Sunday, May 13, 2012

Receptivity to Love

Readings for Sunday, May 13/ Sixth Sunday of Easter:
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Psalm 98:1-4
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

Before my seminary days, when I was dating, my mom would often lament the fact that she would one day be replaced by another women – my future wife – and would be sure to tell me, “Brent, just remember. Momma loved you first. And Momma loved you best.” After I entered the seminary, she happily told me that if she had to be replaced by another woman, Mother Church was definitely the most satisfying choice from her point of view.

At the time I thought it was a bit funny to hear my mom say these things, but I also knew that there was truth in what she spoke to me. With those words she was letting me know of her unconditional love for ‘her baby boy,’ as I’m introduced even to this day. In spite of all the things that I did wrong and all the trouble that I got myself into as a child and adolescent – and even now as an adult! – she never stopped loving me and she never quit showing it. I think this is a beautiful illustration of one of the most essential attributes of women – their receptivity.

Women, by their nature, are more receptive to things that men. The women in my family can recount events and details that I would never think to notice in the moment, much less ten years down the line. They can tell when something is going on and have an incredible sense about what it is and how to deal with it. But I think most of all, they are more receptive to the God who created us all. By default, women are more open to the love that God pours out upon us and are thus compelled to share that love. Love is compelled to share itself with others. And that is one of the greatest gifts of women to the world: signs of the unconditional love of our God and models of how to share that love with others.

While some in the world think that God is some tyrant who is constantly seeking to condemn and judge us, the truth is the exact opposite. God is a Father, a friend and love itself. And He desires that our joy be complete by remaining in that perpetual outpouring of His unconditional love. As St. Paul says, nothing in the world can separate us from the love of Christ. But the reality is that we must choose to remain in that love. It’s a conscious choice we must make and live.

As you may know, this past week the priests of our diocese went to Lafayette to a series of conferences by Fr. Ronald Knott, a priest of the diocese of Louisville, KY. In one of his conferences he looked at each of us and told us that one of the hardest days of his 42 years of priesthood was the Monday after his ordination. Ordination day on Saturday was full of excitement with the ceremony taking place and the reception afterward. Sunday was the big day to celebrate Masses of Thanksgiving and rejoice in the gift of priesthood. But on Monday he woke up and the honeymoon was over. There were no more parties, no more celebrations; he was simply faced with an incredibly difficult parish assignment and dozens of obligations that were far less exciting than ceremonies and after-parties. He was faced with a choice: either call it quits and walk away from all that was in front of him or to choose to remain a priest out of love for his people, despite the sufferings that would be part of that choice. He chose to remain.

St. Therese of Liseux
In a similar way, each one of us must make the conscious choice each day to get up and remain in the love of Christ Jesus by choosing to love those that He places in front of us that day. This will entail some suffering on our part, as St. John reminds us: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Love manifests itself by placing the needs and desires of others ahead of ourselves, which means that we must take a back seat. The beautiful thing is that if it is truly love that compels us, the suffering will be a joy to us because of the love that flows through us. St. Therese beautifully put it this way, “I can no longer suffer, for all suffering is sweetness.” She knew that suffering was simply love being poured out of ourselves for the good of the other.

As we celebrate today the great gift of our mothers and those who have been like mothers to us, may we be thankful for their outpouring of love upon us and be mindful of the God who seeks to have us remain in His love by doing the same to others.