I can still remember the day God spoke with a loud, clear voice and opened my heart to understand why I was here in this space and time and what was expected of me.
When I tell you the story, you may laugh. I know the idea is amusing, but after you hear it, you may better understand my love for the musical group U2. Perhaps you’ve seen my personalized license plate: LOVE U2. And wondered, “What’s up with that?”
In 1999, when I was desperately searching for meaning in my life, true meaning, I found God. I found God in a simple lyric to the song “Walk On” by U2. Up until that point, my life had been all about success, making a mark in the world, climbing the corporate ladder, running a business… and so on.
But the opening line to the song knocked my stony heart for a loop and has become the true North on my moral compass. The lyrics reads:
“Love. It’s not the easy thing. The ONLY baggage that you can bring. It’s all that you can’t leave behind.”
In other words, when we leave this earthly plain, the love we share with others is all that matters. It’s the ONLY thing we can take with us to Heaven. Not our successes. Not our awards or accomplishments. Nothing but love. Love is all that matters.
Love is the true North on all our moral compasses.
Love is the supreme law, the ultimate wisdom for humankind. Love is the guiding principle for how to live a good and meaningful life. Love is the key that unlocks the door to all human happiness. Love rings true in our souls. Love brings about the Kingdom. Love changed the world.
The wisdom of love is what Jesus and Paul are talking about in today’s readings.
Love is easy. And love is hard.
I felt the tug of true love when I asked my wife to share our lives together 25-years ago. I understood pure love when I held each of my newborn sons for the first time and felt an overwhelming desire to do anything, everything for this child’s well-being. The unconditional love we experience for our own children, our grandchildren and our spouse definitely brings us the closest to understanding the love God feels for each and every one of us… and the love Christ has for us and why he died on the cross for our sins. His love opened a door to eternal life.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is addressing his Jewish brothers and sisters who believed salvation came through adhering to 613 laws of the Torah. But Jesus wanted them to see the driving principles behind the Law. Jesus cautioned that following a surface level understanding of the Law was not enough. You have to drill deeper to intentions. Not just surface level behavior. We need to drill into the very core of our own heart. Only there… in the pure, truthful reaches of our human heart… can we get understand what it means to love, what it mean to do the right thing. The wisdom of love dictates that we do the right thing in all we do.
Love is the true North on all our moral compasses.
For Jesus said in Matthews Gospel, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill.”
Love is that fulfillment. When we fill ourselves with Christ’s love we learn to love ourselves. When we fill ourselves with Christ’s love, we learn to love others as we love ourselves. When we fill ourselves with Christ’s love, we learn to love our God with all our hearts.
Paul’s message to the Corinthians was in part directed at some Christians in Corinth who believed they possessed a “wisdom” that made them “mature” or “perfect.” These Christians believed this gave them the right to look down on others as “children.”
Paul teaches true wisdom comes from God… through Christ… alone. No man or woman can be truly wise by his or her own estimation. We need to rely on God’s loving mercy as we fumble our way in the dark and find the love that fulfills our every yearning.
As Paul quotes Isaiah: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
If we truly love our fellow brothers and sisters as we are taught, we will NEVER allow ourselves to feel superior to anyone. Christ’s love allows us to find humility. Christ’s love inspires us to look beyond self to others. Christ’s love inspires us to share that love with all we come in contact with. Even our enemies. That’s when love can be hard.
In the first reading from the Book of Sirach, we understand that God gives us all the free will to choose to keep the commandment of love or not.
Author Ben Sira writes, “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given to him.”
A little over a year ago, a good friend reached out to seek prayer for a family struck by an awful tragedy. Their daughter had been in a nearly fatal car accident. The 17-year-old was in a coma and doctors were afraid she might not make it.
We all lifted up little Mary Drake in prayer. I kept up with the family though an extraordinary online family support website called “CaringBridge.” Every day, Mary’s mother would update us on the latest news. Early on, the news was not good. But after several months, the news got better. Eventually, Mary woke up. This was just the beginning of the journey back from a major brain injury.
The most remarkable thing about the Drake family is the love they’ve shown for one another throughout the entire ordeal. Mary’s mom, dad and brothers each write updates on Mary’s progress and ask us all to pray a special prayer of healing for Mary (see link below). Their love for Mary is remarkable. The website has had over 400-thousand visits. That’s a lot of healing prayers from family, friends and total strangers. And all because we were inspired by the love of Mary’s family to join in the prayer chain. Christ’s love in action.
It may be years before she leads a normal life, if ever. But Mary’s family and Mary are surrounded by love, share this love with each other and this love keeps them from falling into the depths of despair. Christ’s love in action.
Jesus wants us to NOT get too caught up in a litany of laws or pile of rules and regulations. Jesus wants us to keep it simple. Jesus is calling us to understand the greatest commandment … the law of love of God and love each other… and act accordingly.
As it is written in today’s modern poetry, “Love. It’s not the easy thing. The only baggage you can bring. It’s all that you can’t leave behind.”