Wow, friends. The readings today are gold, are they not? If only we could find the courage to live as they describe in every moment, we’d find the fulfillment of the Kingdom. They speak so well for themselves that I can only paraphrase here what I take from them.
I love the first reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It’s one of my favorites for weddings. It is a prescription for rich, loving family life, a recipe for healthy community. The members of this community are, first of all, beloved of God. All other descriptions of them fall within that belovedness: compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, forgiving, loving, peaceful, unified, wise, and grateful. As Christians, we embody these adjectives in our daily interactions and choices when we “let the word of Christ dwells in us richly.” We follow that up by singing psalm 150 together in praise and gratitude, in reality! We practice in ritual what Paul has preached, if only for a moment. Let’s hope we can carry that practice forward.
The Gospel acclamation verse ties together Jesus’ and Paul’s instructions for the practical application of love in daily life. “If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.” In the reading from Luke, Jesus gives us seemingly easy instructions. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Love your enemies and do good to them.” Be merciful like God, who is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” These things are easy to say but difficult to enact, especially without love.
I find myself skeptical of Jesus’ instruction to “give to everyone who asks of you.” St. Ignatius would have put it, “Give, and do not count the cost.” My natural inclination to do just that is one of the reasons I got into ministry and enjoy it. As those of us working in ministry are often reminded, however, the cost is burnout. Burnout doesn’t glorify God. Burnout leaves me unable to be generous. (St. Ignatius knew that, too.) I wish Jesus had mirrored that line by saying, “Receive care with gratitude,” which is just as important for healthy community.
Jesus asks us to stop thinking of our daily interactions as business exchanges and start acting out of love. He asks us to stop judging, condemning, holding grudges, and holding back generosity not as a quid-pro-quo, but because we are beloved of God. A quote often attributed to Mother Theresa says, “In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” If we realize God’s love for us in an all-encompassing way, we won’t need to exchange our kindness for others’. We will be free live generously, as those who have received love well. Love received spills over, and lovers are generous to those beloved.