Homily: Love is an Action

May 21, 2017 – Sixth Sunday of Easter

The following is a homily I will deliver today at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:

Carol and I celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary today. We work with quite a few engaged couples and they often ask, “What’s the secret to a successful marriage?”

I imagine what they expect to hear is a Top Ten list that includes things like: Date nights, notes under pillows, breakfast in bed, foot massages, and surprise gifts. These are all wonderful things, and I’m sure Carol would be in favor of receiving all of them on a regular basis. However, when asked, “What’s the secret to a successful marriage,” my response does not include the items on that list.

My answer is simple: “Love your spouse.

The answer is simple. The day-to-day reality is challenging.

With my call to the vocation of marriage came the obligation to love Carol. That means waking up each day and making the commitment to love her that day. It is a part of my morning prayer.

How is that challenging?

We may have had a disagreement the night before. I might not even like her much that day, but I still need to commit to loving her.

Her annoying habits may be particularly annoying on a given day, but I committed to loving her, and her annoying habits are part of the deal.

I may be dealing with the stresses of a busy life and trying my best to keep all of the balls I’m juggling in the air, but I still need to commit daily to making her a priority.

Each day Carol commits to loving me, and I know that is challenging. She is dealing with my annoying habits and her stressful life, too, and loving me in spite of them.

Love is not an emotion. Love is a decision. Love is an action.

The answer is simple: “Love your spouse.” Doing the required work is challenging.

**********

While you may appreciate this tutorial on marriage, you may also be wondering what this has to do with today’s readings.

I believe we tend to overcomplicate the Word of God. Doing the required work of God is challenging enough; we should do our best to keep the message simple.

We are currently six weeks into the Easter season. We have been hearing messages of joy and hope in the resurrection.

However, as we head into these final two weeks of the Easter season, we will gradually notice a new message beginning to evolve. In today’s scripture readings and in those we will hear over the next few weeks, there is a simple, yet definitive, call to action.

For instance, next Sunday the Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord. Jesus was taken up into heaven as stunned disciples looked on. Two men in white garments suddenly appeared and said, “Why are you looking up at the sky?” In other words, “Don’t just stand there – get busy!”

The following Sunday, we will celebrate Pentecost. The disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Their doors were unlocked, their fear was gone, and they went out to spread the Good News – again a “get busy” theme.

There are people that are hungry for the Word of God, that need to have their faith strengthened and affirmed. The creed we will profess in a few minutes makes our responsibility clear. We say, I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

One Church – the message of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The word catholic in the creed is not the capital ‘C’ Catholic, meaning us here today – it is the lower case ‘c’ which means universal. The message of Jesus Christ is not limited to those inside the walls of this building.

We are an apostolic Church. This is not merely because it was founded by and built upon the work of the original twelve, but also because the word apostle means “one who is sent.” An apostolic church is one whose members are sent out to spread the gospel message.

If we truly believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, we accept the obligation to carry the Word of God out to the world.

The message is simple, doing the work is challenging.

The groundwork for this call to action is set with today’s readings. We get a glimpse into three different strategies for carrying out this challenging work.

In the first reading, Philip takes a head-on approach when doing the work of the Church in Samaria. It should be noted how heroic this was. The Samaritans were not of pure Jewish blood, and were considered “unclean” and to be avoided. However, in Samaria, as is the case in much of the world today, people were hungry for the Word of God. They took it all in.

In the first reading we heard: With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said when they heard it…and there was great joy in that city.

Philip had so much success with his direct evangelization that he had to call for backup. It calls to mind the line from the movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”

Some among you may be like Philip – bold and heroic, willing to stand in the middle of the courtyard and proclaim the Good News to whoever will listen.

Many of us are not like Philip, but may be able to do as Peter suggested in his letter. In the second reading, he wrote: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.

We may lack the boldness of Philip, but if we study our faith and wear it on our sleeve it may stir something in others who are hungry and searching. Seeing the confidence we have in our faith may lead them to ask us questions. Those questions then give us the opportunity to share our beliefs and explain the cause for our joy and our hope.

The third strategy for doing God’s work comes directly from Jesus. In John’s gospel, Jesus said: If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father.

Which brings us full circle back to my marriage advice.

What is the secret to a successful marriage? Love your spouse.

What is the secret to a successful faith life? Love God.  

That means waking up each day and making the commitment to love God that day.

The answer is simple. Doing the required work, regardless of the strategy you choose, is challenging.

Love is not an emotion. Love is a decision. Love is an action.

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