22 April 2016

Love One Another. Maybe.

By Our Love

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

The message this week is quite simple, yes, even as it is taken from the COMPLICATED and sometimes CONFUSING Gospel of John, the message is simple...  "Love one another."  (Don't believe me?  Look here.)  That's it.  Blog over.  Have a good day.

Yeah right, if only it was this easy!  The Gospel passage for this fifth Sunday of Easter is far more complex than just a simple "love one another."  I don't mean to say that the phrase isn't found in the Scripture, it is very much in the Scripture, but it isn't what it seems.  First of all, the call to love one another is a constant reminder of the life we are called to live as Christians,  a life that is both challenging and rewarding.  This call to love is also an invitation to participate in an authentic way, in the life of Christ.  As Christians, mediocrity is not an option.  We are called to love, and we are called to find life in love.  For us Christians, however, the hangup comes when we believe ourselves on a different track of being Christian.  All too often, it is easier to fall into the habit of living a life of checklists.  For example, we may believe that we are living a good Christian life because we have all our Sacraments and are submitting our own children to the same.  Or we may think ourselves saintly because we have a choice charity that we often support.  Or maybe, just maybe, we think ourselves beyond reproach because  of all the Girl Scout Cookies we purchased this year.  Whatever our checklist may contain, it can be too easy to convince ourselves that we are good, and while these actions don't necessarily exclude us from being considered good, there is something far more profound that Christ calls us to when He calls us to "love one another."
In some regard, the call to love is seen in the making of the Eucharistic bread.  It takes elements from different realities which are in turn combined to make this bread.  Too much of one thing, or too little of another, and the bread won't be right.  The same can be applied to our lives.  Too much focus on one area of our Christian journey, and not enough on another, can leave us wanting more.  All this being said, it is important to remember that Christ's call to love is one that transcends my comfort zones and leads me to a love that is given freely and without reserve to others.  A love that in turn gives me life and a love that is born out of Love Himself, Christ.  This then takes me to one of the many challenging aspects of loving as Christ did, and that would be prayer.  How do I pray?  When do I pray?  Do I pray?  How is it that I build up my relationship with God, and how is it that my knowing God's love, inspires my own loving?  This question is one that must be asked on a daily basis, and one that must be considered constantly.  How am I to love as Christ, if the only experience I have of Him is once a week on Sunday?
This call to love, however, also calls us beyond the security blankets that our different churches can so easily offer us.  Instead of seeing another Church, or a member of another Church as an enemy or a potential member of my church, what would it look like to extend a hand of welcome and love in celebration of our diversity?  what would it look like to see the other as Brother or Sister instead of "one of those people?"  Instead of waging wars against each other as different Christian denominations, what would it look like to love?
I was once told by a priest professor that I was "too saccharine"  falsely sweet, and while this may seem true, I refuse to believe that as a Christian, I have to live isolated from anyone not like me.  Christ doesn't call us to be friends with everybody, Christ calls us to love, and love is made real in many different ways, even when I may not like someone.
For now, I believe I have ranted far too long.  Thank you for persevering through this blog, and as always, know that you are beautiful and you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr. Rick

08 April 2016

Do you love me? I suppose i do.

Fiddler on the Roof "Do you love me"

Readings Here

Good ol' Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof asked a most compelling question...  "Do you love me?"  He asks his wife, Golde, and after some deliberation, she responds, "For 25 years, I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked your cow...  after 25 years, why ask now?"

I've always liked Golde's response because it resonates with the way I express my love.  Yes, it can be clumsy at times, and to the untrained eye it can appear as nothing more than actions meant to appease, but at the root of everything, there is love.
In the Gospel on this Third Sunday in Easter, we see the Risen Christ approach Peter.  After they had eaten, Christ asks Peter "Do you love me more than these?"  Peter responds with a "Duh!"  But then Christ asks again, and again.  Finally, more than  a little worried, Peter responds with a beautiful proclamation of faith.  "You know that I love you." he says.  For the Peter, it is obvious that he loves Christ, but just a few passages earlier, we read how Peter had denied Jesus three times.  Upon recalling Peter's denial, the question that Christ poses to Peter then takes on a different meaning.  But what does it mean to love?  And what is it that the Risen Christ calls us to in our every day lives?
Especially in today's politically charged environment, it seems that to love is to fall in line with one or another agenda, party, ideal or whatever.  This is easy and quite frankly, something that I find myself doing on a regular basis.  This comfort even means that Christ is put into a compartment that is one more piece of the puzzle that is my daily life.  The questions Christ asked Peter, however, have a more profound root than anything we may be aware of.  In the Gospel, Jesus the Christ, was asking Peter to a more profound level of love, one in which Peter's denial would then become impossible.  From His first question, Christ invites Peter to reflect on the answer in a manner that is worthy of the Christ, Peter, however, impetuous as ever, responds with an answer that is quick and obviously prepared.  Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."  Almost like Golde's response, Peter's is easy and immediately given.  Yes, I love you.  But that is not what Christ asks.  Christ is calling Peter to a profession of love that is rooted in the deep reality of God's love, a profession of love that cannot be easily swayed or pushed aside.  "Do you love me?" is a question that is born of God made man, it is a declaration of who He is and an invitation to accept Him, not only in the now, but in the deepest parts of our heart.  Much like Jesus being born in that manger, Christ is asking us to accept His love once again, but this time, He calls us to more!  The love that Christ shares with us is  a love that challenges us and makes us more who we are meant to be.  It is a love that compels us to love and to live in that love.  Christs' love is one that brings us to the limits of our comfort and pushes us just a bit more.  It is a love that carries us in the difficult moments and rejoices in the moments of light.  The question Christ is asking is not so much one that can be answered with a simple "yes."  Instead, the question Christ asks is one that can be answered in the model of Golde: "Do I love you?  I serve you in others and feed your sheep, I comfort the widow and welcome the stranger.  I give my life and follow you near.  Of course I love you!" This response is not one born out of a fear to serve, but rather, a service born of the love we have known.  Do I love you? Our yes is lived out in our ministry, our life, and in the way we love.  We may not all sing this out loud, but let our living be proclamation enough of the Love we have known, Christ the Risen one, our life, our light, our LOVE!

As always, know that you are loved and your are beautiful.  Be blessed.  Fr. Rick