Two friends, John and Steve, were trekking in northern India during a fierce snowstorm. As they were walking, they came upon a man unconscious, overtaken by the cold.
John suggested to Steve that they carry the man with them to shelter. Steve, on the other hand, said that it would do no good, for the man was nearly dead. At this point, the friends parted company. John stayed with the man while Steve ventured forth.
John tied the man’s hands and feet, then lifted him onto his shoulders and continued the journey, looking for shelter. As he struggled to walk, the unconscious man’s body began to warm John. The heat generated from John in turn began to revive the injured man as he was carried.
The snow eventually stopped. As John continued to carry the man, he could see in the distance another man collapsed on the ground. When he got to that spot, he leaned down, turned the man over, and saw that it was his friend, Steve.
Last week, in the Gospel passage for Sunday’s Mass, Jesus speaks of the command of love. The great command of Jesus is “to love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12; cf. 13:34). You may recall in that same reading he says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus often speaks of love — his love for the Father and the Father’s love for him (John 14:31). He affirms the great command of the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39; cf. Mark 12:30-32; Luke 10:27).
Jesus also tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44; cf. Luke 6:27,35), and he tells us that he loves us: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love” (John 15:9). Love is central to life, both human and divine.
As it was last Sunday, the second reading for the liturgy comes from the First Letter of John. Love is the message. The overall context of the letter suggests that the author is writing to a Christian community torn apart by bitter conflict and division, a community that has forgotten love.
Last week, we were reminded that love and life are bound together, for “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” Now we are urged to live in this life of love by loving one another. The author writes: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us … God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”
Love lies at the heart of life. We are called to love. In the story above, John acted in love to help the injured person. Without such an act of love, that person would not have lived. Steve, on the other hand, decided to “go it alone.” He did not survive because love was absent.
Today, in the United States, we observe “Mother’s Day.” We give thanks to our mothers and all mothers for their lives of love. Hopefully most people can celebrate this day with joy, but we also recognize those who have difficulties celebrating this day due to a sad family life. Looking to mothers we admire or celebrate, we find love.
From the moment of conception, a mother nurtures and cares for her children. The love continues through the life of her child. From something as simple as showing them how to eat to something more complex as teaching them right from wrong, mothers do so in love. It is in this love that we first recognize the love of God and are invited share in the life he offers.
Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples. He asks the Father to protect them, to fill them with joy and to consecrate them in truth. That prayer of love is eternal and continues today. We pray that those blessings and gifts will be poured out upon all those who call upon the name of the Lord, especially our mothers, so that we might continue to know his love and share it with those we encounter each day.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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