Sunday, May 05, 2024

Love Finds A Way…

6th Sunday in Easter (B)

Readings: Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 97 (98):1-4; 1 John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17

Picture: By American Jael on Unsplash

Through the concrete, through the rubble and dust, a flower will grow. It’s a hard world, to make sense of sometimes, but I want you to know.… love finds a way… My dear friends, how do these words make you feel? They’re taken from a song, released in 2017 by an English musician named Jamie Lawson. The words compare love to a flower that’s able to grow even through a crack in a hard dusty pavement. What does it feel like to look at such a sight?

I’m not sure, but isn’t it possible to feel burdened by it? To look at that brave flower, and to think too quickly of how I have to imitate it? To look at love only as an obligation that I have to fulfil? Which is actually the opposite of what the song intends to convey. In the first verse, we find these words, presumably addressed to someone preparing for bed, after a long hard day: Close your eyes now. Let the day fall away. You’ve done all you can do… And from the final verse: When you’re all out of pride, broken inside, at the end of the day, love finds a way… Rather than imposing an obligation, the song seeks to offer consolation. Inviting us to believe that, even when our own efforts may come up short, there is yet a bigger, wiser, more merciful power we can count on. One that gently gathers and guides everything, gradually bringing forth fruit in due season. Love finds a way… 

Isn’t this also what we find in our scriptures today? In the gospel, which continues from where we left off last week, Jesus invites his disciples – which includes all of us – to remain in his love, by keeping his commandments. And perhaps because we live in such a work-obsessed culture, it’s easy for us to hear, in this call, nothing more than an obligation we must fulfil. One that burdens us, and may even keep us awake at night. But the Lord’s intention is not to burden, but to console. Isn’t this why he goes on to call us his friends, carefully emphasising that this friendship is not the result of our initiative, but his? Not only did he choose and commission us, he also laid down his life for us. As a result, God raised him from the dead. So that from of the cruel rubble of the Cross, the beautiful flower of the Resurrection springs forth. Isn’t this what we celebrate at Easter?

And it's only by recalling his sacrifice, by tapping into the power flowing from it, that we are able to bear fruit. Isn’t this what the second reading means, when it tells us that the love we are talking about is not our love for God – not our fulfilment of an obligation – but God’s love for us – God’s consoling gift, given to us – when he sent his Son to take our sins away. The love in which we are called to live doesn’t originate from us. It comes from beyond us. Yet it’s also ever close to us. Constantly enfolding us in its embrace. And what a consolation it is to remember this, particularly when the day feels long, fruitless, and even too painful or confusing to bear.

In case all this sounds too abstract, the first reading shows us what it can look like in the concrete. How does Cornelius’ household come to be baptised? How does an observant Jew like Peter end up visiting a gentile? And not just any gentile, but a commander in the occupying Roman army. It’s as though a Ukrainian villager were to visit and preach to a Russian military officer in a Russian-occupied part of Ukraine! The reading makes it clear that, behind and beyond all human efforts, it is the power and influence of the Spirit that succeeds in bringing this about. Arranging it such that out of the rubble of sharp religious differences, and tense political conflict, the flower of faith begins to grow. Love finds a way

Which brings to mind these words written by George Antone, a Palestinian Catholic, whose family has been taking refuge, for the past seven months, in the only Catholic Church in Gaza: We strive hard to provide our children with safety and protection. I am not sure if we succeed in doing so every time, but we try with all our strength and love. We lack any military or capital power to protect them. All we have is to tell them that we love them above all else, and that our Lord Jesus Christ and his mother are with us in these difficult and uncertain moments…. The idea of leaving, of emigration, crosses the minds of many Christians. We are determined to preserve the Christian presence in Palestine. This is our homeland… We are the salt that helps the whole community, Christians and Muslims together. If we go, who will show Jesus to the people of Gaza?… (The Tablet, 23 March, 2024). Out of the terrible rubble of war, the fragile yet courageous flower of hope still grows. In the words of the song with which we began, it truly is a hard world, to make sense of sometimes, but.… love finds a way…

Sisters and brothers, as we gaze deep into our own lives, and out onto our troubled world, what do we see? How is love still finding a way, and how are we called to respond today?

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