This is an approximation of the homily I delivered at St Luke the Evangelist Mother's Day Weekend. The readings are for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time and can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051015.cfm
I have two very brief stories to tell you that at first may seem unrelated. A young men and a young woman meet and are attracted to each other. They begin to develop a relationship. He thinks she is beautiful, she thinks he is handsome. She makes his heart go pitter pat. They date. He makes her happy. In fact, she makes him feel so good, that after dating for a few weeks, he tells her that he loves her. She says that she loves him too.
Here is the 2nd story. It’s about me. I really love going to the beach. I don’t necessarily love the sand and the sun however. I can me happy sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean, reading a good book, having a frozen drink or a glass of wine, being with my family, children, and grandchildren. In fact, if I were ever to come into money, I would love to buy a place of my own right on the ocean to go to when I retire.
These stories have one thing in common – the concept of Love – that is completely backwards. In each example, the word love is directed at one’s own pleasure rather than at the good of someone else. In the first story, the young man and young woman may have affection, passion, fondness, excitement, happiness. Not love, at least not yet. In the second story, I find pleasure, happiness, maybe peace and serenity on the beach. Not love. None of the uses of the word love in these stories is appropriate. Using the word Love in this way completely distorts the true meaning.
As a people of faith, we need to both understand and practice the meaning of love as it is proclaimed in the scripture
Looking at the 2nd reading and the Gospel, a form of the word love is used 18 times. In these 18 times, today’s readings tell us essentially 3 things: God is love; God loves us; and we are to love one another. That's it. It is simple. Unless you do not know what love really means.
If you look up the word love in the dictionary, there are 29 different meanings. And exactly none of the 29 meanings reflects the Christian understanding of love. None of them. The dictionary is just as confused as the 2 stories that I told . Jesus says in the Gospel – “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Thus, the true meaning of real love ---- is interwoven with sacrifice. Sacrifice in the sense of denying oneself for the sake of someone else. Sadly, the word “sacrifice” has become almost a profanity in our society.
And it is not just sacrifice like giving up candy for lent. The love we to which we are called as Christians is total self-giving, where all is offered and nothing is expected in return. On this Mother’s Day weekend, I cannot think of a better example of this than the love that a mother has for her child. She sacrifices her very body to give her baby life knowing that she will receive nothing in return.
Most would agree that society in general is in decline and needs another transformation, but most cannot agree on the cause OR have a clue at the solution.
I propose that we first look at ourselves for the cause. This spirit of love for God or neighbor is not evident today in our society. We live in make me happy, give me pleasure, what is in it for me culture. Christians have not able to give of ourselves unconditionally or to separate ourselves from the overall society. We have fallen into all of the things that St Paul says love is NOT in 1 Cor 13 – jealousy, pompousness, rudeness, self-seeking, quick-tempered, brooding to name a few. By our actions, we same to have forgotten that love is patient, kind, that it bears, hopes, and endures all things The concept of self-giving love has no more meaning.
Love plays a central role in living with "neighbor," not only with individuals, but nations as well; not only with people of the same faith or color, but among all the peoples on earth – even those that hate us and our way of life. If true Christian love became the norm in the world, we could start to eliminate most wars, hatred, greed, jealousy and fear.
So, who in here would like to dramatically change the world and make it a much better place in which to live? Here is the homework that will help you do just that.
First, pledge that you and your family to stop now and forever using the word love in place of concepts such as gives me pleasure, tastes good, looks attractive, makes me happy and sexual attraction. Stop using the word love as if it a common preposition or conjunction, and use it for what it really means. We cannot love if there is confusion as to what it means.
2nd, We must accept that we are loved by God unconditionally, love him back. The scripture today tells us how we are to do that – keep His commandments.
3rd Go home this week give that love to our families – our parents, brothers, sister, spouses and all those in our extended family.
If we all start with these 3 things, Christian love will spread through the world like a virus and you will indeed change the world.