Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter, 2012
This is my commandment: love one another, as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
In recent months the culture wars just have been heating up, and that shows no real signs of abating as we look ahead to such a controversial presidential election and referendums. And our Church, we as Catholics, have been kind of thrust right into the middle of things. I’m amazed at how many politicians are making references to their faith in justifying their support of certain policies, on both sides of the isle. Not the constitution, or some other civil document, but the bible, or even the teachings of the saints. And I think that’s because politicians know, as we all know, that faith is an important motivator for so many of us. That it gets right to the heart of who we are and the choices that we make.
But this whole trend is worrisome for the Church, I think.
The teachings of the Church are being interpreted increasingly as political statements. So if you emphasize one set of teachings, you are assumed to be with one party, if you emphasize another, you are thought to be with the other party. And it’s dividing our church, it’s dividing the people from one another, the bishops from their people, women religious from their bishops, priests from everyone – just lots of division. We’re right in the middle of a giant game of tug of war, and the Church is getting pulled in every direction. Heck, even moms are controversial topic just in time for mother’s day!
What does Jesus tell us in the Gospel today: remain in my love.
And you know, it would be nice if we could just pretend that his words to us mean that we can just flee from this troubled time. Hole up in the house or with people who are easy to be around. Get more pets – sometimes they are easier to talk to than people.
But we are called to more than that. We have the duty to live out our faith even in the midst of these polarized and trying times. We have the responsibility to live as men and women of courage and peace, of dialogue and conviction.
Maybe we don’t hear those words together too often: courage and peace, dialogue and conviction. But that’s what it is to be Catholic, I think. To be rooted in the truth, but rooted at the same time in love of others.
You and I cannot pretend that there is no right and wrong, that there is no such thing as good and evil. Jesus tells us in the gospel, we must follow his commandments if we are to remain in his love. It is a task of the utmost seriousness, to do what is right and good and holy.
But chief among those commandments is the command to love. And so that means we must be willing to lay down our lives. Not just willing, but perhaps we might say that we have the responsibility to practice each day in little ways that effort of dying to ourselves for the sake of others. To work on living the virtues.
We have, at this unique time, the opportunity to show this unique form of courageous love to our culture: not to be silent when people are saying things that are not true or are misleading or wrong, but at the same time not to resort to power tactics, to sink into the muck of political rhetoric and name calling. And to speak more with our actions than with our words. To let others tweet and twitter, to focus more on concrete acts of service and charity. To recognize that in our cynical culture, words are increasingly of little value. In order to be authentic witnesses, we must speak first with our choices, with our actions. And our primary witness, as men and women of faith, must be through lives of faithful and generous service. To be known for our kindness to others, particularly within our families and with those who are suffering or alone. To be sure that we are reaching out to those in need, taking care of the stranger. In short, we must be willing to embrace a sacrificial way of life, to love others in the way that Christ has shown us.
You can’t love people you don’t know. So I hope as you look at this summer, you and your family will work to get out of the house more. To reverse the trend that seems toward greater and greater isolation and division from one another. Turn off the television, step away from the computer. Make the extra effort to go out, to leave the comfort and security of your home and to enter into the world that God places before us, a world that is in need of our Christian witness.
St. John encourages us in our second reading today:
Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God.