Fr Frank O’Dea SSS
Homily: Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17
Possibly the most profound statement in the whole of the bible is found in today’s second reading where John makes the extraordinary statement: ‘God is love.’
We cannot hope to understand all that is involved in this three-word, mind-shattering description of God.
But we can make an attempt to unravel at least some of the mystery.
God is one; there is no other God but the one who is eternal, who created the whole of the universe and brought each of us lovingly into being.
Jesus spoke of God as his Father.
Jesus also Implied that he himself is divine so Jesus is God.
Jesus also spoke of the Holy Spirit as divine so the Holy Spirit is God.
So we say God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
These terms are metaphors, they don’t express the reality.
We could just as easily say God is Mother.
In some way that is beyond our understanding, there is a threeness in God while God remains one.
When John says God is love, he is saying there is a profound love between Father (or Mother), Son and Holy Spirit, whatever those terms may mean.
A relationship of love is at the very core of the Godhead.
It is this relationship of love that Jesus wants us to have at the core of our spirituality and our dealings with others.
Jesus is not talking about romantic love or sexual love though these have their rightful place in our lives too.
Jesus is talking about the kind of love that is centred on others and which finds its outlet in doing good for others.
I frequently use ‘God is love’ as a mantra in my meditations.
No image comes into my mind, as a pure spirit doesn’t have any appearance.
What seems to happen is that there is an abyss which is bottomless.
This abyss is full of warm love which is the love between the three spirits of the Godhead.
I am immersed in that abyss of comforting love.
I’m struggling to find the words to express what I want to say, but it’s a very pleasant experience.
We show love for others by helping them whenever they are sick, destitute, grieving, lonely, in prison.
Jesus says the ultimate expression of love is to lay down one’s life for another.
Jesus himself did just that.
He was faithful to his Father’s mission of taking the good news of God’s love to others in spite of the death threats made against him.
Out of love for his Father, he was faithful to his Father’s command even though he knew he was risking his life.
The Eucharistic prayer sums this up saying;
He (Jesus) brought us the good news of life to be lived with you forever in heaven.
He showed us the way to that life, the way of love.
He himself has gone that way before us.
The prayer continues:
He willingly died for us, but you raised him to life again.
Jesus loved the Father so much that he stayed faithful to his mission, and the Father loved Jesus so much that he would not let evil have the final say, so he raised Jesus into a new life where, as the Eucharistic prayer says ‘There will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more sadness.’
Jesus is the supreme example of love for others by giving up his own life.
Countless others through the ages have followed this example.
During the Second World War, a prisoner escaped from the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz and the commandant decreed that ten prisoners were to be gassed as a deterrent to others
All the prisoners were assembled and those whose names were called out had to step forward.
One of those was a married man with a family.
He cried out in anguish, ‘My wife, my children. I shall never see them again.’
Fr Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward offering to take this man’s place.
His offer was accepted.
He died so that another could live.
It’s not likely that any of us will be asked to make that ultimate act of love, but there are countless opportunities every day for us to show small acts of love.
In the family we show love for one another by our kind words, by allowing someone else to choose the TV channel, by mowing the lawn, by cleaning up the lounge room without being asked.
In the community we can show love for others by being a volunteer for the St Vincent de Paul Society or taking communion to the sick or just helping according to our particular talents.
Where do we get the energy we need to practice this very demanding kind of love throughout our lives?
It comes from the Eucharist, the sacred memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the reminder of how much love Jesus showed for us.
When we participate fully, consciously and actively in the Eucharist, we hear again in the readings of Jesus’ great love for us and of his urging us to love one another.
When we receive the blessed bread and wine, we receive the sacramental presence of Jesus who died out of love for us.
This sacred food energises our spirits so that we can live as Jesus lived, so that we can show to others the love that Jesus has shown to us.