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Love is the bull’s-eye

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GOSPEL COMMENTARY May 9, jn 15:9-17

Love is the bull’s-eye of the good news of Jesus Christ. We know that. We have heard about the centrality of love countless times. Still, it is our mission to experience, ponder and live the love of God with greater depth every day of our lives.

The love of God is an infinite, bottomless fountain that God desires to shower upon us: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you." God created us with the ultimate purpose of drawing us up into his perfect love for all eternity. Our almighty and eternal God longs to share his perfect love with you. This is good news.

When God’s love is truly experienced, we are so filled with his love that we then begin to share it with others. This is the newness of Christ’s commandment to love. We are not simply invited to love others with the best love we can muster up in our human weakness, but to love like Christ, with his love flowing through us: "Love one another as I have loved you." This is made possible by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, forgiving us, healing us and sending us out to be Christlike witnesses in the world. We become similar to a reservoir, pouring out into our broken world the love of Christ. His love constantly flows into our lives through the sacraments, the Scriptures, Christian fellowship and a growing awareness of the awesome fact that in spite of my lowliness, God truly loves me.

Love demands sacrifice. "There is no greater love than this, to lay down your lives for your friends." Love, by its very nature, involves dying to self in order to raise up the other. Genuine love includes truly desiring the greatest good for the beloved — to the point of freely sacrificing our needs and desires in order to build them up and care for them.

Love brings a thrilling joy to the soul. To love like Christ is to know a deep and abiding joy not to be found among the ordinary things of this earth that fade like the flowers of the field. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete." God always gives generously; so, he wants our joy to be complete — deep, abiding and life-giving. This joy arrives in surprising packages: from moments of trial, children, unexpected visitors and acts of sacrificial love.

God’s love is remarkably personal, never generic. "It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit." You and I have been personally chosen by God to draw close to him, to dwell in his presence through prayer and the Eucharist, to be formed and shaped by his truth and love. In addition, we have been deemed worthy of Jesus’ friendship. "I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father." Jesus is many things for us: redeemer, healer, Good Shepherd and teacher, etc. However, Jesus extends to you the offer to be your friend. Do you believe that?

Finally, God wants you and me to spread this love to the whole world. "Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations." His plan for the kingdom of God is that we play a critical role in the spread of the good news to every corner of our world. No human being is excluded from this invitation to share in his love and truth. Not one. The first Letter of Timothy proclaims boldly that God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth" (2:4).

The sacred Scriptures are abundantly full of surprising examples of this offer. The Syrophoenician woman, the Ethiopian eunuch, the Samaritan woman at the well and Matthew the tax collector, to name a few. Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles provides another instance. Peter is summoned by God to the house of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion. After hearing Peter preach about Jesus, Cornelius’ whole household, full of family and friends, is converted and baptized.

There is not greater news traveling the internet: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you."

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021