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Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter: What Is Love?

May 26, 2009

Audio will be here when I get it posted later today; sorry I have been kinda quiet lately, but trust me, it’s been for the best!


If you Google search on the word “love”, you will come up with a list of about one billion, seven hundred twenty million entries.  To print the definitions page alone takes twenty-three pages! 

And the page hits are all over the map.  Some describe physical love, some describe philosophical underpinnings of our different approaches to love, some make fun of love, and some don’t really seem to have anything at all to do with love.  Maybe that just goes to show that looking for love on the Internet is a sure-fire way to get confused about it.

In the New American Bible, the Church’s official English translation of Sacred Scripture, the word “love” occurs 537 times.  In the New Testament alone, the word “love” 251 times.  Love is important to us as Christians.

But knowing what love is…that’s even more important.  Understanding what love is, and what it is not, makes living the life Jesus calls us to live that much easier.

But what is it?  What is love?

The world we live in equates love with a lot of the wrong things.  The world, for example, would have us believe that love, and sex, are the same thing.  Particularly on television, and in the movies, we know that two people care for each other because they are in bed together!  Most of the time, the people aren’t married to each other; they sleep together because they “love” each other.  Love equals sex, in this view.

Commercials are a different story.  Advertisements often equate love with…stuff.  The more we give someone, our spouse, our “significant other”, our children, our older parents, the more we love them, the propaganda goes.  The stuff replaces the relationship.  The stuff substitutes for time.  And the stuff becomes the reason to work even harder, to work longer hours, in order to pay…for more stuff.  Love…equals stuff.

According to our times, a lot of things are supposed to be true expressions of love.  But they aren’t.

It’s interesting that when Jesus speaks of love, He doesn’t talk about any of the things I’ve talked about.  For Jesus, love is simple.  What does He say in the Gospel?  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Love…is self-sacrifice for others.  Love…is putting the other’s life ahead of one’s own.  Love…is caring for the other!  It’s pretty simple, really!

John explained more in the second reading.  He said: “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.”  Our example of love comes from God!  God loved us.  God sent His Son to die for us, so that our sins would not land us in Hell.  And God calls us to love him, and to love one another, as He loves us

Jesus asks the apostles to remain in His love.  And He tells the apostles that the way to remain in His love is to keep His commands.  He even tells them why:  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy might be complete.”  Finally, He tells them what His commandment is:  “This I command you:  love one another.”  So by loving one another, by laying down our lives for each other, we achieve what God has planned for us:  eternal life!

But it seems so hard, doesn’t it?  “Laying down one’s life for one’s friends” sounds so…final.  It sounds like we’re supposed to literally die in order to prove we love God!

But that wasn’t his point, brothers and sisters.  Most of us are living the kind of life to which Jesus was referring every day!  Parents who work hard to provide for their families and to teach their children the ways of God are laying down their lives for their families, and loving as Jesus loved!  Those who care for an ailing spouse or child;  those who help to take care of an elderly parent or neighbor; those who volunteer in our school, are all sacrificing some of themselves, laying down their lives to an extent, and obeying Christ’s command! 

Some among us are doing even more.  Our priests are married to us all, and serve our community by completely donating their lives to us.  Consecrated men and women, those in serving the Church in religious vocations, lay down their lives for the Kingdom every day.

Do we fail sometimes?  Absolutely.  Sin, by it very definition, is selfishness.  And whenever we fail to love the other more than ourselves, whenever we place our own interests above caring for another, we sin.  But God still calls us to that radical love Jesus expressed in dying for us:  he calls us to lay down our lives for our friends.


What is love?  Love is sacrifice.  What is love?  Love is following God’s call to put the other first.  It may take Google over a billion and a half pages to explain love, but it only takes us as Christians a few.

What is love?  John said, “God is love.”  He also said:  “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” 

God sent Jesus to make the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, so that we could live forever with God in heaven.  This is love.  And we love by doing the same thing.  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, Jesus said.

Who are we laying our lives down for?  Because that’s who we love. 

Let’s go love someone.

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