The Bishop is in Love
First, allow me to tell you a joke Fr. Benny told me yesterday, as Fr. Tony had told it to him the day before. It has something to do with Mother’s Day and the Blessed Mother.
Once upon a time a young priest preached at the Bishop’s Mass. Afterwards, the Bishop said to him: “you need to begin your homilies with a story—wake people up, get their attention. Come to my Mass next Sunday and I’ll show you.” So the next Sunday the Bishop begins his homily like this: “I have something to tell all of you: I’m in love with a beautiful woman.” He pauses for effect, and then continues: “Her name is the Blessed Virgin Mary.” So the young priest goes back to his parish and gets up to preach the following Sunday, but catches sight of the Bishop himself standing in the back. He gets nervous, but launches into his homily anyway. “The Bishop is in love with a married woman,” he blurts out, “but I can’t remember her name.”
Mary, our Mother
Her name is Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary, wife of St. Joseph and mother of God, and we are so joyful to be in the middle of the Month of May, Mary’s Month. This Sunday is not only Mother’s Day (Happy Mother’s Day to our beautiful mothers) but also the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 1917, she appeared to the three shepherd children in a field outside of Fatima, Portugal, to bring peace to a world still gripped in the Great War. Mother’s Day is in May because May is the month of the Blessed Mother. The best gift you can give your mother today is to pray a rosary for her, or even better, with her. I’m going to do that by phone with my mother later today.
They say there is no love like a mother’s love. A mother loves her child simply because the child is. There is no question of the child earning his mother’s love. He can do nothing for his mother, or even acknowledge her love. A mother’s love for her child is absolutely unconditional.
Jesus points to the source of all love in today’s Gospel: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” God the Father begets his Son, eternally pouring out his divine love into Him. The Son does not “earn” his Father’s love—he simply is the Father’s love. But the Son then gives his Father’s love to another—to us. “I love you as the Father loves me.”
If we are good sons and daughters of our mothers, who loved us unconditionally simply because we were born, we give our mother’s love to another. If we are good disciples of Jesus Christ, who loves us with his Father’s unconditional love, we give Jesus’ love to another.
Love’s Two Stages
Because love has two dimensions, two stages. First, we receive love. St. John puts it like this: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us.” We have no love that is not first received; any love I give was previously given to me from another (my mother, my father, my friends, etc). And the first source of all love in the world is God. So: stage one is to receive love from God.
But love must move to stage two, or it is incomplete and will die. Stage two is to give that love to another, to pass it on. If we just sit on the love given us, it dies. So Jesus says, remain in my love by keeping my commandments. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This I command you, Jesus says: love one another. Love is not a feeling (no one can command feelings—they are beyond our control). But he can and does command an act of our wills, a decision to love. Everyone possesses the capacity to make this decision to love. This is the basic stewardship principle: everything given to us is meant to be shared. That is particularly true of love. Love received is not complete or effective if I don’t give it away.
A Mother’s Love
I can’t earn love, but I can give it away. What does this authentic love look like? Well, look at a mother. She gives her blood during a pregnancy. She gives her milk after the child is born. She gives her sleep for the first two years; she gives immense amounts of her time and her sweat and her attention to her child. And in giving, she receives, perhaps not immediately, but she receives love. It comes not always from the child, but always from God. Authentic love does not look much like what you see on television. It looks a lot more like what you see in your mother, and hopefully your father too.
Which is why we love our mothers. You have taught us to love. You have given us the love you received from God, and have taught us to share it with another by your very sharing it with us. May we honor you, our mothers, by giving the love you have given us, even until it hurts. May we honor our Blessed Mother, who first received Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, and then gave Him to us all.