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Bible Reflections View Comments

When Love Is Difficult, We Still Have to Try
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013
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G. K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and not tried.” The great Hindu pacifist Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” These quotes challenge us to examine our behavior.

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter is almost daunting in its simplicity. The night before he died, according to John, Jesus gave his disciples a single command: “Love one another.” This sums up everything Jesus said and did while he walked this earth. How could it be otherwise when, as John tells us again and again, “God is love”? Love led Jesus to the cross, but it also led him through the cross to resurrection.

Jesus told his followers, “Love one another.” This may have seemed easier in the context of the Last Supper. But surely his followers remembered that he had also said, “Love your enemies.”

The Acts of the Apostles, in fleshing out this command, tells us that the ideal for the early community was that the pagans would know Christians by their love for one another. This love would be something so extraordinary that it would set them apart. Yet again and again, even in that very same Acts of the Apostles, we find accounts of tension and disagreements. Even for the early Church, there was a gap between the ideal and the real.

Twenty-one centuries later, lines are drawn between liberals and conservatives. Fundamentalists of all faiths grow more intolerant and filled with hatred. Sometimes it seems as though we are farther from this ideal than ever.

It’s easy to get caught up in debates about who’s right and who’s wrong. It seems to be human nature to take sides, to demonize those with whom we disagree. This happens in politics, in religious institutions, in schools, and in workplaces.

Remembering Jesus’s command to love one another as he has loved us reminds us to see people first as children of God, as human beings like ourselves—flawed, yes; frustrating at times, yes; but first and foremost worthy of respect and love. When we forget this, all the good that we might accomplish is lost behind a wall of intolerance and self-defense.

We might do well to focus on the small ways in our own lives that we can begin to live Jesus’s command more deeply. There’s nothing wrong with beginning by loving the people we find easy to love, those people who bring deep joy to our lives. But we need to constantly challenge ourselves to move out of those comfort zones.

Jesus commanded his followers to love one another. He didn’t just suggest that it might be a nice thing to do if they had extra time, energy, and resources. It was the one thing he commanded them to remember. It’s not surprising that we take refuge in a long list of rules and regulations in an attempt to avoid this one command.

Sometimes the greatest excuse we fall back on when love seems difficult, even impossible, is that there’s no point in trying because failure is inevitable. But we need to remember that even if we don’t love perfectly, the attempt has to count for something in God’s eyes.

The command still stands in all its stark simplicity: “Love one another as I have loved you.” What one thing can we do today to show that we’re serious about following Jesus?


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Leopold Mandic: Western Christians who are working for greater dialogue with Orthodox Christians may be reaping the fruits of Father Leopold’s prayers.
<p>A native of Croatia, Leopold joined the Capuchin Franciscans and was ordained several years later in spite of several health problems. He could not speak loudly enough to preach publicly. For many years he also suffered from severe arthritis, poor eyesight and a stomach ailment.
</p><p>Leopold taught patrology, the study of the Church Fathers, to the clerics of his province for several years, but he is best known for his work in the confessional, where he sometimes spent 13-15 hours a day. Several bishops sought out his spiritual advice.
</p><p>Leopold’s dream was to go to the Orthodox Christians and work for the reunion of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. His health never permitted it. Leopold often renewed his vow to go to the Eastern Christians; the cause of unity was constantly in his prayers.
</p><p>At a time when Pope Pius XII said that the greatest sin of our time is "to have lost all sense of sin," Leopold had a profound sense of sin and an even firmer sense of God’s grace awaiting human cooperation.
</p><p>Leopold, who lived most of his life in Padua, died on July 30, 1942, and was canonized in 1982.</p> American Catholic Blog Confession is one of the greatest gifts Christ gave to His Church. The sacrament of penance offers you grace that is incomparable in your quest for sanctity.

 
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