6th Sunday of Easter Year C

     Love is one of those funny words. It’s found in the lyrics of almost every song, in almost every great work of literature, and every popular novel. Love is one of those words that is found in every culture, in every language, and every age of history. Yet I dare say for as much as it is used, that word love may just be the most ambiguous word in the English language.

     Yet, while it may be hard for us to define what we mean by love, I think when we see love we know it. And so, we know, that true love is not simply some romantic idea that is expressed only in words or in feelings, but rather it’s an expression that is lived out in our actions. While philosophers have tried to define love for thousands of years, I think at its core it’s a wasted experiment for us. Why get caught up in all that when sometimes we just have to look out and see love for what it really is.

     Real love means that we want to be with the person we love. We want to spend time with them, share our experiences with them, share our joys and our sorrows. Friends, this is the love of Jesus Christ. God loved us so much that He actually wanted to become a part of us, to experience what we experience to walk with us, to talk with us, and ultimately to give His life for us. We need to look no further than the crucifix to see what true love actually is. When we look at Jesus hanging there on the cross, there is no doubt that God loves us.

     But I dare say the problem with Christianity recently is that we have focused on the love God has for us, and that’s true, but allot of Christians never stop and ask ourselves what about our love for God. What about our response to that love that God offers us? I think if we are honest with ourselves, so often as Christians we hide behind God’s love for us and forget that love has to be reciprocated. No one can force us to love. It is a choice we make and no matter how much someone wants to love us, unless we are open to it and unless we are willing to love in return there is no loving relationship. This is why breakups are so hard. Oftentimes one person still loves, but that love isn’t being received or reciprocated.

     So yes, it is true that God loves us, but that is only half the picture. What about our love for Him? You see, love is a free choice to place another above our own. To love God means to place Him above any other priority in our lives. For I believe “if you really want to touch someone’s heart, then be prepared for a little bleeding along the way. Love is not something you have – love is something you use.”[1]

     This is why faith is so hard. It is meant to be about true love for God. There is no doubt in the world that God loves us and I meet very few Christians who actually doubt that God loves them. But so tragically in our society, we sort of struggle or even refuse to love Him in return. In short, there are allot of Christians who would rather use God’s love than reciprocate the love back to Him.

     The good news for us is that God, in His perfection, continues to love us, even when we don’t return that love. But if a relationship of love is going to exist, it demands a response. What is your response? Each and every one of us must decide if we love Christ and it’s not enough for us just to say “yes I love him.” That is the easy response that rolls off the tongue.

     Today’s Gospel is a gut check for each and every one of us. Do we just say that we love Him or do our actions and our lives really express the love we have for him? The only way to answer the question “do we love Jesus Christ” is to look at our life and honestly assess if our lives reflect that love or not.

     Just think about the people you love in this world. Don’t we want to spend time with them? Don’t we want to speak of them? Aren’t we happy to do what they ask of us even if it’s not fun or is hard? Think about those people you love the most, how often you talk to them, how often you just want to be with them even if nothing is going to be said, and think about how often you care to do whatever will make them happy and the pain and sacrifices you will make for their own good. If we do that for the people we love on earth what shouldn’t we also do that for Jesus Christ?

     So, let’s be honest with ourselves. Do we really love Jesus? Do we spend time with Him? Do we tell others about Him? Do we do whatever He asks of us, no matter how hard it may seem? My friends, I think today’s Gospel begs the question, do we treat Jesus the way we treat others we love or do we simply tolerate His love for us? There are certainly people in our lives who really do care about us and we kind of just put up with them. You know who I’m talking about the crazy family member who we are forced to just tolerate at family functions.

     That’s not what Jesus wants. He doesn’t want us to just show up once a week and acknowledge that He is there and be kind by saying hello, but I really don’t care. Which option is for you when it comes to Jesus? Do you really love Him or is He the crazy family member you simply tolerate?

     When we think about those, I love the most, I think we have to ask ourselves if Jesus makes that list. If so, we have to ask if we really treat Him the same way that we treat others that we love. My friends, Jesus’ love isn’t going anywhere. He offers it unconditionally to us. He has shown us how much He loves us by hanging on the cross. But it is up to us to accept His love. Sometimes we have to go back to the basics and I think today’s Gospel invites us to go back to the basics. Do we love Jesus. Not just do we say we love Him, but do we keep His word?

[1] Simcha Fischer. The Sinners Guide to Natural Family Planning. (Huffington: Our Sunday Visitor) 2014. Pg 52.

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