Deacon Michael's Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter - May 9, 2021

Here's my homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter speaking to what Christians mean when they speak of "love" and what that implies for us.

Especially appropriate for Mother's Day ;-) 

You can fid the readings on which this homily is based linked HERE

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Love, love, love,

Love, love, love,

Love is all you need. 

People of a certain generation recognize these words as coming from a famous Beatles tune from 1967

...released in an whimsical album entitled Yellow Submarine, with an acclaimed psychedelic animated film by the same name.   

1967 was of course the same year as the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, which was kind of a kind of the hippie verson of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.

As I recall it, 

...and as I was only 11 then and it was a bit ahead of me

...the youth culture at the time seemed brimming with optimism that love was indeed all you needed to change the world.

This all of course was during the turmoil over the massive build up of our nation’s war in Viet Nam,  explosion of the civil and voting rights changes in the South, and the urban unrest in America that had resulted in 300 deaths and over 60,000 arrests in 237 cities arrests from 1965 to 1967.

Maybe naive, but the sentiments of the Beatles and the young people in San Francisco

....for love being the key to making things right

...seems to have been in some sense quite reasonable and even necessary.

But it’s also a thought that seems at once true, yet unsatisfactorily vague and simplistic.

It begs the question “What do you mean by love?”

With due respect to Lennon and McCartney, this is a complicated question and the word means different things to different people, in different situations

...and people aren’t always talking about the same thing.

English uses the word “love” to describe a number of notions for which other languages have separate and distinct words, and so a bit more clarity.

Needless to say clarity on this topic is especially important for disciples of Jesus Christ. 

When we say that “God is love” it’s important to have an idea of what this means for us, and how we are supposed to be as a consequence.

To be clear from the Christian point of view it is important to understand what love isn't,  or what it is not reducible to.

For us it cannot be primarily a sentiment or an emotion

...and it’s certainly not reducibled to erotic desire.

This leans against the current dominant popular culture and its discourse

...which seems to define and judge reality itself by reference to sentiments and emotion

...and is positively obsessed with all things erotic.

Sentiments and desires have their place, but they don’t and can’t be allowed to define and limit how Christians understand love.

In the New Testament the principle word used with reference to love is agape.

Agape is love as the universal, unconditional, persistent goodwill of God for humanity, committed to its wellbeing.

C.S. Lewis described agape as the highest form of love, passionately committed to the welfare of others. 

It is the term that is used in John’s writings, and the meaning of the term that is translated in the words “God is love”. 

In Christ we come to see this agape incarnate, made real in the flesh, and the Cross adds self-sacrifice to the mix. 

This self-sacrificing universal, unconditional, persistent goodwill is what disciples of Jesus Christ are to imitate and offer as they follow him. 

It should also come to our minds when we hear the words 

“Do this in memory of me”, 

And

 ‘Love one another as I have loved you.” 

It is what we are called to offer each other, in our families, especially to our mothers, we are reminded this day.

It’s what we are called to offer our neighbors, to strangers, and even to our enemies. 

It animates our desire for charity to be extended to those in need

...and see justice done for those denied what they rightly deserve. 

It was what Jesus offered in healing the sick, embracing the sinner

...and in offering his love, mercy and forgiveness even to those who seemingly don’t deserve it.

Maybe “All we really need is this love.”  Maybe “This love is all we need.”

...this self-sacrificing universal, unconditional, persistent goodwill.

Rather than being hopelessly naive, maybe in these days of change and challenge and discord

...maybe this is all more true than it seems...and even more necessary than people imagine.