Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle

Lectionary: 564

Twin spires of Saint Meinrad
from the Monte Casino Shrine
“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

It is impossible to overstate the importance of Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you.” True, we can distort the message and completely misunderstand it; but the Holy Spirit’s correction always brings us back to its importance.

Our love for one another – as spouses, as parents and children, as ministers within the congregation, as neighbors and friends – reflects the perfect openness of the Holy Trinity. When Jesus says, “…as I love you” we should hear an echo of his other statement, “As the Father has loved me, so do I love you.” (John 15:9) These two relationships of Father/Son and Jesus/disciples are bound together in the Holy Spirit.

When non-Christians look at us they want to see the perfect love of the Holy Trinity. Our marriages, families and congregations should radiate that joyous heat. If they do not, something is amiss.

But something is amiss. There is sin. In fact there seems to be too little of that ideal in our experience. The first clue is our lack of joy. We have not approached our duties and responsibilities with an easy, grateful, cheerful heart. They feel more like inconveniences that block the way to pleasure. Gaps yawn between what I have to do and what I want to do; who I have to love and who I want to love; and who I want to be and who I am. I am not satisfied with what is.

Because he is “the way” Jesus can show us the way, which is the cross. Following him and encouraged by his Spirit, I decide to die to my own preferences, despite their desperation. I don’t need things to be as I think they should be.
There are so many things wrong by my estimation, it’s impossible to name them. But when I take up the cross I start counting my blessings instead. I forget about the type of person I want to love and choose those around me.

Saint Francis gives us a marvelous teaching when he says, “The Lord gave me brothers.” He had some very strong opinions about how the friars should live evangelical poverty. God knows we try to see as he saw; but in the long run we can only say the Holy Spirit keeps his vision alive. He would have been appalled to see the basilica built to honor him, but the fact is it helps us remember his spirit. And Francis was probably sorely disappointed with his successor, Brother Elias, who built the controversial basilica; but we needed a man of immoderate habits to finish the work.  Without that building and its original style the vision of Saint Francis might have been lost forever.
The Saint welcomed the brothers God gathered to him, not the ones he might have preferred. He loved them as a father his children; he suffered their shortcomings with a mother’s anguish; and because he loved as Jesus loved, he is the greatest of saints.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.