Sunday, May 10, 2015

Supernatural Love

Jesus offers us some beautiful words today about how much he loves us. Like the last couple weeks, this is part of the Last Supper discourse, so this is part of Jesus's last and most important words to us before he dies. And the last and most important word from Jesus is indeed love. The love of God is something we pay lip service to, but sometimes we fail to understand the magnitude of this love because we caught up in rules and commandments.

So think of the most important relationships in your life, think of the people you absolutely love the most. For me it's my parents. And as much as I love my parents, it can't compare to the love that God the Father has for them. As much as my parents love me, it can't compare to the love that God the Father has for me. Sometimes couples will say to each other, or parents will say to their children, "No one loves you more than me." And that's a fine thing to say. But as much as you love your spouse or your child, try to wrap your head around the fact that God loves them more. Not just because Jesus laid down his life for them. Most any parent would lay down their life for their child. No, God loves them more because God is the source of love. Any love that we have for each other comes from God. And no matter how pure our love for each other may be, the love that God has for us in infinitely more pure, because love is all there is to God.

Love is so much a part of God, and can only come from God, that St. John in our second reading says, "Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love." God is love, and if you don't know love, then you don't know God. The other side of the coin is that inasmuch as you have real, authentic love in your life, God is present there. So we need to make sure we have a good grasp on what love means when we're talking about God. Because the Christian claims about love and about God are completely unique in the world, and they stand against the world's claims about love and against every world religion's claims about love and about God.

Mohammed as shown in a medieval manuscript by al-Biruni
Jesus tells us, "I no longer call you slaves, but friends." If we look at the next largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam, we see something very different. The root of the word Christ means anointed on, so the definition of Christian is one who follows Christ, and Jesus the Christ, Jesus the anointed one, has in fact called us his friends. But the word Islam means submission, so a Muslim is one who submits to God. No where in Islam would you be called a child of God. In Islam you submit to God, tantamount to being a slave.

But this is not the Christian claim. We Christians claim, based partially on this gospel passage, to be the very friends of God, even his own children through baptism. But of course, we can't claim that Christianity is true and Islam is false simply because Christianity is nicer. No, we claim Christianity to be true and Islam to be false because Jesus rose from the dead just like he said he would, and thus he proved true everything he claimed about himself.

Jesus has proven himself true in every, and so we can trust that he has our best interests at heart when he tells us to remain in his love. We can see that the Christian claim that God is love stands contrary to the Muslim claims about man's relationship with God, but the Christian understanding of love is also contrary to our world's understanding of love. As the world would have it, love is equivalent to approval, so that if I love you, I approve of whatever it is you want to do. But that's not love. That's not how God loves us. God loves us by calling us beyond our natural lives and natural inclinations into a supernatural life that only he can offer. Every rule and commandment that God gives us through his Church is because of love. Every single commandment that the Church gives is an invitation into a supernatural love.

God loves us too much to just grant a blanket permission to whatever we want to do, so he gives commandments for our good. And because God gives commandments, obedience to those commandments is a necessary part of responding to God's love. To pick and choose from the rules or commandments of the Church is to refuse God's supernatural love and to reject your rightful position as his son or his daughter. Every time our conscience pricks us to go to Confession and we don't, it's a refusal of supernatural love. Every time we choose to miss Mass, it's a refusal of supernatural love. Every time we duck out after Communion, it's a refusal of supernatural love. Every time we refuse to help our neighbor, it's a refusal of God's supernatural love. But every time you do go to Confession, every time you go to Mass even though it's difficult and you stick around through the very end, every time you choose to help your neighbor, that's you saying yes to God's invitation to supernatural love.

So, are you living your life from supernatural love? The most obvious way to answer this question is to ask yourself if you live all the commandments, or just some of them? You hurt your ability to participate in the supernatural love of God if you pick and choose. But then you also want to ask yourself if you find the strength you need to get through the day from God or from some other source. If God is the source of your strength, it doesn't make the trials of this life go away, but it endows them with meaning because we have a God who has suffered, so now he suffers your trials with you. If God is the source of your strength then there is a light in the darkness because you are living in his supernatural love.

Our religion about so much more than rules and commandments, it's about so much more than just going to church on Sunday and throwing some money in the collection basket. Our religion is about God physically present in the world, both in history and here in the present. Our religion is about supernatural love personified in Jesus Christ, and that supernatural love inviting us out of our natural lives into a supernatural life that we could never know on our own.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting these. I look forward to reading them every week since I oftentimes miss bits and pieces while wrangling my little one.