During a recent jubilee Mass, the priest celebrant gave a truly amazing homily about the nature of God and love. I was instructed to record the homily so that the individuals celebrating their jubilee could reflect on the message.
As I type this, the recording is playing in the background. In his homily, Father reminded us that we are called to love one another as Jesus loves us. Think about this. Jesus is God and his love is divine as well as eternal. How can mere human beings love with that same type of love? The short answer: We can’t. However, we are called to love over and over again, to love others each day with sacrificial love. THIS we can do!
We are then driven to ask, “So, what’s sacrificial love?” According to Bing, “Sacrificial love is self-sacrifice with the pure motivation to alleviate the suffering of others. This supreme love is suffering love, love that requires involvement in the knotty problems of the world, love that bears with the failings and weaknesses of others, love that is committed to helping others regardless of the cost.”
I know when I originally read those words, my mind felt like it was exploding. Let’s step away and approach this in another manner. In his encyclical on the devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pope Pius XII says it this way, “… devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the most effective school of the love of God; the love of individuals, families, and nations …. The reign of Jesus Christ takes its strength and form from divine love: to love with holiness and order its foundation and its perfection. From it these must flow: to perform duties without blame; to take away nothing of another’s right; to guide the lower human affairs by heavenly principles; to give the love of God precedence over all other creatures.” 1
In a sense, sacrificial love is about freedom. Let me explain. Choosing to give something up or performing an action for the sake of another is what makes a sacrifice real. If the act is not chosen freely but rather forced, it becomes a demand, a duty or an expectation. In a sense, without freedom to choose, the action is not a love gift.
For me, it’s a call to examine my motivations and perceptions. Why do I do what I do? Learning the reason for our actions, reactions and perceptions is probably the hardest part of our journey to learn how to love as Jesus did because it takes constant and daily work.
Is this type of love really possible? Oh yes! Just look at the cloud of witnesses, the saints, who join us when we praise God at every liturgy. In addition to these holy ones, Jesus gave us the means to learn to love in this manner: the Eucharist.
When we gather for the Eucharist, let us be aware of the love of Jesus. We, with him, offer ourselves to the Father as his son and daughter. By prayerful participation in the Eucharist and living out our understanding of sacrificial love, we bring the reality of divine love to earth. We learn to love as Jesus loved!
1Enclyclical of Pope Pius XII, On Devotion to the Sacred Heart, May 15, 1656, paragraph 123
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness