DIVINE GIFTS ARE FREE!
Today’s gospel is a direct message from Jesus, where he speaks of joy, love, friendship, and mission. He leaves us in no doubt whatever about how much he loves us, and how we ought to love one another. He calls us friends, he tells us that he has chosen us, and if we use his name, we can ask the Father for anything.
It is hard to fully understand that just as the Father loves Jesus, we too are loved in the same way. There are no conditions imposed on us in order for us to receive God’s love. The only conditions that can exist are the ones that we make, and they in fact can be barriers to receive God’s precious love.
Let us explore the meaning of love that comes from God. We can get very real glimpses of that love when we love others just as they are, with no strings attached. Did you know that since the dawn of history, when humankind was able to put thoughts in writing or song, more has been said and sung about love than any other human quality? Even today, we only have to switch on to our local FM Radio station, and every second song is about some aspect of love. Back in my heyday, we used to hear songs like: ‘Love is a many splendored thing’, or ‘Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage’. However, we know that genuine love for another does bring out the best in them, and in us. They know that they are ‘special’, they realise that they can be themselves, and not have to put on airs and graces in order to be accepted and cherished by us. True love enables people to grow and blossom forth with their God-given talents and qualities. In the Gospel today, we see that Jesus will send us an abiding presence of His love! It comes to us as the special gift of PEACE, together with the Holy Spirit who will remain with us always.
When we openly accept these precious Gifts, which have their origin within the Trinity of Persons, it is a Gift that is truly Divine and it is free! With the ingestion of these gifts, God’s Living Word is constantly activated within us; God’s Peace is at our disposal! With the coupling of these two precious Gifts, we are then within striking distance of becoming Holy! Holy? What do you think of when you hear that word? Is it measured by the callouses on our knees or the nimbleness of our hearts? True Holiness seems to me to be real wholesomeness! People who strive to live life to the fullest! So to my question the answer would seem to be, ‘nimbleness of heart’.
Holy People are those who don’t need prompting to listen to God’s Word and its inherent invitations. Holiness, according to St. Theresa, is ‘doing the ordinary things, extraordinarily well.’ This brings us onto the Mission of the Church as issued in by Our Lord’s Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost! Hence, we thus aspire to be a living core of Christ-centered love and peace; in short. A core of holiness. This is the challenge we all face every day. Are we called to be perfect? The short answer is Yes; but not necessarily completed in this life. If we don’t make some mistakes during our life, we would miss out on understanding and experiencing God’s mercy! Like anything that lives and breathes and grows; nutrients are essential for growth and expansion.
Our Spirituality must be nurtured by Sacrament, God’s Word and within the Living body of Christ, the Church. So on the local Parish community level, the basic fruits of attending to our interior life is felt and seen through real loving outreach! By its very nature, Christ centered love builds a strong ‘Community Spirit’, and newcomers can experience it because the invisible quality has become visible through hospitality, recognition and the acceptance of unity within diversity. This is prayerfully realised when we celebrate the Eucharist together. St. Paul outlines the ingredients of true love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. Thus allowing and enabling others to be themselves, and not have to live up to imposed conditions, which are born from a desire to control and manipulate; the gospel today directs us and reminds us of the truth of the matter as Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete”. And when can this happen? Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love.” What is the number one commandment, which summarises them all, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
‘Lord, touch our hearts and heal them,
So that we may be able to bear the fruits of true love. Amen.’
In John’s Gospel, we are reminded that pruning is necessary if fruit is to be brought forth in abundance from a vine, bush or tree. However, the Gardner has the wisdom to know what to prune, and how much, and what the possibilities could be as a result of this action. Branches are pruned to strengthen the growth and health of the tree, so that it can better produce fruit or flowers. Quite often, through trials and tribulations, we are pruned.
Any worthwhile growth in our lives takes place during times of struggle, and never when everything is smooth, calm, and even. Sometimes we are pruned by each other. This can come about within a real spirit of love and forgiveness, which becomes reconciliation, when it is built on a basis of trust, which enables us to tell the story just as it is to each other. In this act of faith, we can sometimes suffer, and bleed, because of the truth that someone else has told us, because it may well be the truth about us, and it might hurt, and the truth may be calling us to change, hence spiritual pruning is at work!
Suffering can be another kind of pruning. Generally we don’t go looking for suffering in our life, it somehow finds us. Suffering can enable us to be more sensitive to other people, it can knock a few chips of the old block, which is us, and it can invite us to love more deeply. The great English writer C.S Lewis once said, “Jesus didn’t come to take suffering and pain away, He came to fill it with His presence”. That is something to chew on, because in lots of ways that is very true.
So, in a nutshell, if we are looking for an appraisal in our living of true Christian love; why not check out St. Paul’s Hymn to Charity in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. So we reflectively read this Scripture Passage, substitute your name instead of love, and see what you come up with? I tell you, it is the best stimulus for an Act of Contrition….Food for thought!