We older baby boomers remember well when the major reform of the Church began with the Vatican II council. When the Liturgy (Mass, mainly) was reformed and put into English, we all could then know and be part of it in a conscious, knowing, and active way. Much like the older Latin Music of our Tradition, some of the newly composed English language music was good and some of it was poor. When we think about it, only a very few Latin hymns have survived the test of time; this is also true for modern English language hymns. I remember from way back then the hymn "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love". It is not sung very often anymore, though its meaning has stayed very true through the decades. The scriptures this weekend with their focus on the theme of the love triggered this memory.
In the English language, the word love has many different meanings with subtle but often important nuances. They range from the superficial and the saccharine to the deep and profound. Obviously, as followers of Jesus Christ we are concerned about love that is deep and abiding, authentic and profound. It is a love that is not purely emotive, but also made apparent in how we live each day and how we treat other people. It is a love that gives life to others; it is not narcissistic. This love comes from the Life and Heart of Jesus Christ and is discovered in the stories of the sacred scriptures and especially in the four Gospels.
This weekend our first reading presents the conundrum of Cornelius, a non-Jew who wishes to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Peter realizes that this man makes apparent to everyone is his daily actions the love of Jesus Christ. Peter must confront the issue to baptize him, a non-Jew. Peter sees in this man's life the work of the Holy Spirit of God. And so, Peter baptizes Cornelius and his household and remains with them a few days. This story announces the first welcome of a gentile into what would become a universal Church that would be open to all. The promised Spirit makes it known that the whole world is now chosen. This happens because of the actions of love of Cornelius, an outsider.
It was customary in the time of Jesus for people to choose which rabbi they wished to follow. in the gospel, we learn that Jesus reverses this. Instead, Jesus chooses his followers, just as the Father in heaven has chosen Jesus. Jesus teaches them what they need to know to follow him.
Jesus insists that they love one another and live on in his love. He does not offer this as a nice thing to do if they have the time, but he commands it. In doing this, they help spread the love that the Father bestowed upon Christ.
Bear in mind that the second reading informs us that what this love demands of us is possible because god has first loved us. We must always remember that Jesus is the manifestation of god's abiding love. it is through Jesus that the love of god is poured out. Our loving brings full circle the love of god manifest in Jesus. As in the hymn from over half a century ago, they will know we are Christians by our love. It is not the singing of the hymn that matters, it is the living out of the love of god each day in our lives. You can sing in any language you want as it really does not matter, but each day you must act in the language of the love of our God.BACK TO LIST