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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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