Acts 14, 21-27 + Psalm 145 + Revelation 21, 1-5 + John 13, 31-35
April 24, 2016 at Saint Peter & St William Churches in Naples, FL
The fragment of John’s Gospel we open today cuts through the complexity of human nature and the mixed motives behind everything that we do as it unfolds for us the meaning of glory and love.
There seem to be five kinds of love.
The first is utilitarian. We love someone because they are useful to us. It is obviously more love of self than of another. It says, “I love what you do, but I don’t love you.”
The second kind is romantic love. It is a kind of affection we feel because of the pleasure another gives us. We may think we love the other person, but what we really love is the feeling. It doesn’t last, which is why some marriages fail.
The third kind of love is democratic love which is based on equality under the law. We respect others because they are fellow citizens. We expect respect from them in return, and that is the honest reason for doing good things for them.
The fourth kind is humanitarian love. This is a general love for humanity. The problem lies in the fact that it is abstract rather than concrete. There are always exceptions: “I love human nature, but can’t stand those people next door.”
The fifth kind of love is what Jesus is speaking of today. It is Christian love summed up in the commandment he gives: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Now we are talking about disinterested love; loving even when there is nothing in it for us. This love persists when there is hostility and rejection. It is an enduring relationship expressed in service, affection, and self-sacrifice. It only is possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The glory Jesus speaks of is the final and total revelation of the Father, the God of Love. Glory is the revelation of what love is and therefore what God is. Jesus enters into his glory when he does exactly what the Father does, pour himself out for the sake of another – an “other” that may not be worthy, or able to give anything back. This is exactly what God is in God’s Love – a total outpouring of self. God gives. God gives all, even God’s only Son. To make that real and understandable for us, Jesus pours out everything he has to the very last drop – not because he will get anything in return, but simply because he is the human nature of the divine love.
The closest we come to this is embraced by the church as a sacrament. It is the sign of married love that is even more enhance by the sign of parental love. You faithful and loving people who have entered into the mystery of real love are living in glory. You are for this world. You are sign of God’s presence and Divine Love. Sacrifice, Service, and Selflessness are the tools of this love and its expression. Yet married love is the final and full expression of this divine love that can start even earlier in life before it is expressed and lived in marriage. A simple story says it all.
Five year old, Johnny, loved his big brother, Michael very much. One day the doctor told Johnny that Michael was very sick and need a blood transfusion. On hearing this Johnny began to cry. Then the doctor said to him, ‘Johnny, would you be willing to give some of our blood to your brother?” Johnny hesitated for a moment, and then said, “Yes, doctor.” The doctor took blood from Johnny, and afterwards Johnny continued to rest quietly on the table. At a certain point he looked up at the doctor and said, “Doctor, when do I die?” It was only then that the doctor fully appreciated the extent of this little boy’s love for his brother.
Jesus spoke about love at the last supper. He said to his apostles, “Greater love no one has than the one who lays down his life for his friends.” But it probably was only later, when Jesus had actually done that, that the apostles appreciated the extent of his love for them. Then they knew the greatness of the challenge facing them when the remembered those other words he said to them on the same occasion: “Love one another as I have loved you.” We may all be a bit slow in understanding and fulfilling the commandment, but the Holy Spirit comes to move us along little by little.