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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

Life's Great Questions

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Blessed Junipero Serra
This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

Happy Birthday
May this birthday mark the beginning of new and exciting adventures!

Sts. Peter and Paul
Honored both separately and together, these apostles were probably martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero.

Wedding
Help the bride and groom see their love as a mirror of God’s love.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
God gave Mary to us as a help in our quest for holiness.




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