Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Sixth Sunday of Easter: Love and Mercy
This Sunday’s second reading and the Gospel reading speak about the command to Love. If you notice the reading from 1 John reminds us that God has first loved us. He has showered His Mercy on us. He has chosen us to be the recipients of his love. In the Gospel reading we hear that we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, with a selfless love, a love willing to give His Life for us. We are called to sacrificial love.
Those of you who are married know that sacrificial love is the only love that keeps a marriage together. It is the way that a marriage grows. You know that you will always care for your spouse and that your spouse will always care for you. You know that you have something in your marriage that can better be described than defined. Maybe it is better to say that you have Someone, not something. You have the sacrificial love of the Lord. You have Someone. You have the Lord.
But there are some people who profess a deep love for their spouse and who even shower him or her with expensive gifts, but whose marriage is built on a foundation of selfishness. These are the people who are concerned with what they are getting out of the marriage. Their marriage will crumble when they realize that it takes more sacrifice than they are willing to make. The most horrific example I have come upon was a young husband who deserted his wife when she entered into the last stages of cancer. She pleaded for him to come and see her in the hospital. She even had a priest call him and ask him to go with him to the hospital. He responded that he had moved on. The marriage from his side was built on selfishness.
Most of the priests that I have met take their ministry extremely seriously. They know that they have to deal with stress, from the routine stress such as preparing homilies and dealing with all sorts of different personalities, to the extraordinary stress such as presiding over the funeral of a child. Most of the priests that I have met embrace their stress as their way of giving themselves to God through their people.
However I have come upon a few priests who treat their ministry as a job with set hours. They act as though they are only priests during office hours and are not available when their people need them the most. I have also come upon priests who seem to be more concerned with others knowing that they are priests than they are with serving others. There is a definite selfishness in the ways that they are viewing their vocations. Certainly, they are not loving their people as God called them to
Most parents put the greatest amount of their energy into leading their children to become good and decent Catholic men and women. They are raising children for the Lord. This takes sacrifice after sacrifice. I’ve seen some of our parents come to Church in the morning a bit worse for the wear after a few battles with their kids in the early hours. I had one mother ask me to do a better job in blessing her children this week because last week’s blessing didn’t stick.
I have also come upon a few parents who have decided that the work of bringing up a child takes too much effort. As their children get older and really need their parents the most, these parents are absent emotionally, psychologically or even physically.
None of us here are as extremely selfish as the examples I presented, but there are times that each of us is more concerned with ourselves than we are with those we are called upon to love. There are also those times that we haven’t loved like Jesus loves. And then the married here might reflect, “Perhaps our marriage would be stronger if I wasn’t selfish so often.” Or I might reflect, “Perhaps I could have brought many more people to God if I wasn’t so concerned about myself.” And perhaps all of us might reflect, “Perhaps there would be so many more children growing into warriors for the Kingdom of God if we were all more determined to guide them through adolescence and the Teen years.” We reflect on our own selfishness and then we realize how very much we need the Mercy of God.
And the Mercy of God is always available for us. God does not give up on us even when we have not loved as He has called us to love. Pope Francis often says, “God does not tire from extending his mercy to us; we are the ones who get tired of asking for His mercy.”
We come before God’s mercy today and we ask him to forgive us for our selfishness and help us start anew. We can’t give up. We won’t give up. The Mercy of God wipes out our past selfishness and leads us to respond to the Lord’s command to love others as He has loved us.