The Meaning of Love

Today’s readings speak of something that we all search for: love. More specifically of God’s love for us. The word “love” is often overused in our conversations today. So much so that it’s lost its true meaning. How often do we hear phrases such as: “I absolutely love that new restaurant” OR “I love what you did with this place.” And then there’s the goodbye wish – “Love ya!”

We casually associate the word love with so many things that it becomes difficult to understand what it truly means to love someone. Fortunately, God helps us appreciate of the meaning of love through His Word and in the many living examples He has given to the world.

Have you ever attended a sporting event, or watched one on TV, and saw some guy in the crowd holding a big blue and yellow sign that read: John 3:16? Ever wonder about that Scripture passage? It refers to the depth of God’s love that He freely gives to us. We just heard that passage a few minutes ago in the acclamation before the Gospel. Listen to it again: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.”

That’s the true meaning of love…when you give yourself totally for the benefit of others. The verse from St. John tells us God’s love is universal. It’s given to the world – to everyone – unconditionally through his son, Jesus. The depth of His love inspires us, shapes us, has the power to forgive us and save us.

In the reading from Wisdom, we heard that God loves all things and hates nothing He has made. His love is in all things – especially in us, His creations. His love made us good and makes us holy! It helps us become the person we were created to be.

The familiar Gospel story of Zacchaeus affirms the truth that everyone is loved by Our Lord and is holy in their own right. It reminds us that Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost. He came looking for us, His “holy sinners” like Zacchaeus.

Listening to how Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to get a better look at Jesus, I had a flashback to last year’s Papal visit. Just like Zacchaeus, thousands of people were maneuvering to get a better look at the Pope, the Vicar of Jesus, as he passed by. Try as you might, all the elbowing to get at better look at the Pope, didn’t make us any more visible to either him or God. But it didn’t matter because they already knew why we were there.

When we finally got a glimpse of his Holiness, something wonderful happened. God’s love suddenly became more meaningful to us. We saw and felt the love that radiated from God’s gift of his Son to the world. And, somehow, that love touched us and transformed us…just as it did Zacchaeus. That’s the power of God’s boundless love. It brings out the holiness he created in us as it draws us closer to Him and our neighbor.

As part of this Year of Mercy, you may have noticed the short profiles added under each Station of the Cross. These profiles are of ordinary people who have been touched by God’s love and shared the joy of that love with others in need.

At the First Station Jozef De Veuster is profiled. We know him as St. Damian of Molokai. His work in caring for the lepers of that Hawaiian island brought God’s love to the sick and dying who were afflicted with that disease. At the Eighth Station, we read of St. John Bosco, a tireless educator, who taught our faith and the love of God to young children and troubled youth.

And, as Philadelphians, we all know the story of St. Katherine Drexel that’s posted beneath the Ninth Station. A millionaire heiress from a wealthy family, she selflessly dedicated her life and her wealth to helping American Indian and African-American populations in this country; caring for both their spiritual and physical needs.

These saints were “normal people”, just like every one of us here today. They didn’t set out to be a saint. They never thought of themselves as holy. Yet they were moved by God’s love for them in a way that compelled them to share it with others…mostly by just being a good person.

As I look out here today, I’m sure God’s love has created some saints among us, even if we don’t recognize who they are.

This week, let the holiness in you overcome the sinner. Follow the example of people who knew God’s love and worked to bring it to others:

– Like St. Damien, be a good person to your neighbor in need
– Like St. John Bosco, teach your children the meaning of real love by helping them understand our faith.
– Like St. Katherine Drexel, use your time, talent and the gifts God gave you to help the less fortunate among us. And
– Like Zacchaeus, look for the vantage point that gives you the best view of God’s love in your life.

Above all else, remember that you are holy; and God who created you…loves you so very much.

Who knows, perhaps the next saint to be profiled is you!

God bless you all!