Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Easter 7 - Year B
John 15:9-17

“'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less'."

Words can mean different things when we use them in different contexts.  We love caramel, we love our national anthem, we love our dog Rex, we love the way our small children mispronounce words, we know our parents love us even when we're in a pinch and we find ourselves reassured by the promise of God's love demonstrated and expressed in the Cross of Christ.  Each one of these uses differs from the other.  Some are shown to be real because we sense a sentiment within ourselves which may or may not pass quickly when we grow out of loving something.  Our children grow into surly teenagers. We wish they'd learn to pronounce things properly if they hope to get through a job interview.

The Greek language has different words for love - more than we do in English.  They avoid some of the ambiguity and confusion by having different words for erotic love, love between friends, simple affection and the self-giving love which is Agape.  C.S. Lewis in his book "The Four Loves" describes these different definitions along a line stretching from "need love" at one end of the spectrum to "gift love" on the other.  Love can feed and build up the lover or it can feed and build up the beloved.  Which one is which is important to the children we raise, the man or woman we are married to, the community we serve or to the world which waits for the Church's offering of care and compassion.  Do they serve us or do we serve them?  Confusion here can be dreadful.  The vocation of a parish church within its community can be lost, the fabric of a marriage torn apart or children poorly served by parents when the beloved discovers that he or she was poorly loved and the lover simply replies that he or she could not generate enough feeling or sentiment within themselves.

We learn to love.   We have not all been equally loved in the course of our lives.  Some of us will need to unlearn early experiences.  How we love in our adolescence or early adulthood will be tested and reformulated as we grow older.  Love is tested by the trials of life and above all by the need to make decisions.  The difficult person, the growing child, the normal human to whom we are married, the members of the Christian community into whose presence we have been thrown by our membership in the same parish: all these will require decisions and actions which stem from our will and not merely from the reservoir of sentiment we happen to have at hand at any given moment.  Those around us will grow strong when we choose to love.