There was a priest who gave exactly the same homily three weeks in a row. The first time the parishioners commented how much they liked it. The second time, although they were certain it was the same homily he had given the week before, the people let it pass. The third time a parishioner finally got up the courage and said to the priest, “Father, that was a very good homily but you have given it three weeks in a row.” The priest responded, “I know I have, but from the way you have been acting you obviously didn’t hear it.”
When John the Evangelist was a very old man it is said he gave only one homily with three words, “Love one another.” This homily, of course, was based on the words of Jesus who says, “A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another” (John 13:31-35). We have heard the command of Jesus to love one another many times. Perhaps we have heard the words so often and have sat through so many homilies about loving others that the words, “Love one another” have lost their real power. Or, when we hear the words, maybe all they do is remind us of how difficult it is at times to love others. How can I love when I am so tired? How can I love when I have been hurt so many times? How can I love when nobody does anything for me? How can I love when my efforts are not noticed? How can I love when it really does not seem to make a difference?
Yes, loving others is a challenge. At the same time, the words, “love one another” are a reminder of our uniqueness as human beings. We are the only creatures that truly have the capacity to love in the first place. While efforts to love can lead to hurt and disappointment, love can also heal, empower and transform. What we believe about love is what we get. If we mostly mistrust the power of love, we will grow cynical, discouraged and disheartened. If we believe that love truly can make things different, we will become hopeful, confident and courageous.
We are disciples of the greatest Love the world has ever known. That can never be repeated too many times.
Together in faith,
The Most Rev. Christopher Smith, rector