What a daunting command Jesus leaves us with this morning: “Love one another as I love you.” Sharing of ourselves as Christ did, with a self-emptying love, is the greatest expression of love there is. It comes from a choice we make togive our self completely to others; and in doing so share the joy that is our love. I think we learn a lot about God’s love for us, and how to live his command, by observing His love at work in others.
This past March, while Philadelphia enjoyed summer-like weather, several states were rocked by a series of devastating tornados. You may remember the stories about it in the national news. As one tornado thundered across Indiana, Stephanie Decker gathered her son Dominic and daughter Reese into the basement of their home. She huddled them under a comforter and then laid her body on top of them. When the winds of the tornado hit their house they were blowing at 175 miles-per-hour. The house was leveled in seconds and debris rained down on top of Stephanie.
After the tornado passed Stephanie realized that she couldn’t move. But her children were unhurt. She sent 8 year old Dominic to get help and, within minutes, a neighbor found Stephanie under a pile of rubble. Her legs were crushed by the aftermath of the storm.Stephanie remembers every terrifying moment of that ordeal – right up to the point of being rushed to the local hospital for emergency surgery. When she woke up from the surgery, having suffered 7 broken ribs and the loss of her left foot and right leg, her husband Joe told her that she was a hero: their children were alive because of her self-sacrificing love for them. Breaking down in tears Stephanie said it was just her instinctive reaction to protect the childred she loves so much. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to keep them safe. As long as they were safe, she said, she was OK with anything that happened to her.
Stephanie will be the first to tell you that she’s no hero. She much prefers the simple title of “mom” – because she believes that title fits her best.
The love a mother has for her children mirrors the love God has for his Son and for all of us, His children. If a parent could love her children so much that she is willing to face death to protect them – think about how much more than that God loves his only Son.
Now here’s the part that is truly astounding: We are so loved by God that he was willing to sacrifice his only Son, Jesus, for our salvation. It’s hard to fathom the depth of love it takes to do that for us. That’s why St. John tells us: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to free us from our sins.”
That’s the point Jesus wants us to understand today when he said: “I told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Christ’s self-emptying love makes it possible for us to understand and experience the joy that comes from sharing our love in the way Jesus shares his. By appreciating the depth of Our Lord’s love for us, we know how to share our love with others, even if it sometimes requires a very personal sacrifice.
Stephanie Decker knows that love is not something we possess – it possesses us. She got it! When Jesus tells us that “…it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you,” he is telling us that we are the ones, now, and forever who are possessed in his love. The love Christ has for us is found in the complete giving of himself on the cross. Not just for those who believe – but for everyone. In Jesus there is no partiality or favorites – his love possesses us! All of us—you, me, and everyone!
“Love one another as I love you.” To do that means we must love without conditions or limitations. It means loving without judging or measuring or expecting a return for sharing our love with others. It means emptying our self in the way Jesus did in order to experience the love that possesses us to put aside our own wants and place the needs of those we love first, regardless of the sacrifice demanded of us.
To love, St. John tells us, is to know God; and it’s in sharing Christ’s love that we come to know the Father.
This weekend we commemorate Mother’s Day as we approach the end of the Easter season. What better time is there to share the joy of God’s love for us with someone you know?
– Take a few minutes to think about the times in your life you’ve encountered the depths of God’s love.
– Then think about who you would most want to share that love with right now; And ask yourself:
– What do I have to do to make that happen?
The answer to that last question is simple. The only thing you need to do to is to keep Our Lord’s command:
“Love one another as I love you.”