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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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