From the Pastor – April 24, 2016

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jn 13:33a, 34-35)

The Gospel of John could be called the “Gospel of Love.”  It condenses the stories about Christ into one succinct passage in the third chapter, the verse seen often on signs at football games:  John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  It gives us the reason and purpose of the first coming of Christ.  He came because God loves us, and He came to give us eternal life in His love.

The word “love” that is frequently used in John’s Gospel is “agape.” It’s a word that is rarely found in ancient writings, but it is found extensively in the New Testament and among early Christians writers.  In fact, it was specifically used to describe the love that comes from God rather than simple “friendships” among humans.  When John says that “God is love,” (1 Jn 4:8) he used the word “agape,” which came to mean that love that was revealed on the cross when Christ gave Himself for all humanity. When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, He said, “Love (agape) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. …  Love (agape) your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37,39)

Since that time, spiritual writers have used “agape” love (generally rendered as “charity” in English) to mean a selfless love that is passionately committed to the good of another.  It is a form of love that is unconditional and voluntary.  And it is a love that has characterized the Catholic Church since Christ established it.  And it perdures to the present day in a myriad of ways.  Most people don’t realize it, but the Catholic Church is the largest charity in the world.  Our Church is made up of people of every race in the world: young and old, rich and poor, sinners and saints.  We run more hospitals, orphanages, relief efforts, schools, clinics than any other charitable organization in the world.  And why?  It’s because of that “agape.”  We love.

You might remember a “schmaltzy” song we sometimes sang at Mass in the 1970’s: “They Will Know We are Christians By Our Love.”  It wasn’t a great song, but the thought dates back to the 2nd century author Tertullian.  He remarked how Christian love attracted pagan converts: “What marks us in the eyes of our enemies is our loving kindness. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another.’”

Upon the steeple of our church is a large golden cross.  Let us remember the love that it represents, and let us pass that love to all who gather under it – especially those most in need of our love.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty