Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Look of Love

6th Sunday of Easter (C)

Readings: Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Psalm 66:2-3,5-6,8; Apocalypse 21:10-14,22-23; John 14:23-29

The look of love is in your eyes.
The look your smile can't disguise.
The look of love, it’s saying so much more than just words could ever say.
And what my heart has heard, well, it takes my breath away…

My dear friends, perhaps some of you may recognise these lines. They’re taken from an old love song, sung by Dusty Springfield in 1967. The song is entitled The Look of Love. And the title sums up very well what the song is all about. It’s about someone who looks deeply into her lover’s face, into her lover’s eyes, and is moved by what she finds there. For what she sees are the unmistakable signs of love. The mysterious look of love. Something that fills her own heart with desire. Moves her to want to reach out and gather her lover into her arms. To hold him tight. And to never let him go.

Powerful stuff, right? Yes, but is it real? I must confess, sisters and brothers, that I can’t say for sure. For, as you might expect, this is not an area in which I have a lot of expert knowledge. So what do you think? Can the look of love really hold such power? Or is it all just romantic nonsense? Have you experienced something like it yourself? Would you recognise it if you saw it? What does it feel like, anyway, when you see someone who is truly in love?

Believe it or not, I think this is the question that our readings help us to ponder today. By presenting to us the look of love. We see this most clearly in what Jesus tells his disciples in the gospel. Twice the Lord uses the word if. At the beginning, he says, If anyone loves me… And then near the end, he says, If you loved me… What is the Lord doing, sisters and brothers, if not describing what it looks like when someone falls in love with him? What happens when someone surrenders her heart completely to the Lord. Lets Jesus become the centre of her life. What does it look like when this happens? What are the signs of this love?

Jesus mentions three. The first is presence. If anyone loves me, the Lord says, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him. When someone loves Jesus, and keeps his word, both Jesus and the Father become present to that person. Even take up residence in that person. But this is a mysterious presence. For we have to remember that these words are part of the Lord’s farewell speech to his disciples. Before he goes to his death on the Cross. He will soon be taken away from them. They will no longer see him. At least not in the same way as they did before. So this new presence that Jesus is promising them is a presence in absence. Their love for the Lord will somehow make him present to them, even after he has been taken away.

The Lord then goes on to describe this mysterious experience as the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Advocate, he says, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you. This is the second sign of love. When someone loves Jesus, not only will that person experience the Lord’s presence even in his absence. But this presence will have very beneficial effects. It will give direction to the person’s life. In any given situation, especially when facing difficult decisions, it will help the person to know what to do. Where to go. How to live. It will give clarity even in the midst of confusion. This is the second sign of love.

Which then leads to a third. Peace I bequeath to you, the Lord says, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give. What the world can give is the superficial peace that results from the absence of trouble. What we feel when everything is going well. But what the Lord offers is a much deeper, far more precious, peace. A peace that endures even in times of trouble. And chaos. The kind of peace that Jesus himself experienced, as he hung on the Cross, and cried out to his Father, into your hands I commend my spirit… A peace that is accompanied even by joy. If you loved me, Jesus tells his disciples, you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father. Jesus expects those who love him to rejoice even in his absence. To rejoice in the knowledge that he goes to his Father.

Presence in absence. Clarity in confusion. Peace and joy even in the midst of chaos. These are the signs that make up the look of love. This is what Jesus promises will happen to those who love him. And this promise is not just for individuals. This look of love can be seen even in whole communities. It is what we find in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. At this point in the story, Jesus has already ascended into heaven. He is no longer physically present to his disciples. And, in his absence, the community experiences chaos and confusion. Some Jewish Christians cause trouble by insisting that even gentile Christians must be circumcised to be saved.

It is a difficult time. And yet, the community survives. And thrives. The leaders meet to discuss the issue. And, in their gathering, they experience the presence of the Lord, showing them what they must do. Later they announce that it has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials. The Spirit guides them. Helps them distinguish between what is essential and what is not. Enabling them to restore calm to troubled hearts. Presence in absence. Clarity in confusion. Peace and joy even in the midst of chaos. This is what we see in the second reading. Sure signs of the look of love. Present not just in individuals, but also in the whole Christian community.

The second reading takes us even further. In John’s vision, we see the look of love not just in individuals, and not just in a community, but in a whole city. Jerusalem, the holy city. Except that here there is an important difference. This time there is no longer any absence. No longer any confusion. No longer any chaos. For what John receives is a vision of what it looks like when God’s kingdom finally comes in all its fullness. Fullness of presence. Fullness of clarity. Fullness of peace and joy.

The look of love. Sisters and brothers, this is what we find in our readings today. The look of love in the life of an individual. In the life of a community. And, finally, in the whole city of God. A love that brings presence and clarity. Peace and joy. And all this is made possible only because of what Jesus has done for us. By being lifted up on the Cross. And raised to newness of life. So that what our readings offer to us today is really a close look at the face of Jesus himself. It is his love that our readings invite us to contemplate. To gaze deeply into his eyes and into his heart. Filled with such immense love for us. A love that never gives up on us. A love that refuses to let us go. This, my dear friends, is the look of love.

And, as in that old love song, so too with Jesus. His look of love holds incredible power. Power to fill our hearts with desire. Power to move us to do whatever it takes to hold on to him. To make the Lord the centre of our lives. As individuals and as families. As communities and as a whole church. This is the power that is offered to us especially in this joyous Season of Easter.

I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you.
How long I have waited, waited just to love you.
Now that I have found you, don’t ever go.
Don't ever go. I love you so.

This is how that old song ends. This is the effect of the look of love.

My dear friends, what must we do to surrender ourselves more fully to its power today?


  1. O Lord of Love,

    You are a Lord of many Paradoxes.

    Teach me and show me how to LOVE like You -

    Yours is a love that this world would reject - a love that leads to the glory of the cross - yet it is a love that continually dies and makes sacrifices - a love that this secular world would consider "out fo this world"...

    Yet Lord, as God's ways are not the ways of the human world - Yours is a love that this world would find it hard to accept...yet, Yours is a love that lasts forever.

    O Lord of Love Eternal,

    Keep me ever in Your loving embrace O Lord, and never let me be parted from Thee. Amen.

    Seeing Is Believing
    1 May 2016

  2. Perhaps the reason why we tried to look away from His love in the first place was we were unsure of His existence, due to fear.. Fear of the world, fear of hurts, failures and even emotional pains. In the midst of these fears, we have forgotten about His presence, thus sunk our feet into the mud puddle. It was only upon awakening that we realised of his "Presence" with us all these while. Someone who is so invisible, yet always by our side to lead us back to His love. We should truly, open our hearts to Him, talk to Him and listen. Somewhere, somehow, He waiting for us at the same place.

    Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a quote, "It makes no difference what the past has been, nor how many falls nor relapses there we may have had. When a sheep falls into a mud puddle, it tries to get out and bleats for rescue; when a pig falls in, it relaxes and stays there. We need the courage of the sheep."

    We need the courage of the sheep, to get out of the puddle, and run to Him again. Z