Love Makes the World Go Round
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that well remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another."
What really makes the world go around? Money, power, electricity or gravity? Actually, the answer is love.
However, we face a twofold problem as we strive to become men and women who love authentically — a wicked combination of a culture that has become blinded to truth and goodness and a human nature that itself is broken and bruised by original sin and further complicated by our personal sin. We need a ton of help to get the adventure of love on the right track.
Today, Jesus and the church take on the challenge of teaching us the meaning of love.
First, love begins with God. We desperately need to be grounded in the fundamental reality that love has its origin in God. Human beings did not create or dream up some sappy notion of love. St. John, in his first letter, boldly proclaims: “God is love.” It is his very essence, because he is the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Almighty God has chosen to create each and every one of us out of the abundance of his love so that we can share in the immensity of his love. This is awesome. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Because of this reality, we do well to stop thinking that we can establish the meaning of love without any reference to God. Love is a gift that is shared with us. We are granted the privilege of participating in God’s love and handing it on to others.
Second, love is sacrificial. Love desires to pour itself out for the beloved. It places the needs, well-being and salvation of the other above personal plans and desires. Love is so committed to serving, caring for and lifting up the other, that it is willing to make enormous sacrifices for the beloved. One of the reasons that Jesus came to earth and took on our human nature was to teach us the way of love. Jesus loved with absolutely extraordinary generosity. He states in John’s Gospel, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” As we know, these were not empty words for him.
Third, love is inextricably and intimately connected to truth. It is impossible to truly love someone and at the same time treat them selfishly, deny their dignity, lie to them, or abuse them physically, emotionally, or sexually. This point is wonderfully summed up in the first letter of Peter, “By obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brothers; therefore, love one another constantly from the heart” (1 Pt 1: 22).
We are not truly loving another person when we are doing things with them or to them that discourage or damage their relationship with God. Our Lord, in today’s Gospel, puts it this way: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” Love can’t be separated from truth.
Finally, love bears fruit. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you to go and bear fruit that will remain … ” Love, because it flows from God, is life-oriented; it bears fruit. In marriage, this connection is obvious. But all forms of genuine love (God, marriage, family, friendship, neighbor, alma mater) bring about or nurture new life in the other — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
God created us for abundant life and abundant life is only possible by being united with God. Jesus wants us to bear fruit by sacrificially loving others and helping them encounter the living God.
“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”