Sunday, January 31, 2010

Love, sweet, love

HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 31, 2010:


How many of you remember the old Dionne Warwick song, “What the world needs now, is love sweet love. It’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.” That song was running through my head as I reflected on our second reading today and it’s great statement on Love. It is most definitely one of the most well known verses of Scripture. And for good reason – if you want to know what true love is, read that chapter over and over again. Many times in church we speak about the importance of love. In the Christian life, it is all about love. Even God, Scripture tells us, is love.

Today, however, I want us to do more than just talk about love. We talk about love all the time. But, as Jesus – and Dionne – remind us, we need more love in our world. This reading causes us to ask in our own lives, how much of a loving person am I? An exercise based on this reading helps us to find that out easily. The reading we heard proclaimed said, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

What if we changed the passage and put “JESUS” and “HE” wherever we find “LOVE” and “IT.” “Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. He is not jealous, He is not pompous, He is not inflated, He is not rude, He does not seek His own interests, He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury, He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That still sounds pretty good. We can easily agree with every line. But, what now if we replaced the same words with our own name? Say it with me in your own heart. “I am patient, I am kind. I am not jealous, I am not pompous, I am not inflated, I am not rude, I do not seek my own interests, I am not quick-tempered, I do not brood over injury, I do not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.” Placing our own names there, do we still agree with every line in the passage? Is each line still true for us? How do we score ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10? This is the measure of loving that God gives us; this is they way He wants us to love. “What the world needs now, is love sweet love.”

There is a story about a teacher who gave his class an assignment to go and tell someone that they loved them before the next week's class. It had to be someone to whom they had never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time. At the next class, one man stood up and recounted his story to the class. He said to the teacher, “I was angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I felt, ‘who were you to tell us to do something so personal?’ But as I was driving home, my conscience started talking to me. It was telling me that I knew exactly who I needed to say “I love you” to. Five years ago, my father and I had a terrible argument which we have never resolved. We have avoided seeing each other since and hardly speak to each other. So last week by the time I had gotten home after class, I had convinced myself to tell my father that I loved him. It’s strange, but just making the decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. When I told my wife, she jumped out of bed, gave me a big hug and for the first time in our married life saw me cry. We sat up half of the night talking.

The next day I was up bright and early. At 9AM, I called my father to tell him I wanted to come over after work and talk to him. He reluctantly agreed. By 5:30, I was at the house. When my father answered the door, I didn't waste any time. I took one step inside and blurted out “Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.” Well, it was as if a transformation had come over him. Before my eyes, his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he too began to cry. He reached out and hugged me, saying “I love you too, son, but I’ve never been able to say it.” My mother walked by just then with tears in her eyes. I had not felt that wonderful, happy and peaceful in a very long time. Two days after my visit, my dad, who had heart problems but hadn’t told us, had an attack and died. So my message is this: don’t wait to do the things you know need to be done, to express the love that is in your heart.”

My friends, we know that True Love transforms us and transforms our world. There is no greater antidote to the greed, power, individualism, cruelty, and evil that exists in our world than the Love that God gives us and calls forth from us. And it should be obvious to all of us that our world truly needs more love. And so, I offer to each of you, my brothers and sisters, and myself, the same opportunity as our story. Go home and tell someone you love them before next Sunday. Tell someone you really love, but to whom you have never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time.

My friends, “Love never fails.” You can trust God on that one.

May God give you peace.

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