6th Sunday of Easter – May 17, 2020
St. Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
Some people think that they are capable of great love. But really, they are just people in need of great love. Some people think that they are a very loving person, but really, they just seek the affection and praise and admiration and attention of others. Some people think they are capable of great love, but really they are just someone searching to be loved.
St. Peter is the classic example of this. He is so sure of himself, so sure that he loves Jesus, that he is an amazing disciple. He says to Jesus, “Lord, I am willing to go to prison with you, and even to die with you” (Luke 22:23)! Peter is ready! Peter thinks he is capable of great love. But when the time comes, he denies Jesus. Three times.
Some people think that they are capable of great love. But when the times comes—failure.
What happens to Peter though? Three times, three times Jesus asks him: “Do you love me?” And three times Peter says, “Yes, Lord, I love you.” But the word Jesus uses for love is “agapae.” Agapae loves is a love that is perfect, pure, unselfish, endures. Jesus asks, “Do you agapae love me?” But Peter says, “Yes, Lord, I philia love you.” Philia love is a lesser kind of love, a love of good friends, but not perfect, not pure, prone to failure.
Peter used to think that he was capable of this agapae love. But then after he failed, he realized the reality of his situation. He realized that, before, he thought he was capable of great love…but he discovered that really, he was not as loving as he thought.
Some people think that they are capable of great love.
We all do this. We think we love people, we think we can be the most loving person in the world. But then the time comes, and we mess up. This is what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel today. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.…Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” Love is not warm feelings, it is not that nervous feeling in your stomach when your crush looks at you. That’s not love. Love, true love is a love that does what is right, even when it’s hard. And no matter how loving we think we are, the more honest we are with ourselves, the more we pay attention to ourselves, the more we realize how much we fail in our love.
We can’t do it on our own. Left on its own, our humanity is going to fail. Again, St. Peter literally walked with Jesus. But he denied him.
And so Jesus promises not to just give us commandments, not only to give us a good example to follow, no. Jesus promises the Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will dwell in us. The Holy Spirit will act as a fire that burns away within us all that is not this love. And it will hurt. We will make mistakes, be petty, get angry. But little by little, when we ask the Holy Spirit, he will help us to live this life of love.
Because if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that we are not capable of the love we think we are. We fail in love so much. We discover that the feeling we thought was this great capacity to love, was really our great need to be loved by others.
But that is what is given to us. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, His own Spirit. Jesus gives us a love that is perfect, that we do not deserve. And this love changes us. When you are loved with an infinite love, when someone loves you even though you don’t deserve it…that has the power to change you. And this is the love we have been given.