Friday, January 05, 2007

5 January
The Love that Goes Looking…

Readings: 1 John 3:11-21; Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5; John 1:43-51

The first reading continues to shock us with its stark contrasts and sharp distinctions. What is it that sets the children of God apart from the children of the Evil One? The first live in love, but the second commit murder. And to love is not just to have nice warm feelings. Love is not mere words but is something real and active. It is nothing less than to lay down one’s life for others just as Christ did. But what is perhaps even more striking is that there is only one other alternative: either we lay down our lives in love or we cut our sisters’ or brothers’ throats. There is no middle ground.

The first reading equates the failure to love, the failure to do good, the failure to lay down one’s life for another, with the active taking of that other’s life. Shocking as this may be, it is not something we haven’t heard before. Doesn’t Jesus imply the same when, upon healing the man with the withered hand, he challenges the Pharisees with the question: Is it against the law on the Sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill? (Mark 3:4) Not to save life when we can is to kill – there is no middle ground.

How this love, this laying down of one’s life, looks like in practice is illustrated by the gospel story. There is much movement here. Jesus decides to leave for Galilee, in search of others to whom he might minister. He finds Philip. And having himself been found, Philip finds Nathanael. And this movement today is but a continuation of yesterday’s story, wherein we saw the first two disciples seeking Jesus out. And having found Jesus, Andrew sought out his brother Simon Peter. Is this not a good illustration of the active love that the first reading speaks about? To love is to lay down one’s life by seeking others out. Isn’t this what we celebrate at Christmas – the love that brings God down to earth as one of us, the love that goes looking for the lost, the love that spends itself in search of the beloved.

Even as we continue to celebrate Christ’s coming, even as we continue to allow the immensity of God’s love in Christ to overwhelm us, perhaps we might also consider how we, in our turn, are being called to seek out and lay down our lives in the service of others. For some, this will quite literally involve traveling far and wide to preach the good news. But for many of us it will also involve simply being a loving presence to those with whom we live and work, simply being patient and kind to those who are difficult (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4). And we learn to do this only to the extent that we ourselves continue to experience the love and patience of God for us in Christ, the same love that we celebrate at Christmas.

Today, how are we being invited to love?

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