(See the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 28)
The bombings in Boston two weeks ago were a tragic reminder of the fragility of human life. So many injured by a man-made object aimed at the destruction of body and spirit. Yet at the same time the response in charity of so many people in Boston and around the country offers us a witness to love.
In spite of the tragedy, in spite of the sorrow and grief felt by many, in spite of fear many people responded courageously offering their prayers, help, support and aid to assist all those affected by the cowardly act of violence. It is a reminder to us that evil cannot conquer goodness.
The acts of charity in Boston and around the country — indeed the simple acts of kindness and love that we see day in and day out — are reminders to us of the victory of Jesus’s resurrection which we continue to celebrate in the Easter season. Jesus’ resurrection is the triumph of mercy over sin, of life over death; it is the definitive victory of good over evil; of love over hate; of self-giving over self-interest. His life, death and resurrection accomplish the victory and show us how to live.
Jesus tells us, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Jesus’ life is a life of love. He loves His heavenly Father. He responds to the Father’s mission in love taking on flesh to ultimately lay it down for all humanity. He offers himself completely. Jesus’ command to love is a command to lay down our lives in love of our neighbor.
The call to love is the basis of discipleship and mission. Giving of ourselves for the good of others is an act of love and a witness to our faith in Christ Jesus. As disciples we seek not only to learn from Jesus but to imitate Him in our lives and to have our lives transformed in the process.
Each of us do this in a particular context whether married, single, in the consecrated or religious life or in the clergy. While the context of our lives may be different, the call to love is the same. Laying down our lives for others is the command of love. Difficult as this is at times, it provides great rewards.
The Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi reminds us of the fruits of such giving. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much see to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
Sometimes we are called to “lay down our lives” through great acts of love. We certainly saw this in Boston and other times when tragedy hits our nation. We are inspired by those who offer themselves in service to those injured or in need. We are inspired by the courage and the heroism that these people bring to desperate situations.
At the same time, and perhaps more frequently, we are called to love in the everyday and the daily routine of life. Every time we encounter a fellow human being we have an opportunity to “lay down our lives” in love. Sometimes it is a simple word of greeting, a word of encouragement, a word of hope, a word of advice, a word of support, a word of compassion.
Other times it is offering a cup of water, a loaf of bread, a shirt or jacket. Still other times it is looking for the encounter: looking for the homebound who need companionship, for the sick who need support, for the homeless who need shelter, for the addict who needs healing, for the jobless who need work, for the isolated who need community. The opportunities abound.
Jesus’ resurrection is the triumph of love. The Second Reading for today’s liturgy comes from the Book of Revelation and recalls this triumph in terms of a “new heaven and new earth.” Jesus’ victory over death is transformative. He transforms the world, indeed the universe, through His love.
Where that love is present, He is present, for God indeed “will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.
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Dear Monsignor, Your words are very comforting and wise. Often many feel that we will never be called upon to “lay down our lives for others” in love. The lives of the saints and martyrs seem so far above and removed from our own. They were able to lay down their lives in ultimate acts of love.
Knowing our call to love can be met with our daily routines is motivating. Our call to love is all the same. With our service to God through others, in our everyday lives, we can answer God’s call. In answering God’s call we hope to strengthen His Kingdom here on earth.
Thank You! Kathy