College Chaplain Reflection – April 28, 2016

April 27, 2016

We are hearing a lot about the commandment to love in our Sunday Gospels at the moment, which can only ever be a good thing. I know I certainly need reminding.

Jesus thankfully not only spoke of love but also embodied love. His disciples observed his openness to the other person and his readiness to seek out the lost. They saw how he lived only for the good of others and had no regard for his own wants. He was ready to suffer with and for others, drawing on great depths of courage and fortitude in his living out the commandment to love, even to his own death. Untiring compassion. Unconditional generosity. Selfless sacrifice. These are just some of the marks of true love that Jesus showed us.

However we must go further still. All of us would be ready to accept the above as traits of love. But there is something missing still, without which we can never guarantee that we are indeed actually willing the good of the other person. And that trait is Truth. Jesus showed us that love must always be rooted in the Truth of who we are as persons in the Father’s plan.

We must be always on the guard against reducing the Gospel to some vague message that -‘Jesus was nice, and I should be nice too.’ I hate to burst bubbles but Jesus was not very nice, and anyone who has read and prayed with the Gospels will pick up on this very quickly. He was a thorn in the side to many he encountered, a sign of contradiction. He challenged false ideas and faulty wills. He didn’t -‘let things slide’ for the sake of -‘keeping the peace’. There is nothing nice in the title -‘Brood of vipers’ with which he challenged the Scribes and Pharisees-¦ and yet he still spoke it out of love. Yes, he was patient and kind and full of inexhaustible compassion. Yes, he never failed to challenge and correct. Love, he showed us, must be planted in Truth.

Without truth, our efforts towards love can easily collapse into -‘niceness’, which at its root is really self-centredness, a desire to leave alone and be left alone in turn. For example, I might observe someone making choices I know will only lead to hurt and despair in their lives, but I neglect my responsibility to lead them to what is true, not out of a concern for their good, but out of a desire to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation. I just keep my distance and let them be. Jesus’ example shows us that this isn’t love, it isn’t compassion; it is a lack of care for the other person. Love must always be planted in truth. Uprooted from its firm foundation of truth, it is carried away by the shifting winds of our conflicted will.

As we continue to follow Jesus in his commandment to love one another, let us prayer for the wisdom and grace to love as he has shown us.