Thursday, May 14, 2020

HOMILY - Sixth Sunday of Easter - What is Love?

What is this love that Jesus is talking about today?
As we know, language can be a tricky thing. One word can have many different meanings.

The same is true with the word Jesus uses in today’s Gospel message: Love.
In our English language, the word love has many different meanings.  Lots of room for ambiguity.
The Gospel of John was originally written in the Greek language.
The Greeks had four words for the word love. No room for misunderstanding the message of Jesus. 
C.S. Lewis wrote about this in a book called The Four Loves.

Phileo is the word used for non-romantic affection between people sharing a strong bond (like "brotherly love" or “sisterly love”).
Eros is the word used for romantic feelings (like "being in love" – the love shared with a spouse or significant other).
Storge is the word used for supportive, "got your back" love (like the love of a friend, or colleague, or mentor).
            Then there’s the word used in today’s Gospel message:  Agape.  This word is used for love that is selflessly committed to the well-being of another. It’s meant to last into eternity. And it’s driven by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

This is the word Jesus chose for this important message to his disciples at the Last Supper. No confusion. No room for personal interpretation. 
In our culture, love has become a cerebral practice.
In John’s Gospel, love is an action. 
Remember the three theological virtues?  Faith, hope and love. 
As we hear St. Paul say definitively, love is the most important for us Christians. Agape love that is.  Self-sacrificing love. Other focused love. Love lasting into eternity. Love that flows from the Advocate, the counselor, the paracletos, the Holy Spirit.
Today in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles we hear the story of one of the first seven deacons: Phillip. You might remember he was called forth with six others, including St. Stephen, a man who gave his life for Jesus in an act of self-sacrificing love as the first Christian martyr.

Phillip has gone to Samaria.  The spread of the Church across Samaria is seen as the first step towards Jesus’ words at the Ascension (an event we will celebrated next week).
At the Ascension, Jesus says “you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Love is that power. Love is what is spreading throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and now 2-thousand years later around the entire world. Love, agape love. Love flowing from the Holy Spirit.
This is the love Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.
So what’s the context for this word for love?
If you look at what theological virtues, you can find the answer.
The theological virtues are traits or qualities of a person who conducts him or herself in a good moral manner.
In the theological virtues, the word love actually also means charity. The two words are interchangeable.  

Charity is a concrete action from one person to another person.
As one Christian writer puts it, “Charity means participating in tangible acts of loving kindness toward all others (friend or enemy) in unconditional and self-sacrificial ways. Or to put it simply, to practice charity is to be compassionate.”
This is what the Gospel message of love is all about. Not an abstract command “to love,” but what Jesus did his entire earthly ministry to love others by compassionately serving their needs. This is showing love. Agape love.
As we ready for Pentecost and the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives, may we hear and heed the words from Jesus today: to always model Christ, to show the world what love is all about. 
           One of the ways we can show that love is through the support of the Annual Catholic Appeal, and the many charities of the Seattle Archdiocese. 
            Here to talk about that is my dear friend Erica Cohen Moore from the Archdiocese who is focusing on a ministry that is near and dear to all our hearts: the ministry of Inclusion. 

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