5th Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today’s Gospel gives us one of the most important teachings in all of Scripture:
“love one another as I have loved you.”
Sadly, we often fail to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Sometimes it’s because we just choose not to:
we choose to be selfish rather than loving with others.
But sometimes it’s because we don’t know, or forget, what it means to love,
or more importantly, what it means to love as Christ has loved us.
How did Jesus love us?
This Gospel is taken from St. John’s Gospel’s account of the Last Supper.
A few verses later in this account Jesus tells us:
“No greater love has a man than this,
that he lay down his life for his friend.”
So, to love one another like Christ loves us,
means we have to be willing to suffer and even die for each other
—not always physical suffering or death,
but the simple sacrifices and sufferings we endure for each other,
every day, in large ways and small.
But that’s not the only explanation of love Jesus gives at the Last Supper.
He also says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
So to love Jesus we must keep all that he has commanded,
which includes, the 10 Commandments he gave to Moses
and explains in the Gospels,
as well all the moral law he taught his disciples.
The point is, that loving, according to Jesus, has a certain context, a meaning.
We can say that the love of Christ has a certain reasoning or logic to it.
Now, that seems extremely strange to some people today,
even, on some level, to many of us,
who tend to think of “love” as being merely a feeling, or a passion.
But that really is a very weak definition of love.
I mean, if you say you love me and then yell and scream at me and try to kill me,
we can all see, that’s not love, or at least those actions are not loving
—meaning, they are not consistent with the logic of love:
logic, reason, tells you if you love someone
you will act and even think a certain way toward them.
Love, then, is logical.
Not an unfeeling logic, like Mr. Spock or something.
But love has a pattern, a meaning—a reasoning.
And that’s the way it is with Jesus’ saying today:
he says, “love one another as I have loved you,”
and then we ask how is that, what does that look like?
Or what is the logical behavior of loving like Jesus?
Love is at the core of Jesus’ life and teaching.
But so is logic.
Again, we are reading today from St. John’s Gospel.
So let’s go back to the very first words that are at the very beginning of that Gospel,
where St. John writes:
“In the beginning was the Word…”
Then a few phrases later he says,
“and the Word was God…
and the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.”
Of course, he’s talking about Jesus, God who become flesh, a human being.
And that term “Word” that he uses to describe Jesus
is key to understanding so much of what John writes about Him.
But the term we translate here as “Word”
is actually the word “Logos” in St. John’s original Greek text.
“Logos” is usually translated as “Word”
—so that we understand Jesus
as being the communication of God to man,
God speaking, or revealing God to man.
But “logos” also means “reason,”
and its where we get the word “LOGic” from—logos…logic.
So, St. John says not only is Jesus the Word revealing God to man,
but he reveals the logic or reasoning of God to man:
if you will, he reveals the way things really are in the mind of our creator.
And we see this whenever Jesus teaches: he’s very logical.
Look at all his parables: all of them use logic to explain the way things are.
For example, he says, “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,”
and then uses logic to make the comparison.
Or when he says, “I was sick and you didn’t visit me,”
because, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me.”
Or when he says, “the father and I are one,” and therefore,
“he who has seen me has seen the father.”
Logic cannot be separated from God—Jesus—or from His Gospel.
Or from His creation—the whole world is governed by logic.
I mean, science is supposed to be about logic.
Beginning with the most basic science of Math, 1 + 1 = 2.
Unfortunately, we don’t always act logically or reasonably.
We should, but we don’t.
Sometimes we act illogically or unreasonably because we choose to.
But sometimes we act illogically because our reason is impaired,
perhaps by drugs or alcohol, or by confusion or bad teaching,
or by mental illness or disorders.
But either way, that isn’t the way we are supposed to be
—something’s wrong that needs to be fixed.
The problem is, nowadays people are willfully rejecting logic and reason
—even the most basic logic called “common sense.”
And it’s not just an individual rejection,
but we’re seeing a whole societal rejection of logic.
We see this in lots of ways.
For example, we see it in the unbridled anger
that too often fuels the debates about things like
race relations, illegal immigration, the economy,
and the redistribution of wealth,
We see it especially in the presidential races
—the unprecedented unbridled anger on all sides.
Some of this anger is reasonable—but so much of it is just not.
But just how far society has rejected logic
came home to me in a powerful way this last week.
I read that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that
if a girl thinks she’s a boy, we all have to treat her like a boy,
and even let her use the boy’s restroom.
It doesn’t matter what the science of biology, or even psychology, says,
or what common sense says,
if a boy thinks he’s a girl, or a girl thinks she’s a boy,
we have to believe them.
This is the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
—the second highest level of court in the land,
based right here in Virginia.
Supposedly some of the best judges, the most reasonable lawyers,
in our country.
And then to compound things, a few days later
the “conservative” political party’s leading candidate for the presidency
came out and agreed with them.
Have we lost our minds?
A boy is a boy, a girl is a girl.
What if a 10-year-old boy thinks he’s a 25-year-old man
—would we have to let him buy alcohol and vote?
What if a 30-year-old woman thinks she’s God—do we have to worship her?
Where does it stop?
It reminds me of the Hans Christian Anderson short story,
“The Emperor’s New Clothes,”
where two charlatans convince an Emperor
that they’ve sewn him a magnificent suit, when really there’s nothing there.
And so he processes naked around the streets
and the people, in fear of being labeled stupid,
express admiration for his beautiful new clothes.
Until one little boy shouts the obvious: “”But the Emperor has nothing on at all!”
Some people would say all this is “hate speech.”
No, this is love speech.
If someone thinks they are someone or something
that logic, reason and common sense says they are not,
they have a terrible problem.
And we don’t help them by denying that problem,
much less reinforcing that problem.
Jesus shows us how to love these people by healing the sick,
not patting them on the head and affirming the goodness of their illness.
And when he says,
“When I was hungry you gave me to eat! When I was sick you visited me.”
And when he died for our sins!
Jesus comes to heal.
There is a logic to life, and to love.
And that logic tells us we must help those who suffer gender confusion.
We should be patient with them, and try to protect them from unnecessary harm.
But we shouldn’t pretend they don’t have a problem, a disorder.
My point, though, is not so much the “gender” issue,
but the loss of logic and reason in our society and public discourse
and the loss of the logic of genuine love
—if you love you will do this, and you won’t do that.
And then all the questions it raises for us Catholics.
Think: how much has this illogical approach infected your life?
How has it infected your children?
How are they teaching them to think illogically in school,
especially public-government schools?
How do you love your children and so protect them from all these lies?
How do we talk to people who suspend or even contradict logic
—how do we live and work with them—how do you love them?
How do you respond when your employer tells you to ignore reason?
What do we do when schools and judges and even the president tells us,
“who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
How do you vote for president when 4 out of 5 of the major candidates
don’t have the common sense to answer the question,
“is a girl really a girl?”
What will this do to laws:
laws that are not rooted in reason are fundamentally unjust.
How can society go on like this, without logical discourse,
without just laws, without common sense?
A boy is not a girl just because he thinks he is.
And an irrational person is not a loving person
just because they think they are.
And a person who rejects Christ’s logic of love is not a Christian
just because they think they are.
Sadly, using logic will get you in trouble nowadays.
It gets me in trouble with angry parishioners,
and sometimes the newspapers and internet blogs.
And it will get you in trouble at work, at home and at school.
But Jesus commands us: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And Jesus loves us by dying on the cross for us.
The logic of Love sometimes means being willing to suffer, even die,
for the one you love.
It certainly means dying to lies and ignorance,
and anything else that leads us away from the logic of Christ’s love for us.
And so St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading:
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God.”
As I mentioned earlier,
today’s Gospel is taken from St. John’s account of the Last Supper,
where, of course, Jesus gave us the Eucharist.
As we now enter more deeply into this Holy Mass,
we prepare to receive His True Body crucified for us,
and we remember what he said at the last supper:
“no greater love has a man than this,
that he lay down his life for his friend.”
As we do now as he commanded at the Last Supper,
when he said, “do this in memory of me,”
let us ask Jesus to give us the grace through this Most Holy Sacrament
to always live according to the true logic of his love,
and so keep His command: “love one another as I have loved you.”