April 28, 2013

Did He Mean Love Everyone?

In today's Gospel we hear the great commandment that Jesus gave his disciples: “As I have loved you, so also should you love one another.” What is this Love that Jesus commands of us? It is not simply a feeling or a nice sentiment. It is not something romanticized or something we might find in a Hallmark card. This kind of Love that Jesus commands of us is something radical. It is a complete giving of love to others, whether we feel like it or not, whether we like the person or not. Just recently this concept of Love has been tested in a dramatic way in my life. Like probably many of you I was glued to the TV on as the manhunt went on for the younger of the two men who planted the bomb at the Boston marathon and were responsible for the deaths of three people and the horrible injuries of so many others. I was hoping they would catch the young man, but I also found myself praying for him. That night, before we heard that he was captured, I was at a prayer gathering with some friends. We prayed for him and for all those who find themselves caught up in religious or political ideologies that cause them to commit horrific acts of terror. We prayed that he would be caught alive and that someday he may become aware of Christ’s Love for him. This is the radical Love that Jesus was talking about. Yes, we prayed for the victims and their families. We prayed very hard for them. Their lives are torn apart. But it is easy to pray for them because we feel such sympathy and concern for them. It is much harder to pray for those who we might feel don’t deserve our prayers.

While this is a dramatic example, right in our own community and perhaps even if our own families, there are people who we do not like or don’t want to be around. We might hold a grudge or feel great anger toward them. Radical Love means that we forgive them. We don’t have to become their BFF, but we do need to pray for them and hope that they open their hearts to the Love of Christ who gave us the ultimate act of Love. He died for our sins. He died for all of us so that we might have the opportunity to live with Him forever. This Love comes without conditions. On our part, we need to be open to receiving it.

April 14, 2013


Peter Jumping into the Water by James Tissot

Today at our RCIA session following Mass, the catechist leading the session led us in a meditation on today's Gospel. In typical Ignatian fashion, she directed us to put ourselves in the story. As she read the Gospel, she stopped along the way and asked us to picture ourselves on the lake and feel the coolness of the morning, the heat of the sun as it rose. Then she asked at specific points in the story what we were thinking as something occurred, what emotions arose in us, what would we have done if we were there? At one point she asked what would you be thinking when you saw Simon Peter jump from the boat into the water.  I sort of chuckled to myself as I thought, "Is he crazy?  What the heck is he doing? I think he's lost it."

I stayed with that image and those words for awhile after the meditation was over. When asked to share our thoughts or reactions, I shared those words, but then I continued. When we grow closer to the Lord and deepen our relationship with Him, we begin to change. Things that brought us pleasure may not matter so much anymore. We don't do some of the same things we did before. We may go to church more often, spend more time in prayer, get involved in activities in our parish, read the bible or other spiritual books. People who know us notice the change and may be confused by it and might even have some negative thoughts. At times we may hear criticism of our dedication to our faith. Friends or family might think we are crazy, that we have become some sort of "holy roller."  They may wonder why we focus so much on God.  Yes, and they might think we've "lost it."

I could think of a number of times when that happened to me, and I know some of my family members think of me as a bit too religious. They say I'm like the Church Lady, in fact at my last parish I have had kids call me that when I ask them if they knew who I was.  Some people might get offended if called something like this, but in a way I don't mind. No, I'm not the kind of Church Lady that Dana Carvey plays, but what's wrong with being a Church Lady? What's wrong with being someone who tries to put God first in her life and orient whatever she does toward living as a good Christian, as a good Catholic? What is wrong with talking about God, speaking the truth about the faith, and abandoning myself to the Lord. 

Like Simon Peter, we sometimes have to "jump in" when we discover the Lord, not considering what anyone might think of us. It's not easy and I admit I do struggle with that. But in the end it comes down to loving Jesus above all things.  Do I listen to the voices that might distract me from reaching the Lord, or do I jump?