Accepting His Love
Friday May 23, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fifth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 15:22-31) Gospel (St. John 15:12-17)
Our Lord in the Gospel reading today not only calls us friends but He tells us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. And this being the case, shortly after Our Lord tells us that we are His friends, He goes forth and lays down His life for us. He showed us the depth of His love. As if we needed any proof of it, He made sure that there would be no doubt. We struggle so much as human creatures with this whole question of the love of God. Perhaps it is because in human love there are so many times when we have been violated by other people. Perhaps it is because we have experienced abandonment or rejection or whatever it may be in our lives, and so we doubt and we question. Sometimes it is because of the fact that we do not feel we are worthy of being loved. Regardless of the reason, the Lord has demonstrated to us as clearly as one could possibly demonstrate just how much He does truly love us.
When we look at our own lives and our own situations, we recognize that on one level we are not worthy of love in the sense that we have not earned it. But we cannot. Love is not something that anyone can earn. Love is a gift and it is given freely. And so we need to be able to put these ideas aside and stop trying to rationalize our way around why this cannot be and just accept that it is. The Lord loved us to the end. He poured out everything for us. He held back absolutely nothing for Himself. And all that He is asking of us is to accept it and then to respond in like manner. That is all He is asking of us.
Now, of course, if we look at that from our own perspective and say, “But if He is asking me to respond in like manner, I’m not sure I want to do that. After all, to have to pour out everything, to be willing to give up my life, would He really expect that of me?” the answer is “yes” – if you love. But the difference is (because love is not selfish) when we are truly loving that is not going to be an issue. That is why the saints could go to their martyrdom with a smile on their face, singing hymns to Our Lord and to Our Lady – because they were in love with Jesus and Mary and they had no problem with the idea of giving their lives for Our Lord because they loved Him. And so we have to recognize if our first reaction is that we are not so sure we would want to do this, there is still some selfishness involved and we are not loving perfectly. If that is the case, we are still subject (to some degree at least) to the slavery to sin, to the slavery to our selfishness, and we are not living according to the freedom of the children of God because we are not loving the way that we were created to love.
If we are truly loving, there is nothing that will stand in the way. Saint John tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. So if we find ourselves afraid for whatever reason it may be – afraid to give our lives, afraid to do something for the Lord, afraid to reach out to someone else, whatever it may be – if that is the way things are in our hearts, then as much as we may be loving, it is not yet complete, it is not perfect. We see then that we need to continue to pray for that love and to work at accepting the Lord’s love for us. We need to make sure that we are allowing His love into our hearts. It is very easy to keep everything at an arm’s distance, to look at a crucifix and acknowledge in our heads what Jesus has done for us but not allow it anywhere near the heart because we know what it will require of us if we do. For many of us, we do not want that to get very close. But if we do not allow it then we cannot be loved by Him. We need to take the risk or we will spend our lives not knowing the love of God, and even worse, we take the risk that we will never know the love of God because we have rejected it. If we reject Him in this world, we will reject Him in the next.
The Lord opens His heart to us in love. He asks that we will receive the love He wants to give us and that we will return the love He puts into our hearts. But before we can love, we have to be loved. He has proven His love. He loved us to the end, and He demonstrated that there is no greater love than what He has already done for us. So we need to stop rejecting it, pushing it away, not accepting it, whatever it may be. Let the guard down, let the love of God in, and love one another as He has commanded.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.