Loves Lives: Week 2
We continue our celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord on this Second Sunday of Easter. Today is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.
And we are in the second week of a series for the Easter season called “Love Lives.”
You really can’t understand mercy, without understanding love. Mercy is really love transformed, so we need to understand what love is if we are to ever understand mercy. On Easter, we saw God’s love and mercy front and center.
Easter is the celebration that love lives. Last week, on Easter Sunday, we saw how Jesus was love in action. Whenever we meet Jesus in the gospel we see love in action. And if we want to put love into action in our lives, we need to understand how to access God’s love.
In order to better access God’s love, we need to understand what God’s love is and what it is not.
We use the word “love” in many different contexts. We love our family and friends, and our favorite sports team, we love pizza and ice cream, and anything chocolate.
In the spectrum of our emotions there isn’t always a great deal of difference between love and like. We’re sometimes a little soft in our understanding of it.
But then there is the way that God loves. And the way God loves us. God has loved us first and his love is unconditional.
We read about this love in one of the shortest and most beautiful books of the Bible, the First Letter of John. John was one of Jesus’ closest friends and followers. He went on to write several books of the New Testament, including one of the Gospels.
The First letter of John is actually more of a poem or a sermon than your typical letter and, as such, beautifully underlines the message of the Gospels. First John has only five chapters and I invite you to read this amazing letter.
One of my favorite verses in First John (and, in fact, in the whole Bible) comes at the beginning of the 4th chapter:
God is love.
John doesn’t say that God has love or feels love or shares love. God is love, love is the essence of his character. And since the love that is the fellowship of the Trinity is perfect, he did not need to create us. He wasn’t lonely or bored.
He created us to express his love. Creation is an expression of his love. His love is pure, and entirely sincere, and complete. We have been created out of his love, in his love, for his love. We live our lives in his love.
What does that mean? It means, quite simply, he is for you. He is for you even when everything else is against you. He is for you even when everyone else is against you. He is for you even if you don’t know it. We learned this in another homily series when we asked you to memorize Romans 8:31.
While God is always for you, he does ask something from you. But even everything he asks from you is ultimately for you.
John tells us that everyone who believes that Jesus is their Messiah, their Savior, is begotten by God or “born of God.” Everyone who believes in Jesus is a child of God and can claim God as their Father.
So, the first key to loving others is to see them as God sees them.
When you and I look at the people around us, we see a great many things depending on the person. We may see the selfishness of a family member; or the irritating habits of a classmate or co-worker; we see a potential customer or competitor.
If I like you I probably see good things. If I don’t like you I probably see bad things. But whatever it is we see, however much we see, we do not see the whole.
On our own power our love can never be sincere and pure like God’s. Love based on our human nature and human power can be fickle because it is love based on so many things our needs and our wants; our will, and our way. That’s not a condemnation, that’s just a fact.
When looking at someone God doesn’t see a pain or a problem; an obstacle or an opportunity; an intrusion or an interruption; an enemy or an ally; a friend or a foe.
He sees a son or a daughter.
If you are a parent, you know how important it is to you for your kids to be treated with love and respect. You want others to see them with the same love you have for them. And if someone does something good for your child, they are doing you a favor.
In fact, it is even better than doing you a favor. And if someone attacks your child or unfairly treats your child it is like they are attacking you. In fact, you might get even angrier when your child is mistreated than when you are mistreated.
God sees it the same way.
Then John goes onto to tell us how we can know for sure that we are loving people. He writes:
In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.
This may sound strange, because when you speak of love, commands and commandments are usually not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact in our culture commands and love are thought of as polar opposites.
But the commandments of God do not exist to control us, they exist to teach us. They are teaching us what love looks like.
For example, at one point in history God had to reveal to the Israelites the Ten Commandments. These are commands on basic human decency we may take for granted but were very big breaking news at the time they were first rolled out.
-Don’t commit murder or spread lies about each other and your community will be a better place to live…Wow!
-Don’t steal other people’s stuff and they’ll like you better…Did not know that.
-Don’t commit adultery and your marriage will probably be more successful. Who knew?
If you don’t know those things work against love. You need to start there. But that is just a start. By the time we get to Jesus life, the end of his life at the Last Supper God’s command is much wider and more comprehensive.
John writes in his gospel:
Love each other as I have loved you.
The apostles had experienced his love, they’d seen his love in action, they knew in daily detail what the command to love entailed. They were to be for others as Jesus was for them.
The power to love as God loves is within us. It is already there, but we have to access it. In the same way, your computer can preform amazing functions but you have to plug it in to access them. There is a way we can plug into God’s power.
How do we then access the power to love? John tells us
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. The victor over the world is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Faith is believing in something we can’t see. Faith is like a pair of glasses that allow us to see the world from God’s perspective instead of ours. If you can see it, it isn’t faith.
In faith we believe that we really are children of God.
In faith we believe that as we continue to walk with God, connecting with him sincerely through prayer and sacraments the power to sincerely love will grow.
In faith we believe that as we grow in our commitment to the Christian community, specifically in our local parish we also grow in our commitment to love.
Love takes faith because as we have already noted love does not always get rewarded in the short term. On Good Friday it looked like Jesus’ love had been punished with a painful death.
Love can look like a losers strategy. And it often appears that way. It wasn’t until Easter Sunday that love proved victorious.
It takes faith to see past someone’s flaws and failures and recognize them as the beloved children of God.
It takes faith to appreciate that even if in the moment my love is not appreciated by someone else, it is still the right call.
It takes faith to work to restore a broken relationship, even when you don’t feel like it, even when it doesn’t feel worth it.
It takes faith to accept God’s commands of love when they don’t make sense.
In today’s gospel we see Thomas and the other apostles struggling with their experience of the Resurrection. It just doesn’t make any sense to them. The only way forward for them is to accept it in faith.
At some point in your walk with God, his command to love won’t make sense. When you accept that command in faith then you know you’re loving as he loves.
So this week your homework is to put on the lens of faith. Ask God to help you to see every person you see as his son or his daughter. If you are a parent, ask God for the grace to treat each person you meet the way you want people to treat your children.
Try it starting tomorrow.
To love as God loves, we’ve got to see as God sees.