Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20
1 Peter 3:15-18
A couple of weeks age we celebrated First Holy Communion for our second graders in the community. I had the joy of celebrating that Mass at St. Michael’s, where part of the celebration is at the end of Mass the kids come forward and sing a song that was in question format that they sang to each other, myself and the congregation and we had to sing the response. They asked “Do you love Jesus?” and the respond, “Yes, I love Jesus!” They then asked, “Do you really love Jesus?” and we responded, “Yes, I really love Jesus!” It was really catchy and it’s been going on in my head since then. As we gather here today, the question is still relevant. Do we love Jesus? Yes! Of course we love Jesus. That’s why we are here today. All of us certainly love the Lord. But the question is do we really love Jesus?
In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus told us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” There is a direct connection between our love of the Lord and our willingness to obey His commandments. Often our culture uses the word or idea of love to be simply a sentiment, emotion, or good feeling that we get in relationship to another person or even a thing. But the love that Jesus seeks to find in us is not a sentiment or emotion so much as it is a choice. I guarantee you that when Christ showed us the meaning of true love in His Passion and death on the Cross, there wasn’t a warm fuzzy feeling anywhere to be found. It was a choice to put the Father’s will first and to set any other desires aside. Christ did it perfectly and He calls us to strive to do the same in our lives. So the question we each have to ask ourselves is how much we love the Lord? Do we really love Jesus?
The prevailing culture of the world around us and even sometimes in the walls of the church is that if we’re just good people everything will work out and we don’t need to worry. But the truth is that good people aren’t guaranteed a place in Heaven. We presume that ‘because everyone is doing it’ that we will be okay and God won’t hold it against us that we skip Mass here and there, leave Mass early because we have other things to do, fail to live a chaste life, don’t seek to serve others in any tangible way, and many other things. The fact is that those are serious sins and show that we are lacking in our love for the Lord. Additionally, it is easy for many in the Church today to content themselves with not being like ‘those sinners’ because they don’t commit any ‘big sins’. We can easily become complacent with the little sins – or what we perceive as little sins - we commit all throughout the day when the Lord never made qualifications. He didn’t say, “If you love me, you will keep the major commandments.” He said, “You will keep my commandments.” Period. We all need conversion of heart, nobody is exempt, because every one of us is a sinner in need of God’s grace, mercy and love.
This is an incredibly difficult task that the Lord calls us to - impossible, in fact, by ourselves. The world around us would say to simply lower the standard, don’t make things too hard or we’ll never reach them. But the truth is that we are called to live at the higher level and we can do it if we but humble ourselves and call upon the Lord to enliven us with the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. Cardinal Mercier, who lived a century back, once wrote that he knew the secret of sanctity. He said that we should each take five minutes each day, set aside all distractions, calm ourselves, and in the silence of the moment, speak to the Holy Spirit who is with us always and say this prayer:
O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, and console me. Tell me what I should do. Give me Your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and to accept al that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.
Are we willing to change our lives when we find something in need of changing? Are we willing to call on the Spirit to strengthen us? Are we willing to trust that we will not be abandoned or orphaned? Do we love Jesus? Yes, we love Jesus. But do we really love Jesus?