love one another

Arnaud_Beltrame

Love And Sacrifice – Fr. David

Arnaud_Beltrame

6th Sunday of Easter – Year B

Fr. David Reitzel

Preached: Sunday May 6, 2018

When I was in younger and just starting to take my faith more seriously, I remember once complaining to a friend about how easy we Catholics have things. I thought, look at those Muslims, they put us to shame. They pray five times a day, they fast from sunrise to sunset during the season or Ramadan, and they can’t even drink.

Or look at the orthodox Jews. They wear special clothes, they ritually wash themselves before meals, and every Sabbath they dedicate the whole day not just one hour to God. I complained, that these guys know what dedication is, these guys know what a life lived following God’s commands is, and we Catholics, what are we supposed to do? Love. It’s too easy, it’s too simple, just love and you get to heaven.

In the midst of my rant, inspired by my youth and misplaced zeal, my friend pointed out to me that Jesus’ commandment for us to love isn’t what most people think. Most think love is a good feeling, a smiling face, or a gentle word. If that’s all Jesus meant then, of course our faith would be easy. But Jesus said: “love one another as I have loved you.” He made himself the standard by which we measure our love. And the standard he set was set pretty high. You see Jesus gave his disciples the commandment to love as he loves at the last supper, on Holy Thursday, and the next day, Good Friday, he died for them.

The way Jesus loved, far from a feeling, far from a simple kind work, the way Jesus loved, was to die so that we may live. And that is the love we must live up to.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Some of us may think that this is not very realistic. Will I ever be called upon to lay down my life for my friend?

Well, it was just this past Palm Sunday that one of our Catholic brothers in France did just that. Lt. Col Arnaud Beltrame, a young man who was just recently married, arrived on the scene of a terrorist hostage taking in France. The Muslim terrorist had already killed two people and now they barricaded themselves into a supermarket with hostages. Lt. Col Arnaud, offered to take the place of one of the hostages. The terrorists agreed and he was now in their hands. Near the end of the day the police stormed the supermarket but before they could save Lt. Col Arnaud, the terrorists stabbed him and later in the hospital he died of his wounds.

Lt. Col Arnaud did something heroic that day when he took the place of a hostage, giving his life for hers. When he woke up that day he did not know that he would be called to lay down his life, but when it came, he was ready. He was a faithful catholic who practiced regularly with his wife. His courage and strength would have come from the command and example of Jesus Christ who laid down his life for us. I wonder if he heard Jesus’ words as he contemplated sacrificing his life, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Whether he did or not, he fulfilled the commandment, and today we pray he has received his reward.

We are called to follow the same commandment as Lt Col. Arnaud, if the situation should ever come.  Would you be willing? Would you be ready? Would you be able to what he did, love how Jesus loved, and lay down your life for your friends? If you don’t know the answer to that question, don’t worry, because I don’t think I can answer with certainty myself. The point is not that we are ready right now, the point is that we live our lives aiming for that as a goal. We live our lives as if we would be ready to lay them down. And if day in and day out we sacrifice for others little by little then, we approach that goal of being able to lay down our lives for our friends.

When I was younger I thought that Catholics had it easy because we didn’t have as many rules as other religions, but through a friend I came to realise that we are called to something even higher, to lay down our lives for our friends. It isn’t easy, it isn’t simple, but the pathway to heaven never is.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

 

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