Message: Moms represent both assurance and requirement.
During the Easter Season I am giving a series of homilies on becoming disciples and disciple makers. On Thursday (May 7) we receive the results of the Disciple Makers Index survey. I will be sharing them with parish groups and then with all of you in coming weeks.
Last week we saw an important aspect of being a disciple: how Jesus offers us both assurance and a requirement. The blessed assurance is that he joins us to himself like a branch to a vine. But he adds a requirement: "Remain in me." Otherwise we will wither and be burned.
Today's Gospel also contains an assurance and a requirement. "As the Father loves me, so I also love you." You can hardly get a better assurance than that. And when Jesus says, "I love you," he's not offering empty words. Within minutes Jesus would prove his love. He speaks those word during the Last Supper. He soon shows his love by accepting humiliation, pain and death for us. When we look at the cross, we have assurance of God's love. "As the Father loves me," says Jesus, "so I also love you."
You might think, "Well, I've got it made." And you know something? You do. Nothing can change God's love for you. If you doubt it, look at the cross. But there is a requirement. "Remain in my love." God cannot fall out of love for us, but we can fall out of love for God. We can substitute something for God. You and I have free will. We can break the commandments by lying, stealing, coveting - and so on. When we do those things, we - little by little - fall out of love.
So we have good news and bad news. The bad news: You and I can fall - at any moment. St. Paul speaks about working out one's salvation with "fear and trembling." (Phil 2:10)* But, along with this fear and trembling, comes good news. Yes, work hard at your salvation, but if you should fall, God continues to love and works to bring you back. God's assurance does not vanish. It follows us right to our last breath.
God offers clear requirements and blessed assurance. I'd like to now apply this to Mother's Day. You knew I was going to get to Mother's Day. (smile) Well, moms do offer a good illustration of both assurance and requirement.
For most people their mother provides the first and most enduring experience of unconditional love. Once a college girl came to a priest for spiritual guidance. She was far from her rural home. When they finished the conversation, the priest said it must be exciting being in the big university. The girl looked at him with sad eyes. "Yes," she said, "but I miss my mom!"
Can't we all identify with that girl? We all long for home, for unconditional love, for blessed assurance. A mom often embodies that kind of love. Love means assurance, acceptance.
Together with acceptance comes requirements. This aspect of love is harder, especially today. We've been influenced by the idea that, maybe, we are simply programmed by evolution. And since morality seems to vary from culture to culture, it is difficult to talk about commandments.
But there's one commandment that young people recognize. This is going to surprise some parents, but young people recognize this requirement: Honor your father and mother. I've seen the toughest, most hardened guys, including men in prison, say that what most bothers them: they dishonored their parents. It's something deep in all of us. We want our parents - or a person who stands for them - to say, "Good job. Well done." We want to bring them honor. God has planted that requirement, that commandment in the depths of our being. And the young person who honors his parents will want to keep the other commandments.
So moms represent both assurance and requirement. Of course, no one has a perfect mom. God gave me a darn good one, but she had her defects, some of them maddening. But she did embody assurance and requirement. And most important she points to the one who says, "As the Father loves me, so I also love you." And: "Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. Amen.
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