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THE REAL CHALLENGE OF LOVE

Father Francis's picture
Fifth Week of Easter

Acts. 15:22-31 & Jn. 15:12-17

When the pagans converted to Christianity there was bound to be a difficult period of adjustment. They needed guidance but they were receiving conflicting advice from leading Jewish converts and even some of the apostles. Should converts from paganism accept circumcision before they could become Christians? The apostles held a council and decided to simplify matters. They did not want to burden the pagans with inessential rules and mentioned only three prohibitions: food sacrificed to idols, meat from strangled animals and fornication.

Engaged couples often choose today's Gospel to be read at their wedding ceremony. It expresses the tender love which we would expect to find in those planning to marry. “Love one another as I have loved you.” But this is a command to each and every one of us to observe.

Before the time of Jesus, God's instruction to His people was "Love your neighbour as yourself.” That was a good standard because it means treating others as we would like them to treat us. But this way of loving is essentially self-centred; we love others because we want to be loved in return. Jesus raised this standard when He said, "Love one another as I have loved you” for His love is completely unselfish. He loves without wanting of expecting any reward. He spent His life on Earth loving people, some of whom were ungrateful and prejudiced. His love is a forgiving love, even towards those who brought about His death.

How many of us can reach this standard? Why then did Jesus give us this seemingly impossible commandment? It was so that we would aim high and not be content with mediocre and selfish loving. We may not succeed in loving unlovable people. We may find it almost impossible to forgive our enemies. All Jesus asks of us is that we try. With His help we can attempt to become a little more tolerant, to pray more often for those we find it hard to love, and to be less grudging in our forgiveness of the people who have offended us.

Lord Jesus, let us try to love as You have loved us, recognising that the better we know You and the way You loved, the better we will love others. If You have given us so much love, should we not be sharing it with everyone else?

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