At this time of the church year, as the scriptures are closing out Jesus’ earthly life, they emphasize the overriding notion of love. We’ve just heard three readings on that same topic. But can you think of any other concept that is as badly misrepresented as that of love? You have only to reflect for a moment on the definition of love we get from movies and popular literature & song and TV every other form of human communication, to know how wrong and misleading they are so much of the time.
We know what genuine love is by examining the unconditional devotion of good parents, faithful spouses, and loyal friends. Loving means giving – giving one’s self, one’s things, one’s time. A true lover asks to receive only another’s trust, affection, joy – and understanding, forgiveness, patience. Complete love is a productive communication in which persons grow through a union of hearts. In such love, in such persons, the presence of God is made most manifest.
I believe it is true to say that human beings of this 21st century are much less humble than those who have gone before us. If that is so, the cause seems to be that we have unprecedented control of our lives through the explosive development of science. “Who needs a God?” is becoming the slogan of modern sophisticates as they board a plane to fly around the world or twist a dial to change the ambient temperature to their preference.
There have got to be those who are thinking, “With the enormous problems the human race faces today, even the possibility of extinction at its own hands, isn’t it foolish, downright Pollyannaish, to talk about love? Isn’t there a more practical, more constructive battle cry that needs to be heard?”
But the wisdom of the Creative Spirit will not accept any such dismissal. Despite the woefully unscientific character of the ancient sacred documents, the Spirit persists in putting before us timeless, infallible truths, the chief of which is that God is love. Not until we creatures succeed in making love our first priority in all aspects of existence will we ever be able to sustain a life that is peaceful and satisfying and happy for all without exception.
That said, and after much internal debate, I decided that I would use words that I wrote several years ago as the core of the homily for this 6th Sunday of Easter and also the American celebration of Mother’s Day. They are hardly Shakespearean in content or in style, but I offer them in the hope that they can be helpful to all, no matter the relationship they best fit. I called it “Pledges of Love.”
The most important and best prepared gift I offer you will be my love.
I will express my love first and always by accepting your humanness even as I know that you accept mine.
I will speak to you kindly and try always to think of you kindly, no matter the circumstances of the moment.
I will dwell on and honor your gifts and talents; I will never resent what you are and what you have – or what you are not and what you do not have.
I will be gentle, even when I am under stress and when I feel that you have not met my expectations.
I will seek what is pleasing to you and find joy in your joy.
I will discern with you what is good and true in all things that touch our lives.
I will be with you in a relationship of mutual trust, concern, confidence and determination – a reasonable and achievable commitment only because we both believe that God is in us and with us always, making possible what we could not otherwise accomplish on our own.
Happy Easter to all – and, to our most special honorees, Happy Mother’s Day!