Dear Parish Family…
Each year, in the weeks that follow Easter, our liturgies offer us beautiful readings about the first days of the Church, after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Our first readings these past 6 weeks have all come from the Acts of the Apostles, a book written by Luke (also the author of the 3rd Gospel named in his honor). These readings are historical accounts of what life was like for the believers in the early Church. They recount events in the lives of the Apostles and feature speeches and conversations with Peter, Paul and other important figures. Much of what we know about the early Church comes from the book of Acts
(a shortened name for the Acts of the Apostles).
The second readings proclaimed at Mass have all come from letters (also known as “Epistles”) written to specific communities of believers during the first century of the Church. These are particularly interesting to read and listen to since they are not written as an official historical record but feel more like stolen little glimpses of how the people who lived this faith in the first days really saw things and what they said to encourage each other.
The past couple of weeks have featured selections from the First Letter of John (which is not the Gospel of John, but a letter written by an author named John, who we have traditionally believed was the Apostle John). John’s favorite topic is love and how important it is for a Christian to reveal Christ’s love. In fact, John says that no matter what it is that you say you believe, if you don’t love, you’re not a Christian. Here’s a sample of that letter from the second reading we heard proclaimed at Mass last weekend:
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God;
Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
No apple tree yields grapefruit. No grape vine grows lemons. The proof that we are branches on God’s vine is that we love and are loving. Sometimes we Christians forget that, and in the forgetting, fail to realize that our actions are denying to others that we are branches on God’s vine. The requirement to love others and be loving means that we ALWAYS have homework to do. There is always someone in front of us who is offering us the opportunity to love them. The task varies in difficulty based on how “lovable” we find the person to be. It is further complicated by whatever we happen to be going through that day: a headache makes loving someone a little harder. A recent loss, a broken heart, even just the third cloudy day in a row can make it a tough assignment.
I recently read about a 104-year-old woman named Rachel Lehman who said that she wanted to spend each of the days she had left on the earth starting a daily pandemic of love. She said her method was smiling at everyone… “especially the sourpusses.”
Not too long ago, some family erected this sign on their front lawn:
No one who reads this needs an explanation for it, especially with how much hate is splattered across social media, worse than ever in recent times. I wonder, though, if everyone who reads this realizes how spiritually advanced this attitude is. This message not only replaces blind hate with blind love, it also demonstrates that our disposition is OUR choice. In any situation, we can love for no reason. Even better, in every situation we can love for a very good reason, because Jesus said in the clearest language possible: “This I command you: love one another” (John 15:17)
This comes with love,