Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Impossibility of Love (Mt 22:34-40)

Today Jesus reveals to us the greatest commandment. "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Jesus also reveals the second greatest commandment. "You must love your neighbor as yourself." Everyone knows this. This commandment to love is the very foundation of our faith. But it is too much. It is nearly impossible to love in this way. If not, then why is it that we so often fall short? Or if we succeed in loving God we hate our neighbor. Sometimes the opposite is true; we ignore God and have a good time with our neighbor, claiming to love them. I find that I cannot keep this commandment to love and I do not think that many of you do either. Why? Because I only have so much love to give and then I run out. I run out of patience. I run out of energy. I run out of time. I run out of resources, and then I need to take care of myself and I forget about God, he does not seem to be helping me anyway. I also begin to ignore others because they are a distraction to me. I only have so much love. Jesus must have been mistaken when he told us these were the greatest commandments. Why would he require us to do something that we are seemingly incapable of doing? The answer is because he loves us. He knows that we are incapable of loving as he asks, and so he loves us. Remember his love is merciful, and so in his mercy he loves us. He makes up for our lack of love by loving us. Thus we can begin to love with his love. It is so difficult to love; in fact it is nearly impossible to love if you do not know that you are loved. Thus in his mercy Jesus loves us. Think of your own life, how hard you have tried to love one another but hurts and pain and fears keep us apart. This happens even within marriages. We become afraid to love. We are so hurt that we choose not to love rather than risking getting hurt yet again. In his mercy Jesus loves us and in his love we can take the risk to love. The same is true in our relationship with God. We are so ready for God to condemn us that we act as if he already has. But this is a lie. God loves us, and when we know we are loved by him we can begin to love him. Why? Because in knowing he loves us we will no longer be afraid of him. The greatest way in which we can experience this love is in the Sacraments, specifically in the Eucharist and Confession. In Confession his love is so clear. No matter what we have done Jesus' response is "I love you and I forgive you." There is not a single sin that any of you have committed, or will commit, or could commit that could keep Jesus from loving you, and forgiving you. In knowing we are loved through the sacrament of Confession we can begin to love and thus turn away from our sins. In the Eucharist we are strengthened in love every Sunday and every time we receive the Body of Christ. Strengthened in being loved by God in the gift us his Body and Blood. Strengthened by the Eucharist we can love God and even our neighbors because it is His love that sustains us. It his love that makes up for our lack of love. How can this commandment to love God and our neighbor be fulfilled? Knowing we are loved by God. How do we receive this love most clearly? By living a sacramental life, in confessing our sins, and faithfully attending the mass and receiving Holy Communion

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