The Lord tells us this Sunday that he is love, and that we are to remain in his love. Yet, what it means to love is frequently misunderstood in today’s world.
At a Catholic university, I recently witnessed a group of students rallying in support of the right of homosexual persons to marry. The students carried a banner that said “Our Religion is Love.”
The implication was that Catholic teaching regarding the immorality of homosexual acts is not loving. Yet, Catholics believe we are following the ultimate law of love, received from God the Father. Today’s Scriptures teach us what it means to love, authentically, in a Christian sense.
Jesus tells us that we are his friends now, not merely his servants. This friendship with God means we must know him and understand his desires for us. It also means that we retain a fear of acting against his wishes. After all, to encounter God is to know the author of life, the creator of the universe, our creator, and ultimately our moral judge. When we experience him, we know love himself, and we never wish to offend his tender and infinite heart of love.
In the Scriptures and teachings of his church, God tells what kinds of behaviors please him and which are against his heart. If we don’t know God’s Word, we are tempted to define love on our own terms.
Many redefining ‘love’
Many today are saying, in essence, “We have created our own definition of love, and it does not include what God has revealed.” So, in our example, our protesting students, although well-intended, have excluded God from their calculus of what it means to love.
God wants us to respect his desires by knowing him and following his wishes.
Jesus says in our Gospel acclamation (John 14:23): “If a man loves me, he will keep my Word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.”
He says in our Gospel, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:10).
We know from these statements that the love of God cannot be separated from his precepts because he is the supreme authority and he is love itself.
Thus, for Christ, authentic love always respects God the Father’s wishes.
Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . I have told you everything I have heard from my father” (John 15:14-15).
Sinful behaviors do offend God’s heart, and he has told us through his Word what is sinful. We must respect this if we wish to authentically love. At the same time, God does love unconditionally since he continues to love us and desire our salvation no matter how we have behaved. He loves all sinners and wants us to repent and return to him.
Yes, the Catholic religion is love, authentic love, the love of God, himself, which flows through us, to the world and back to him. We love and follow God and his commands because we are his friends now, and not merely servants.
Deacon Steven Jones is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D. His home parish is St. Paschal Baylon in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and his teaching parish is St. Peter in Mendota.
Sunday, May 13
Sixth Sunday of Easter
• Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
• 1 John 4:7-10
• John 15:9-17
How have you offended God by your behavior and how have you reconciled your friendship?