Readings: Acts of the Apostles 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26; Psalm 103; 1 John 4:11-16; John 17:11b-19
The Father so loves the Son, and the Son so loves the Father, that the Spirit arises as a third. The complete kenosis between two in any relationship begets a third – the relationship itself becomes fully embodied in its own right as a person in the same sense as the Holy Spirit is a person of the Trinity. The bond in relationships is love and it is love that embodies all relationships. Just as the strong and weak molecular forces are the glue of any element and are what sustains it in being so too gravity between planetary systems and star systems. As God does anything so God does everything, no exceptions.
We are kept in His name by the intention of Jesus’ declaration, a declaration born out of concern for his disciples. This concern makes us one in the mystical body of Christ. Just “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12) Our acceptance of this status, as one in Christ, will sustain the body, just as the body sustains itself through the cooperation of many parts. For this unity to become the reality we call Church, we must live out our intention to be one in Christ.
The church is no more, or no less, a reality than any intentional relationship born in love. This is why marriage is the metaphor of the relationship between Christ and the Church. “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church because we are members of his body. For this reason, a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. In any case, each one of you (us) should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:29-33) Paul takes the metaphor into a lived reality when he boldly states that, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20) What does this mean for a believer – as one that lives only as Christ?
To live in the reality of a loving relationship means putting the relationship before any requirements or worthiness tests. As Paul writes to the Galatians, “[yet] who know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:20) If a loved one wrongs you, you do not set aside your love to correct your beloved – nonsense! You show your love through forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we pay any attention to transgressions. We will in time correct one another, but only with great gentleness and compassion. For when one suffers all suffer and compassion literally means to suffer with. (cf 1 Corinthians 12:26) So we suffer with our beloved just as Christ suffers for and with each one of us. This is the meaning of love, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13b) And what does laying down one’s life for one’s friends, mean?
Well, it doesn’t mean simply being polite and making accommodation for one’s friends, though it does include this. More importantly, it means loving everyone – without exception. This is about seeing Christ in the stranger, in those unlike us, and in those who we find unlikable. The “tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse… the homeless, and tempest-tost.”1 It is about thinking globally and acting locally. It is about doing small things with great love. 2
The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
1. From “The New Colossus” a sonnet on the base of the Statue of Liberty by American poet Ema Lazarus (1849–1887))
2. The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council by Kent M. Keith, First published in 1968