Christians of all faith traditions spend a lot of time talking about love. Our tradition often seems to be one that can win first prize in the talking department about love. This very small word carries a lot of responsibility for its size. We use this word in all sorts of contexts with all sorts of meaning. The word love invites equivocation. From loving a person, to loving a color, or loving a book or even loving oneself we use the word love. The word love has many meanings and very many nuanced understandings of the word. However, in the Christian context and in the Catholic Way of Life as disciples of Jesus on mission, love is for us a powerful and demanding word. And, more importantly, we need our four Gospels to help us understand its deepest meaning and how to live that meaning out in our lives.
Cornelius, the main character in our first reading is a much loved and respected figure by all the Jews, but is also first and foremost a Roman Centurion, the oppressive enemy of the Jews. In our passage, Cornelius asks for Peter, and Peter goes to his home, something a Jew would never do. Peter was treated with respect when he arrived and learns Cornelius seeks baptism. To us this is an "easy ask," not so to Peter. What is Peter to do about this good and loving Gentile who seeks baptism? What is to become of the small but growing band of those who follow Jesus? Jews consorting with and mingling with the unclean Gentiles!
Peter knows that Cornelius and other have been blessed by the Holy Spirit and so he baptizes him and his household. This first welcome of a Gentile into the faith is the first bold step of change that welcomes everyone into a universal church. The Holy Spirit caused all this to leap across artificial boundaries and manmade religious law, to change from the old excluding laws and customs. Indeed, we are to realize that this great event makes known to one and all throughout time that our whole world is now chosen.
The Gospel also clearly emphasizes for us who is choosing and who is chosen. No longer do the disciples choose the rabbi, but Jesus, the rabbi, chose the disciples and now chooses us. In his public ministry together, Jesus has taught his followers all he knows. At the Last Supper he changes the relationship from master to servant to one of friend to friend.
Jesus is most emphatic that they love one another and live on in his love. He does not simply suggest this; instead he demands and commands it. Note the word "love" at this point is translated from the Greek agape, which describes the mutual self-giving relationship between Jesus and God and thus we learn this must exist mutually between Jesus and his followers. The love that the Father bestowed on Christ is spread about to everyone. It gets up and goes. It even visits the house of the unlikely candidate, Cornelius.
We learn in life that easy love has no demands. It does not call for follow up because it does not last. The Gospel, however, does not speak of easy love, which is really not love at all. The second reading boldly tells us that the love demanded of us is possible because God has first loved us. When love is spoken of in the two readings attributed to John, we come to understand that Jesus is the manifestation of God's abiding love. God's love is poured out through Jesus. John calls us to recognize this great truth and then to respond by loving one another. Our loving brings full circle the love of God manifest in Jesus.
Love as expressed in the many various ways in the New Testament is awe inspiring. It is our task as believers to accept this in our hearts and try to live this vision of deep love in our daily relationships and life.
Last week the Santini Corporation of Arlington MA (santinicorp.com) was the winning bidder for our new Entrance and Facilities. Their bid was slightly less than 1.7 million dollars in cost. We hope to begin on or shortly after May 14 th . I know that the period of construction, approximately six months will take a toll on people's nerves and patience because of dust, lack of space downstairs, inconvenience and also temporary and last minutes changes. Scheduling and space will be difficult and trying at times. To help, our funerals will be at Saint Jude's Norfolk as before when our upstairs was being painted. This wonderful project will allow so many people who have difficulty in attending at Saint Mary's to be part of our active faith community. Our town is aging and the baby boomers and older folks in particular will greatly benefit now from this project which will assist all people throughout the years ahead. The accessible bathrooms will be greatly appreciated by one and all. Thank you to all who made pledges and commitments. Your personal giving is helping to make this most important project for the welcoming of people to our parish church a wonderful reality.BACK TO LIST