What is love? It’s mentioned nine times in the second reading this Sunday, eight times in the Gospel. What is it?
My best definition of love comes from the last episode of ‘Sex & The City’. Miranda, one of the four stars, marries Steve and moves out of the city to Brooklyn. Steve’s mother, who has dementia, moves in. One day she wanders off and is found rooting in rubbish bins. Miranda brings her home and the next thing we see is their child minder observe Miranda bathing her mother-in-law in the bath. And the child-minder says: “Now that’s love, that’s real love”.
You see, love is a thing you do.
St John, who wrote both the second reading and Gospel, believed love was all that mattered and that love is an action, more than talk.
Two instances from his Gospel:
At the Last Supper in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus takes bread and shares it, says “This is my Body”, “This is my Blood”. Not in John’s Gospel though — the central incident at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel is the Washing of Feet. Love is a thing you do.
And you remember how Peter denied Jesus three times — well, in John’s Gospel, he’s given a chance to repair the damage, but in terms of love. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”, asks Jesus of him, three times. Because love is all that counts.
You see the same in today’s Gospel, where Jesus speaks about love, then covers other subjects, how we are to be friends of Jesus not servants, how we are to go our and bear fruit etc, but the Gospel is still wrapped up with the solemn command: “What I command you is to love one another”. There’s no getting away from it.
To show love is to be a true believer. To fail to show love is to sin.
Love is driving down the road on a day when it’s lashing rain and seeing a car pulled in with a flat tyre, and knowing if you stop you’ll get soaked too, and realising that the person with the flat tyre mightn’t thank you, and mightn’t do the same for you — but love is doing it anyway. Love is a thing you do.
Jesus says: “What I command you is to love one another”.
Fr Bernard Cotter preached this homily on 1 John 4:7-10 and John 15:9-17 at Newcestown and Farnivane on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 9/10 May 2015.