Sixth Sunday of Easter
What did the ocean say to the beach? Nothing. It just waved! (LOL)
God’s love is like an ocean! It waves at us all the time! For the daring, it may even hearken and tempt us to get out on the waves and surf! I recently saw a tweet that showed dolphins surfing alongside a human being, both riding the powerful wave to shore, with utter joy and sheer ecstasy.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity as I’ve had, to sit on a beach by the ocean and watch the waves suddenly form and roll in, you can also get the idea of what God’s love is like. —its sheer magnitude and power, that can’t be controlled, limited, or harnessed by anyone or anything! —its unrelenting draw to human beings, wanting to make contact with us, at all times. —its persistent hum in our ears and its rumble heard in life being born and life departing this world. —the characteristic briny smell of the life hidden in those waters and that connects us to all living creatures. Yes, when we’re at the beach by the ocean, we can almost taste God’s love soaking into every pore of our bodies, reminding us from whom we’ve come and to whom we’re being beckoned to return. If we’re willing, whether we’re by the ocean or not, the waves of God’s love will continually crash into us and demonstrate their power to change us deep within, at every encounter.
It’s from this sense of God’s ever-present, persistent, and dependable love that I think Jesus was referring when he says in today’s gospel, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9) Jesus experienced the Father’s love, not only as a human being, but also as a part of the divine holy trinity! He experienced, first-hand, the immensity and intensity of God’s love for him and for all humankind, not just when he prayed, but all the time! When we stop and consider that, Jesus’ statement to us takes on an even more sensational, and profound meaning! As God the Father loves Jesus, so Jesus loves us!
And like the Father’s love, Jesus’ love isn’t just a momentary thought or a passing feeling. No, it’s persistent, unshakeable, unable to be diminished or portioned off. And because of this love, Jesus asks us to do something. He asks us to abide in his love, just as he abides in his Father’s love! To abide means to remain in, to swim in God’s love, to let it permeate us to the core, to have no restrictions or boundaries placed in our psyche or in our consciousness to where God can go and to what God can do! It means to not be afraid of having a first-hand experience of the love which God has for us, even though, we’ve, so often, rejected that love, taken that love for granted, or have discounted the power of that love to wash over us when we’ve felt overwhelmed or overburdened by our sins, or life’s challenges and hardships.
Abiding in God’s love means too, that love is more than just a feeling. —Because feelings come and go. They’re whimsical and moody. We often see this mistaken view of love being played out in our world. When someone mistakes physical appearances, infatuation or lust with love, or equates love with having sex, that relationship is doomed to fail. Or when someone compromises their view of love and settles for the next best thing, for fear of being alone, or unmarried, that relationship is bound to fall apart. When someone equates love with what someone can give them in terms of money, possessions, prestige or social position, that relationship is doomed to fail. Whenever someone doesn’t feel that they’re getting all that they want from their “beloved,” then they’re out the door or on to the next, best available thing or person. Abiding, though, entails a steadfast commitment to real love, giving it our best shot, looking to the mutual needs and well-being of the other, and choosing to stay the course if at all possible, and being vulnerable in the process. Abiding in Jesus’ love then, means trusting in the power of His love to get us through whatever’s happening to us at the time and not losing hope, even if the troubles aren’t easily remedied or identifiable.
Abiding in God’s love also entails action on our part, because it means that we’ll necessarily be changed by God and drawn closer to his heart. Along these lines, I love the scripture verse we heard today in our second reading from the first letter of John 4:10, in which John asserts without compromise, “In THIS is love, not that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US and SENT HIS SON to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Just meditate on that, for a while! (repeat the verse)
You see, us loving God isn’t that remarkable. I mean, the God that has been revealed to us is perfect! He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere at the same time, and in everything! He’s the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier and the one who has given us the ability to come to know him through all created things and in our personal reaching out and striving for him! What’s not to love??? No, us loving God isn’t all that surprising or remarkable.
What IS surprising is that God loves US! What IS surprising is that, despite our sinfulness and imperfections, despite our failed attempts at serving Him and failure at living according to Gospel values. —despite our misuse of the earth’s resources and our abuse of the environment —despite our hypocrisy at times and choosing to act as God ourselves in judging others as unworthy of God or of a close relationship with him —-Despite all this, God nevertheless chooses to love us!
Remember how I said love is also an action? How does God respond to us sinful and prideful human beings? God, whose whole being is filled with love, sends his Son to earth, to live like one of us, to deal with sin and injustice in all its forms, to experience judgment, violence, and hatred, to be excluded and summarily condemned, to suffer and to die on a cross in a most shameful and humiliating death, abandoned by all his disciples —— except for his mother, Mary, Mary’s sister— the wife of Clopas— and Mary Magdalene. I’d like us all to note that Jesus’ 12 male disciples had all abandoned. him. Who remained? The women!
On this mother’s day, I think it’s worthy to point out that mothers, perhaps more than the rest of us, know what it’s like to love as God loves! From the moment their child is conceived, mothers know that they have an awesome vocation to bring this new life into our world and to give their child all that he/she will need to become all that God wants them to be. Before they’re even born, mothers love their children unconditionally. Mothers’ hearts are especially made ready, to forgive their children for the mistakes they sometimes make and to encourage them to get back on the right path. Nothing can impede a mother’s resolve either, in coming to the aid of their children, whenever they experience pain, distress, or injustice of some sort. That’s just what mothers are about, and they’re motivated to act in this way, by an unrelenting love for their children.
But whether we’re a mother or not, it’s the Holy Spirit that gives all of us the strength and the ability to love. By asking the Holy Spirit each day to be with us in whatever we may happen to do, and wherever we may happen to go, and to whomever we may encounter along the way, we enable God’s love to flow through us and out of us and to affect those around us and the events unravelling before us. Hopefully, this outpouring of love, prompted by the Holy Spirit, will have a ripple effect. Hopefully, that love we’ve shared will likewise also be shared by the one who receives it and, in this way, more and more people will come to experience the love of God made visible in our world.
For this is the very reason, Jesus sacrificed his life for us. His death and resurrection shout out the unfathomable height, length, width, and depth of God’s love for us and God’s commitment to do whatever it takes to bring about our reconciliation. “In THIS is love, not that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US and SENT HIS SON to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”( 1 Jn 4:10)
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