Dear friends, My Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter (B) 2015.
TRUE LOVE IS SELF-GIVING, NOT SELF-GETTING
Following Christ is not complicated. In fact, today Jesus reduces the essence of what it means to be his follower into one sentence: “Love one another as I have loved you”(John 14:15; 15:10; 1 John 2:5; 5:2-3). If we do that, we are on Christ’s path, and we will experience the joy and meaning that only God can give. He explains further: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”(John 15:13; 1 Cor. 13:13). In other words, love is self-giving, and so, the greater the self-giving, the greater the love. When we put our lives at the service of others, when we live in order to give and not to take, when we are willing to suffer so that someone else can rejoice, then we may call ourselves his disciples. He also explained it with his deeds, with his own suffering and death: to show us what love really is: self-giving, self-forgetful generosity; giving without counting the cost, even without asking for something in return – this is God’s idea of love (Gal. 4:16; Eph. 4:15).
ARAGORN AND ARWEN
In Peter Jackson’s 2001 movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, we get a glimpse of an unusual love story. Aragorn, the heir to the throne of the great Kingdom of Gondor, is anxious and fearful about his responsibility to defend Middle Earth against the evil menace of Sauron. In the midst of his melancholy and doubt, Arwen, the beautiful Elf-Princess, finds him and comforts him. They have known each other for a long time, and it is clear that they are in love. But Arwen is an Elf, and elves are immortal. So if she were to marry Aragorn, a mere human, she would have to give up her immortality. That has made them hesitate to pledge themselves to each other, even though their love is deep. As she tries to encourage Aragorn, Arwen realizes that only the power of true love can give him the strength he needs to fulfill his mission. She reaffirms her love for him, but she sees that it is not enough just to tell him that she loves him.She has to show it.In that moment,she overcomes all their previous hesitations and decides that she will give herself completely to him, sacrificing her immortality out of love, and she says in a passionate whisper: “I choose a mortal life.” In the movies, we always recognize that true love is costly – it’s about giving oneself more than indulging oneself. Somehow, that’s what makes it beautiful. Gossips and the like are not self-giving, but self-getting. Do I love my neighbours in true words about them whenever I speak of them behind them? Or do I indulge myself and speak freely but rashly of my neighbour? Do I give false hopes to my friend, by lack of care or keep playing around, in a relationship that may end up in marriage?
TURNING OUR WORK INTO LOVE
This idea of true love (self-giving, not self-getting), helps explain the Church’s vision of work. Popular culture encourages us to live for the weekend. It often sees work as a necessary evil. But Christ’s perspective is different. The Church teaches us that there is dignity in human work. From manual labour, to study, to the fine arts, human work “honor’s the Creator’s gifts” and “prolongs the work of creation” (CCC #2427). By our work, we also “contribute to the abundance that will benefit all” (CCC #2429). In other words, from God’s perspective, the very work we engage in on a daily basis can be an expression of our Christian love. Working hard, if our heart is in the right place, is one of the most basic ways that we can love God(Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:10-12). Working long hours purely out of self-centered ambition or greed is not showing love for God. But pouring our time and energy into improving the world and making a living for ourselves and our loved ones is a beautiful form of self-giving (Col.1:10; 2:6-7; 3:7-17). Jesus did that for almost thirty years, as he worked in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, sweating and exhausting himself day after day. Mary did it for even longer, as she took care of the household, cooking, cleaning and reaching out to her neighbours. We don’t have to enter a monastery to become experts in Christian love. We just have to exercise our faith, so that God’s idea of love becomes our idea of love. That’s the path to true wisdom and lasting joy. Lord Jesus, as you renew your commitment to us in this Mass, we promise that we will let you give this meaning to our labours this week, by doing our very best in all we do, for God’s sake. amen. alléluia!