Weekly HomilyArchives

Friday, April 27, 2007

“Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’” (John 13:34)

“SOUL-SURFING” – May 6, 2007
Fifth Sunday of Easter
(John 13:31-35)
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

“Sitting on the edge of their bed, a husband observed his wife turning back and forth as she looked at herself in the mirror. It suddenly occurring to him that her birthday was not far off, he asked what she'd like for the occasion. ‘I'd like to be six again,’ she replied, still posing before the mirror. And so, on the morning of her birthday, the husband arose early, prepared his wife a big bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, and then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride: the Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Monster Roller Coaster. She missed not a single stomach-spinning adventure! Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park, her head reeling and her stomach churning. He then took her to McDonald's, ordering her a Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake. Then it was off to the movie theater, popcorn, soda, and M&M's accompanying the animated film. What a fabulous adventure! Finally, she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed exhausted into bed. Leaning over her with a wide smile, he lovingly asked, ‘Well, dear, what was it like being six again?’ Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed. ‘I meant my dress size, you jerk!’” (Original source unknown)

How often has this comic scenario been played out in all sorts of human relationships, marital and otherwise! Honest efforts to love others revealing wrong assumptions and misread cues: this is the plot line for most gut-splitting TV sitcoms. But with far less humor and no cameras running does the same scenario reveal itself in so many of life’s smaller dramas, in so many honest attempts to love others. Wrong assumptions and misread cues: this is also the plot line for many a tragedy, raucous laughter reverting to wrenching tears when attempts at love go awry, ending in suffering and sometimes even death. The imperfect desiring to love perfectly: we’re all caught up in this never-ending human drama. Were it not for Jesus, there’d be no end to such desperation.

In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus addresses his disciples: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) To love as Jesus loves: this is the challenge. Now Jesus, God’s very own Son, loves perfectly, it is true. It’s also true that we mortals, no matter our desire for perfection, will always fall short of the mark simply because we’re human. The answer, I believe, is to keep our sights focused more on the glorious goal than on our feeble footsteps toward that goal.

A few months ago, a pre-med student engaged me in conversation about the marvels of life he’d witnessed while experimenting on a live pig at the animal research facility affiliated with the hospital at which I serve. In excited voice, Scott said, “It was amazing to see a beating heart, to touch it with my own hands, to see expanding and contracting lungs, to see life itself so up close. It was just too bad the pig ended up dead when we’d finished with the experiments.”

Later that same day, I was thinking about that excited pre-med student and that pig. Indeed, Scott got to see life itself up close, but at what a price to the pig. In the end, Scott’s intimate relationship with the animal left the poor creature dead. And it occurred to me that Scott’s experience may well serve as a metaphor for the mystery of human relationships. How many of our attempts to reach deep into the heart of another end in something near to death, disappointment and disillusionment leaving us feeling little better than that pig.

But to love as does Jesus! I approached Scott to share my thoughts. “You know, you reached deep into that pig and came away awed at the mystery of life, but the pig died. As a hospital chaplain, almost daily do I reach deep into people, into their hearts and souls, and usually the result is that life blossoms. What a difference! As a future doctor, everything you will touch will eventually die. As a Chaplain, what I touch lives forever.” Judging by Scott’s suddenly dropped jaw, my words stung the idealistic young man, my comparison appearing a condemnation of the entire medical profession. I tried to temper the sting. “Scott, God’s given you a great gift of mind and heart. Use it always in the service of life and love.”

To love as Jesus loves: The image of Scott, his pre-med colleagues and that pig returns. These bright, idealistic young students reach deep into the heart of life itself that, as doctors, they might better serve life in days ahead. Regrettably, the pig’s demise is the unfortunate byproduct of their education. But the scenario can serve as a helpful metaphor for all us Christians who want to love others as perfectly as is humanly possible. With the same idealism as those young students we reach deep inside one another, to the heart and soul, and by our touch, life blossoms. This is to love as Jesus loves.

Let the words of a monk inspire our daily efforts to love others, to nourish what is eternal within them: “This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.” (Cistercian Monks of the Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard, NY)

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