Study: When in my life have I been most authentically and genuinely loving toward others? What helped me to live this way?
Pray: Who is difficult to love in my life right now? Pray that the love of Christ comes into our hearts to transform us into God’s love.
Serve: Who am I called to love today? How can I act toward another that brings Christ’s love into their lives?
The second reading from 1 John 4:7-10 and the Gospel from John 15:9-17 are as blunt and direct as the Bible delivers. In the first and last analysis, everything we proclaim as Christians is measured and evaluated in the light of a single concept:
And on first glance it sounds wonderful! Love evokes many wholesome and beautiful concepts that speak to our hearts; love lifts our spirits and draws us closer together – drawing strength and peace from both God and the people around us.
Yet love is also challenging. Love makes demands upon us to stretch beyond our normal comfort zones – thinking and acting in ways that are modeled on Jesus Christ. Consider…
- Forgiving our enemies
- Seeking the good in others
- Being the first to work at healing & reconciliation
- Dedicated to others in times of difficulty and stress
- Remaining positive and supportive
- Standing up for those who are oppressed
- Serving those who are hard to love…and seeing Christ in them
While we strive for these practical applications of love on our good days, Lord knows we need to keep working at love – especially when we are in a bad place. Two keys thoughts can help us:
- Stay close to Jesus – the source of all LOVE
- When in doubt – act in a loving manner
The first point is simple: we cannot fulfill God’s command to love unless we are closely connected to the Son of God. We hear that “God is love” in the 2nd reading, and we know that our lives draw grace and strength when we unite our hearts to the Lord. Staying close to Jesus helps us to evaluate and fulfill this key commandment.
The second point is immensely practical. Sometimes we don’t feel particularly loving! When that happens we can move ourselves to a better place by acting in a Godly fashion…the feelings will follow eventually. While our emotions are crucial sources of “inside information” to the state of our hearts, we guide our lives by Jesus (and not a momentary feeling) who loves us unconditionally. Thus, when we act in a loving way – love actually grows in our hearts!
“This I command you: love one another.”
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann; 1 June 1889, 480 x 599 pixels, Riverside Church, New York, NY.