So far, in today's liturgy, we have heard or spoken the 'word' love at least 10 times. I can almost hear the inner voices in some of you saying. 'Not that again!" Love, love, love ...if I hear another homily on love, I'll go around the bend.
To some extent, I agree. The subject of love can be very boring, not to mention irrelevant if one just skates on the surface, paying homage with every stride to yet another worn platitude.
But be as that may, Jesus clearly put love at the top of His list of priorities ...as did Paul and John. John went so far as to make 'love' synonymous with God. God, he said, is love.
We are told that we are created in God's image. Does this mean that we are created in the image of love? That somehow we can be defined in terms of love? Apparently, yes. What does this mean?
The principal activities of God, in whose image we are made, are knowing the truth and loving the good and so it is only to the extent that we know the truth and love the good that we who are created in His image can be said to function in His image. For the moment our focus is limited to our imaging God as lovers of goodness.
I will not attempt of define love. To do so would be foolish. Love cannot be defined any more than God can be defined. But I will suggest to you that love is something like the final stages of a rocket. It goes nowhere unless it is supported and propelled by earlier stages. For the sake of our example, I propose to you that the earlier stages of love are trust and respect.
Anyone who professes to love another is deluded if he or she does not trust that person because the essence of loving is giving ...giving of oneself, emptying of oneself thereby becoming vulnerable, naked, exposed. Clearly, to the extent that we love, we are forced to trust the loved one before whom we are laid bare.
The same can be said of respect. Without it there can be no love ...usage, yes. But, not love. Respect is characterized, in part, by sensitivity to the loved one's dignity and individuality ...an openness to their emotions, to their convictions and their anxieties and by an eagerness to celebrate the fruition of their ambitions and talents.
These, I suggest, are some of the eminently practical considerations demanded by Jesus in today's gospel.
It remains to be said that we are called upon to not only to recognize our obligations as lovers but also as loved ones. For this reason, it is imperative that we strive to be totally trust-worthy and respectable …for if we are not we have no reason to complain when, from time to time, we conceive of ourselves as being unloved. Clearly, deliberately making it difficult for others to love us is just as wrong as is failing to love.
May then our sharing in the Eucharist draw us all closer to each other and to our principal source of inspiration, Jesus, who is love incarnate.