If you listened carefully to the Scriptures today, you may have noticed that one word was repeated 18 times.  It is a word that has been used so often in so many different circumstances that it has almost lost its meaning. The word is “love.” It is used more than 600 times in the Bible, and literally trillions of times on the Internet.  We proclaim our love for everything from God to a wide variety of persons, places and things that we say we love. We write about love, we sing about love, and we pray about love.  Jesus had no trouble expressing his love for us.  In a world fumbling to express love, he chose the cross.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This expression of love is the great gift offered to us by Jesus, the gift of himself on the cross.  Throughout his life, Jesus demonstrated true love.  He cured the sick, restored sight to the blind, forgave sinners, welcomed those rejected by others, raised the dead to life---and then willingly gave the ultimate gift, his life for us.

            Many have tried to express their understanding of Jesus’ love for us in words.  The famous Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, expressed what took him so long to learn. “Late have I loved you, O beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved you. …You called and you cried to me and broke in upon my deafness; you sent forth your beam and shone upon me and chased away my blindness.”   Poet Francis Thompson in, “The Hound of Heaven” placed these words in the mouth of God: “Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He whom thou seekest.” 

Today’s gospel powerfully addresses the essence of love: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.”  This statement sums up the total of all the gospels and all the spiritual writings and all the church teachings that have ever been produced though the centuries.  Jesus is sayings to us, “I love you as an integral, intimate part of my own identity.  I could not be who I am without you!” 

            The power of God’s love is ever present among us and continues to pursue us until his persistence overcomes our reluctance.  It is inevitable!  Teihard de Chardin, the great Jesuit theologian and scientist, reminded us that “someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, on that day for the second time in the history of the world, we will discover fire.”  Whether we choose the words of Augustine, the poetics of Thompson, the prediction of de Chardin, or the love message from today’s gospel, they all affirm what we eventually come to know.  God is essentially love, and that means that love is an essential part of divinity.

            We too are called to love.  We have been given many opportunities to reflect the selflessness that characterized Jesus’ love.  Love Jesus-style is present when we…think in terms of another rather than self, joyfully place the needs of others ahead of our own, allow another’s opinion to prevail, apologize regardless of who is wrong, buy less to share more, and replace recreation time with time spent serving others.  Love in action reflects the love that exists in the community of believers who take Jesus’ directive seriously, “Love one another as I have loved you.”                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                               ----Deacon Wilson Shierk