 66:13]: “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you.”.

 

Even so, nowhere in Scripture does he identify as or call himself “mother”

—he constantly identifies Himself as “Father.”

There are many reasons why he does this.

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for calling himself by the masculine title

is that he calls his people by the feminine title: His “bride” or His “wife”!

This mystery of the divine bridegroom and his bride is full of rich meaning for us.

But at its core it teaches us of the depth and breadth and height

of God’s love for us,

and reveals how he intensely he loves us,

and how intensely we should love him: like spouses love each other.

And it also teaches us the dignity and rich possibilities

of the love of a husband and wife, father and mother,

as they share in and reflect in a fundamental and unique way

the love that is at the heart of the Trinity.

 

Still another reason God reveals himself as Father

is that it shows us in a powerful and irrefutable way

the essential importance and role of human fathers in human families.

If God is Father, how can any family be all it was created to be

without its own human father?

And how can human fathers think they’re not important to their families,

to their wives and children?

And how can families think that fathers are unimportant?

And how can society deny the societal importance of fatherhood?

 

And yet today, that is exactly what is happening.

In the America today,

more than 34% of all babies born are born to absentee fathers,

and 43% of children live in fatherless homes.

What would you expect when for 50 years so many forces in society,

including the Marxist-left, radical feminists, and LGBTQ activists,

have tried to convince us that fathers are not necessary to the family.

 

All this in spite of the fact that statistics show the devastating effects

of fatherless homes on society:

90% of homeless and runaway children

are from fatherless homes;

as are 71% of pregnant teenagers;

63% of youth suicides;

71% of high school dropouts;

and 85% of youths in prisons.

 

Fathers are absolutely important to their children—and to their wives.

The facts prove that

…and the revelation of the Fatherhood of God shows us why.

It’s because that’s the way God made us:

to share in the His mystery of the life and love of the Trinitarian Family,

by sharing in the mystery of the human family of

father, mother and children.

 

Does that mean that a family can’t survive and even flourish

without a father or a mother or even children?

Or does this demean heroic single mothers who are trying their best

to raise their children alone?

Or does it mean that there’s something wrong with children

who don’t have a father active in their lives?

Of course not, absolutely not.

 

But are we better off with only a mother and not a father?

We might as well ask are we better off with only one arm,

or with two arms and no legs?

In the same way, every family is way better off

if it functions as God designed it to: with both a mother and a father.

 

But not just any father.

The Fatherhood of God teaches us

that fathers are meant to be good fathers to their families.

 

Fatherhood has a dignity all its own, rooted in the dignity of God’s fatherhood.

But the Trinitarian mystery reveals

that the dignity of fatherhood always exists in relation

to the equal dignity of each member of the family:

God the Son (Jesus) is equal to God the Father,

even as Jesus is obedient to His Father.

And so, even as fathers and husbands lead their families,

they must always respect the dignity and importance

of each member of the family.

 

And at the core of this respect, at the core of being a good father,

is the same thing that’s at the core of the Trinitarian mystery: love.

To be a true father, as God created you, is to love.

And not to love as you feel like loving, but to love as God the Father loves.

 

And how does God the Father love?

Look around you: look at all you have,

your jobs, your houses, the sun shining outside,

your good health, and your wives and children.

God the Father gave you all that.

But then also look at every single beat of your heart,

and at every breath you take.

God also gives you those: he is always there, at every moment, caring for you.

 

That’s how a true father loves his children:

always there, always giving everything he can for the good of his children.

 

Now, note I said, “for the good of his children.”

We ask God for things all the time,

a lot of which he doesn’t give us because he loves us

and he knows it’s either it’s bad for us or he has something better in mind.

 

Human fathers have to do the same thing.

Sorry kids, but Dads, you should not give your children everything they want;

but you should strive to give them everything they really need,

and everything that you can that is truly good for them.

Is spoiling your children good for them? No!

Is letting them do whatever they want good for them? No!

Is never correcting them or discipling them good for them? No!

As Scripture tells us:

“the LORD disciplines those he loves,

as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in.”

 

That’s how God the Father loves, and that’s the way human fathers should love.

 

But we find the greatest way to understand the love of God the Father

in the words of Jesus on the night before he died:

“the father and I are one….

he who has seen me has seen the Father.”

We see what God the Son does, and we see how God the Father loves:

like Father, like Son.

And so we see the love of a good father as Christ sacrifices

everything on the Cross out of love for his bride and his children.

And we see that same love as he comes back to be with them in the resurrection,

and as He keeps His promise:

“I will not leave you orphans… Behold, I am with you always.”

 

_____

The Dogma of Most Holy Trinity,

is the most sublime mystery of our faith:

that God is One, but also three Divine Persons

sharing one life and one love.

In this time of social upheaval and attempts to corrupt family life,

and specifically the degradation of fatherhood and husband-hood,

this great mystery reveals and reminds us

of the absolute importance of fathers to God’s plan

for the good of the family and the salvation of mankind.

 

As we now enter into more deeply the mystery of this Holy Mass,

and are drawn more profoundly into

the Communion of life and love of God the Father, Son and Spirit,

let us beg the Blessed Trinity to shower graces on the families of the world,

and especially all fathers, and most especially our own fathers.

By the grace of this Most Blessed sacrament

may God the Father, through the sacrifice of God the Son,

and the working of the Holy Spirit

renew in us a profound respect for the twofold blessing we celebrate today:

the most sublime mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,

and the great dignity and importance of family and fatherhood.

 

TEXT: Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019

Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

June 9, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This last week our nation, in fact most of the world,

recalled that day 75 years ago when

155,000 American, British, French and other Allied troops

stormed the beaches of Normandy.

June 6, 1944: D-Day.

It was a glorious day, but it was also a terrible day.

Many of the companies in the first wave of the invasion

had a 90% or higher casualty rate.

Overall that day 10,000 allies, and 9,000 Germans, were killed or wounded.

And the survivors were scarred by the horrific memories forever.

 

Horrible.

But then you realize that most of those men knew

they had a good chance of dying that day.

But they went forward anyway.

Who would do that?

Who would jump out of a perfectly good plane

or leap out of a landing craft into crashing waves

in order to submit themselves

to a hail of bullets and bombs going off all around you?

You have to be either crazy, or enormously brave.

And they were NOT crazy.

They were in fact, some of the bravest men who ever lived.

It leaves us all standing in wonder, and reverence.

 

I think about that and I wonder if I would ever have that kind of courage.

If I could ever, not so much jump into a firestorm of bullets to defend my country,

but knowingly and willingly suffer a horrible death as a martyr

for Jesus, the church, and you.

 

I don’t know, I’m just not that brave.

In fact, most of us aren’t that brave.

 

___

But then I think of Pentecost.

And I look back at a bunch of frightened men and women who locked themselves

in an upstairs room, 2000 years ago.

They were very much afraid of being brutally tortured and killed,

but they didn’t have to go into battle, they could just choose to hide.

 

But then 50 days later these same men threw open the doors

and went into the crowds and proclaimed truth

that could subject them to automatic death from the authorities.

Of course I’m talking about the apostles and the other first disciples of Jesus

who were quivering cowards on  Good Friday

but were courageous preachers on Pentecost.

 

And the difference was the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

That, my friends, is what the Holy Spirit does.

It lifts up normal weak and frightened human beings

and makes them into heroic saints

with the courage to rush in where angels fear to tread.

 

This is the Holy Spirit that descended onto Church on Pentecost.

This is the Holy Spirit that descended on you in your baptism,

and strengthened you in a powerful way in your confirmation.

 

____

Would you be willing to storm the beach in Normandy?

Maybe some of you would,

I know a lot of you are, in fact, war heroes yourselves.

(Thank you for your service.)

But most of us couldn’t even dream of it.

And if you could storm the beach at Normandy for love of family and country,

would you be willing to suffer as much for Jesus and His Church?

Could you even simply stand up for the Church and Jesus

in the common things of everyday life?

 

Think of at that.

Do we have the courage to live the Christian life every day,

even if we’re not threatened with martyrdom or direct physical harm?

Maybe you’re tempted to sin–do have the courage to say no?

Or maybe someone at work or school is insulting the faith,

or even blaspheming Jesus Himself

—do you have the courage to simply disagree?

 

You may be afraid, but the thing is, we don’t have to do this on our own.

The Holy Spirit dwells inside of all the baptized,

in the fullness of His strength with all the confirmed.

We have same power of the Holy Spirit

that enabled Peter to go from denying Jesus on Good Friday to

throwing open the doors on Pentecost to preach to folks who wanted him dead!

That power is inside of you.

And as amazing as it sounds, and with all due respect and deference,

that power is greater than it took to be a hero on D-Day.

 

____

This is the power of God that can and does intervene, even dramatically,

in the life of every Christian—going back to the life of Christ Himself.

For example, think back to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

How Jesus, in his humanity, was so overcome by fear and sorrow

as he could see not only the terrible physical suffering coming,

but also how it would be wasted for so many who would reject his salvation.

He was so overwhelmed that Scripture tells us he actually sweat blood

and asked His Father to find another way.

But then he concluded, “not my will but your will be done,”

and got up resolute and peaceful

and endured scourging, mocking, spittle, a crown of thorns,

carrying the cross up the hill,

and gasping for air, bleeding to death, hanging on the cross.

 

Imagine the courage that it took to do the that.

Even greater courage than landing on Omaha Beach

—there at least you had a chance of survival.

But it wasn’t simply human courage that led Jesus forward:

it was human and divine courage the came together

in the one person of Jesus, God the Son.

The Power of God.

 

And it didn’t stop there: think how even death couldn’t defeat His divine power,

so that on the third day he rose again breaking the bonds of death forever.

 

This is the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus and His Father.

This is the power that came to the Church that first Pentecost

in a dramatic way:

the upper room was filled with a loud wind and tongues of fire

and they were filled with courage to throw open the doors.

And this is the power that came to you in baptism and confirmation.

The power that remains in the church and in the faithful every day.

 

_____

This power has been shown in many ways throughout the history of the church,

in large and small ways, dramatic and subtle ways.

Today you look up on that wall and you see a dramatic example of that power

—that took place actually on another beach.

We remember how St. Raymond of Peñafort,

had traveled to the Island of Majorca with the King of Spain

to preach to the Muslims

but soon discovered the King had brought his mistress along.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Raymond

courageously chastised the King for his adultery,

and stormed out to go back to Spain.

And when the King closed all the ships in the port to him,

Raymond, filled with confidence in the power of Jesus Christ,

he went down to the beach, said a prayer, made the sign of the cross,

and stepped on one end of his great black cape,

which became filled with wind like the wind of Pentecost,

and he sailed across the sea 160 miles back to Spain.

That was not human courage,

that was the power of the Holy Spirit, that not only filled his cape with wind,

but filled his heart with confidence and courage

enabling St. Raymond to step out on the water and not look down or back.

That painting will always remind us not only of the holiness of our great patron,

but also of the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit,

acting in each and every Christian life.

 

____

And of course we need that power very much today.

We know there are huge problems in the church.

We are in great need of courageous and faithful leaders.

And we are equally in need of courageous and faithful followers,

who are willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit,,

to stand up in charity and respect to speak and demand the truth.

And to support those leaders, who also filled with the Holy Spirit,

truly seek to renew the Church of Jesus Christ.

Not by tearing down the church, and not by building a new church,

but by cleaning out filth that has been accumulated

by those who have not been open to the Holy Spirit, but to the evil spirit.

 

There are, of course, lots of obstacles to this.

It seems we’re talking on an impossible task.

But think back to the apostles: at the beginning of that first Pentecost day

they led only a couple of hundred Christians.

By the end of the day there were 3000 more, and now there are two 2 billion.

Not to mention all those who have gone before us in the faith in the last 2000 years.

 

Yes I know today the problems seemed insurmountable,

and the power of the evil one seems unstoppable.

But imagine you’re soldier about to land in Omaha Beach in 1944.

What could you do against the power of the mighty German Wehrmacht

manipulated by the evil Adolph Hitler.?

But in the end, in spite of many casualties, the victory was theirs.

 

But it was not theirs alone—God was on their side.

Now, last week I watched a few of the great movies about D-Day.

One of those movies was “The Longest Day,”

a movie with every heroic actor from the 1950s and 60s.

And in two separate scenes

an American General and a German general

both say to their subordinates, “I wonder whose side God is on.”

As parochial as it may sound, God was definitely on our side.

Just think about all the things it had to go right for us, and wrong for them.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise because we were fighting to end the tyranny of

a homicidal genocidal tyrant who was taking over the world.

 

And God is clearly on our side today, yours and mine.

By the action of the Holy Spirit, He can and will give us courage and wisdom,

to truly purify and renew His Holy Church.

 

____

As we continue now more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass,

let us recognize the power of God made manifest on this altar,

as by the command of Jesus and the action of His Holy Spirit

the bread and wine are transformed into the true Body and Blood of Jesus.

And as you receive His Body, may it strengthened and renew

that divine power within us,

power made manifest in the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost,

power made manifest in the course of human history,

and power made manifest in at every moment

in the everyday lives of every Christian.

TEXT: 6th Sunday of Easter, May 26, 2019

6th Sunday of Easter

May 26, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

There are certain words that even though we hear and repeat them

over and over again, in our daily conversations, on the daily news

and even in our most solemn prayers,

sometimes we don’t stop to think what they really mean.

One of these words finds its way into our Gospel today.

The word is “peace.”

 

Today Jesus tells His apostles,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
But what is this “peace” that Jesus is leaving His apostles?

Is it something simple like the tranquility of the quiet places

He would often lead them off to relax and pray?

Or is it something earth shattering, like an end to violence and war in the world?

Or was He promising them that they would never argue amongst themselves?

Or was He simply extending to them a common social greeting: “peace”?

 

To answer this question let’s think about the one place in Scripture

where there’s absolute peace

–in the first 2 chapters of Genesis,

at the beginning of the world in the Garden of Eden.

There we find that there is peace in every sense of the word

–there is harmony between people, specifically husband and wife,

between man and nature, between man and himself.

Most especially, there is harmony between man and God.

We’re told that Adam and Eve lived with God,

that He would walk with them in the garden in the cool of the evening.

And why not: this is what God created them for.

Our God of love created man to be like Him–in His own image and likeness

–so He could give them His love, and receive love in return.

 

And that is the peace of paradise: sharing God ‘s one life of love forever

The Old Testament tells us how this is the peace lost

when Adam and Eve didn’t keep God’s word,

but this is also the peace restored in the new Testament with Christ.

St. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is like a new Adam,

and that all things are made new under him.

Christ comes to restore the peace of paradise,

to bring us to share forever in the one life of love with God.

 

And so on the night before He died, at the Last Supper, Jesus tells His apostles:

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

This is the promise of the restoration of living with–dwelling with–God.

And doing this by doing what Adam refused to do: “keeping [God’s] word.”

 

Jesus goes on to say: “Not as the world gives [peace] do I give it to you.”

The peace of Christ isn’t simply the tranquility of a quiet place to relax;

it isn’t an end to wars and violence in the world;

and it isn’t a mere social greeting.

The peace of Christ is found in entering into the perfect life and love

that exists between the Father, Son and Spirit,

being one with them by imbibing their grace,

and hearing and being transformed by and keeping God’s word.

This is the peace of Christ: the peace of paradise, the peace of heaven itself.

 

Heaven—paradise—is the perfection and completion of this peace,

but we can share in this peace even in this life.

So that even as Christ kept His Father’s word perfectly

by obediently accepting the violence of the Cross,

He also experienced the peace of being in perfect union

with His Father and the Spirit,

so that even in midst of His agony and pain,

He had the interior peace to promise the repentant thief:

“Amen I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”

 

This interior peace may seem impossible for human beings to attain–and it is.

But for God nothing is impossible

—and with His grace, nothing is impossible for us.

 

So how do we find this peace?

We start, as I’ve said, by keeping His word.

As Jesus went on tell His apostles at the Last Supper:

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,

just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love..”

We cannot share in the peace of Christ if we refuse to enter into

and live the love of Christ.

And when we live in that love—abide in that love—God will come to dwell in us.

 

But how does He come to dwell in us?

God moves as He wills,

but He’s promised to come to us whenever we receive the sacraments.

He came to us in Baptism, when He washed away the stain of Adam’s sin,

and made His sons and daughters.

He came to us in Confirmation,

when the Holy Spirit came to us with the fullness of His gifts.

And He comes to us in Penance, where we are again reconciled to Him again,

as the priest prays over us: “may God grant you pardon and peace.”

 

But nowhere more fully or profoundly is this same grace given,

this same gift of peace,

than in the sacrament we are here to celebrate today–the Eucharist.

The sacrament which is a foretaste of the eternal heavenly banquet.

The sacrament that brings us into communion with the Cross,

and thereby into the act of love that brings us

into the life of the resurrection

–the act of obedience of the New Adam that reconciles fallen man to God

and offers him the life of paradise,

of heaven, eternal life with the Trinity.

 

_____

This whole notion of peace is lost on most people—even most Catholics.

It’s true that we all want there to peace

between nations, and communities, and families.

But when we speak of this peace, we usually mean a peace

founded in temporary compromises, even injustices.

Peace like the Armistice agreement at the end of World War I,

a peace that ended one war,

but simply set the stage for years of suffering and ultimately more war.

Or where a wife agrees not to talk about her husband’s drinking,

and he agrees not to beat her—too often.

Or where parents agree not to talk about

their adult children’s falling away from the faith,

and the adult children agree

to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Or when Christians agree to tolerate all sorts of immoral behavior in society

and compromise their moral principles in legislation,

just so they’ll be allowed to live their own lives according to own beliefs,

and then wind up being called bigots and hatemongers anyway.

Or when bishops and priests agree to turn a blind I or cover up abuse,

so that they can keep up a facade of righteousness,

but in the end create even worse moral scandal.

 

This is peace as the world gives peace, not the peace of Christ.

 

Sometimes, because of the sinful choices of men,

this worldly peace seems to be all we can hope for

in relations between nations and people.

But in the end it’s like sip of water in a parched desert,

compared to the true peace of Christ,

the fountain of life-giving water springing up inside of us.

 

All too often we settle for this impoverished notion of peace.

Perhaps there’s no better illustration of this

than in a ritual we practice at many Masses.

At every Mass, right before Holy Communion,

the priest quotes the Lord Jesus saying:

“Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.”

But the prayers of the priest make it clear he’s not talking about worldly peace.

Right before this he says

“Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,

graciously grant peace in our days.

that…we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress.”

And immediately after he says,

“graciously grant [us] peace and unity in accordance with your will.”

 

But then the confusion usually comes when

the priest invites the people to offer each other “the sign of  peace.”

Just as Christ gave His peace to the apostles at the first Mass at the Last Supper,

the sign of peace at Mass today is meant to be a reminder

that we are about to receive the peace that comes in the Eucharist:

to share in the power of the Cross and Resurrection,

His perfect act of love that offers us restoration to Paradise,

the peace of perfect loving and HOLY Communion

with the Father, Son and Spirit,

and through them, communion with each other.

 

And yet all too often, it can become basically and expression

of the way “the world gives peace”

                   —a time to offer a friendly greeting, or even to chat for a moment.

Not that there’s anything wrong with friendly greetings, and such.

But that’s just not what the Sign of Peace at Mass is about.

It’s supposed to be a profound and solemn ritual sign and prayer

that points us not toward the temporary or superficial peace of this world,

but toward the abiding perfect paradisal peace of Christ

that’s about to flow into us as we receive Holy Communion.

 

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Father, you’ve been telling us this for years.”

I have, and thank you for listening, thank you for the efforts you have made

to incorporate this into our Masses here at St. Raymond’s.

 

____

Nowadays the word “peace” is thrown around as the panacea of all problems.

But what kind of peace—true and lasting peace, or false and temporary peace?

Today, let this word resonate with its truest and deepest meaning.

May it awaken in us the desire to not settle for anything less than

the perfect peace of the perfect paradise of heaven

–with the Blessed Mother, St. Raymond, and all the angels and saints

who have kept God’s word throughout the ages.

The true and mysterious peace we receive in this world by

entering into Holy Communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

The peace of Christ be with you always.

TEXT: 5th Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter

May 19, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

In today’s gospel Jesus tells His apostles at the Last Supper:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.

As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

 

This commandment to love each other is, in many ways,

what has made Christianity so attractive to so many people

over the last 20 centuries.

And rightly so: Man, in his very nature, at the core of his being,

is a creature of love: above all else, he longs to be loved and to love.

 

This is clear both from scripture and just from common sense.

In scripture we read that “God is Love”—that God’s whole life is love,

and that in the beginning this God

created man in His image and likeness,

a creature created to receive God’s love and love him back;

and God says it is not good for man to be alone,

so He creates man as both male and female,

so that they can love each other.

Man is created for love.

 

But common sense also tells us that no human being can be happy without love.

In fact, all our lives we search and work to be loved by others.

We see this as an infant reaches out her arms to be held by daddy,

or cries at night, not because he’s hungry or wet,

but simply because he wants his mommy.

And we see this in adults as they constantly search for the love of a mate,

or do all sorts of things to win the praises and approval

of colleagues, friends and strangers.

 

We see it also in the generosity of a child who shares her toys,

the lover who writes poems for his beloved,

the parent who works like a slave to provide good things for their children.

 

We are created for, and so constantly driven by, love.

 

But like all good things, the desire for love can be easily corrupted.

Sometimes this happens when the desires to receive love and to give love

become entangled and confused:

love yields to self-love,

as we begin to give love mainly so that we can receive it,

or we confuse receiving love

with receiving what our passions desire

—love becomes reduced to a feeling, and so to pleasure.

So loving is cheapened to mean bringing pleasure

—however passing, temporary or base.

 

Sometimes this corruption comes about as our desire to be loved

causes us to do whatever it takes to feel that we are being loved.

This can lead to all sorts of strange and abusive situations:

from a wife who will do anything, bear any abuse, to please her husband,

to a man who will sacrifice his family to be loved and praised by a world

that will forget his name tomorrow.

And it can lead to a society where saying the popular thing

becomes more important than telling the truth,

where tolerating or even celebrating flaws and errors in others is more important

than helping them overcome those flaws and errors.

 

But all this sort of gets things backwards.

The heart of Christian love, is, as Jesus tells His apostles:

“love one another as I have loved you.”

And how did Christ love them?

 

An ancient Christian definition of love is

willing and striving for the good of the beloved.”

Love means wanting was is truly good for the beloved

—not what will give them temporary pleasure.

And love means striving, or doing things, that will bring about that good.

In Christ we see this can ultimately mean doing what is good for others

even if they hate you for it:

truly loving another is never directly dependent on

being loved in return by that person.

Jesus loved all mankind, both His own people and the Gentiles.

And so He told them things they needed to  hear for their own good,

hard sayings that they often walked away from,

or even that made them to want to kill him–even when they did kill him.

 

___

Man is created for love: both receiving love and giving love.

But while he searches to find someone to love him, as is only natural,

he should never confuse being loved by others

with being an object of pleasure to others.

And he—or rather, we

should never forget that there is one who already truly loves us: God—Jesus.

His love is not selfish, but selfless.

He truly wills and strives for our good without concern for his pleasure:

there was no pleasure when He walked

the length and breadth of Israel preaching;

there was no pleasure on the Cross.

 

There was only love.

 

It is true, Scripture teaches that we should try to “please” God.

But God is pleased not in what we do for Him

but in seeing us truly becoming the loving creatures He created us to be

—in seeing His beloved growing in true happiness.

Like parents who delight in their baby’s first step,

not because it reflects well on their parenting

but because they are simply delighted that their child is growing up healthy.

 

Think about it: how do we please God?

As Jesus tells us, also at the Last Supper,

“if you love me you will keep my commandments”

Does it do God any good if we don’t kill each other,

or if we don’t steal from or lie to each other, or commit adultery?

No, but all these things are contrary to loving each other

and so absolutely opposed to what we all strive for,

what will make us happy.

 

____

This points us to the second aspect of love:

man not only seeks to receive love,

but he can not be happy if he does not give love.

 

Again, this love is not selfish, but selfless: it does not give in order to receive,

it simply gives for the good of the beloved.

And so like Christ’s love there must always be a sacrificial element

to truly human love:

it must be willing to lose everything, even the love of the beloved.

 

___

So, if we love, we must love like Christ

and be willing to tell others the truth even when they don’t want to hear it.

Sometimes this involves telling others that

Christ alone loves them perfectly and eternally,

and is the only one who can give them the perfect love of heaven.

Sometimes this means telling them that this or that action or belief is wrong

because it is contrary to true human love

—whether this is the truth about the evils of

greed or socialism,

abortion or pre-marital sex,

racism or homosexuality.

 

Sometimes it means not only “telling them”

but doing something more tangible.

Sometimes parents have to punish their children for doing wrong.

Voters have to replace public officials for the moral evils they legislate.

And society has to reject, with our pocketbooks, our patronage or our protests

attitudes and behavior contrary to true human love.

 

___

Now, if we love, we do all this with love.

Which means we do it not in a way that makes us feel good,

but in the way that will effectively achieve the good for our beloved.

Sometimes maybe a misbehaving child should be spanked

—but not as a way of relieving parental stress.

Love says: should the child be spanked or scolded

or sent to bed without desert

—what will be best in this situation?

And again, not wondering “will my little baby still like me if I do this?”

but “what is best for my beloved?”

 

Christ Himself showed us this:

remember how He was gentle

with the woman caught in adultery,

or with the Magdalene who wept as His feet,

or even with Peter who denied Him,

and Jesus responded simply: “do you love me?”

But remember that Jesus also harshly and publicly chastised

the scribes and Pharisees:

“Woe to you… you white washed tombs…. you hypocrites…

you brood of vipers…”

And how He once even made a whip

and physically drove the moneychangers from the temple.

 

But none of this was about making Himself feel good

—but doing what those particular people needed at that particular moment.

 

____

This balance between when to be hard and when to be soft,

or when to speak or be silent,

is difficult, to say the least.

And it’s hard to love when we know that

only resentment or even hatred and recrimination will be returned to us.

 

But Christ knows this, and so in His great love for us He helps us

—in so many ways.

 

First, He gives us His own personal example all throughout scripture.

 

And then He calls us to constantly examine our lives,

continuously holding ourselves up to the standard He set.

 

But most importantly He gives us Himself.

He loves us so much that He not only died for our sins,

He died and rose again so He could give us a share in His own life of love.

In so many ways, but especially in the sacraments,

He pours that life of love into us—the life of grace—

so that we are never alone in any of this:

the God who loves us is with us

to help us to love as we were created to,

to lift us when we’re tired,

to guide us when we’re confused,

to strengthen us when we’re weak,

to remain with us when we feel all alone.

 

___

So it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been:

we don’t have to continue to fail at love and loving.

As he says in today’s 2nd reading from Revelation:

“the old order has passed away…Behold, I make all things new.”

 

Now, as we move more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist,

let us turn to Our Lord and see in this sacrament

the purity of love that led Him to the cross

and the power of that love that raised Him up from the Tomb.

Let us recognize in this holy mystery

the love that desires nothing more than our good,

and that works, by the power, the grace, of this sacrament,

to achieve that good in our lives.

And filled with the grace of this sacrament, let us follow His example,

and go out into a world desperately seeking and yearning for love,

and boldly proclaim in our words and actions the truth about love.

And in all this, let us keep His tender commandment:

“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”