I’m looking for volunteers.
What? No one raised their hand.
At the Friday Grade School Mass, I say the word “volunteer”
and every hand in the place immediately goes up.
And not only do they go up, but they express an excitement…
trying to get my attention.
“pick me…pick me….oh, pick me.”
I know. You want information before considering my request.
Maybe you’re suspicious, wary of being embarrassed by one of Msgr. Don’s crazy schemes.
And rightly so. I’ve earned such suspicions.
Anyway….I’m looking for volunteers.
I’m thinking about driving around the neighborhood next week…
with a big speaker on the top of my car…
like the kind they use in sport’s stadiums.
I got the idea when watching a re-run of “The Blue’s Brothers.”
I’m thinking about driving around the neighborhoods in Ft. Wright and Park Hills
announcing “God loves you!”
I want some volunteers to walk along behind the car…
maybe sing some songs,
carry some signs saying “God loves you”….
put an invitation on every door that says
“Come to St. Agnes Church where the love of God can be found.”
(I know. This is why no one raises their hand when I ask for volunteers.)
How many people do you think will accept this invitation…
…arrive next Sunday…take a seat in the back of church of course…
no one wants to sit in the front, especially a visitor?
I don’t think you need to come early next week
and/or be concerned about someone sitting in your pew.
I don’t think many will accept this invitation…and I know why:
the concept of transcendence has lost its significance.
Whatever is beyond what we can see, beyond our ordinary physical human experience,
the metaphysical, that which surpasses the physical, is no longer important.
The question of who were are as human beings
has taken a back seat to what we as human beings can do.
What can we do?
We can dominate and control nature.
We can splice genes. We can alter DNA.
We can resurrect the wooly mammoth from extinction.
We can manipulate molecules.
We can replace nature with technology.
Talking about God, about God’s love, isn’t impressive. It doesn’t capture the imagination.
It doesn’t thrill our human interests. It has little shock value. It isn’t spectacular.
I don’t think many will accept the invitation to come to St. Agnes Church
with the promise of experiencing God’s love.
Why? Because when it comes to love people have become cynical.
When it comes to the promise of love people have become wary, distrustful, reluctant, resistant.
They are tired of being disappointed and disillusioned.
And rightly so.
The have been stung too many times, duped, fooled, scammed.
Their repeated experiences with false love, pseudo-love, counterfeit love,
has brought them to the conclusion that love is nothing more than the force of self-interest.
People are tired of being abused, manipulated, taken advantage of
when it comes to the promise of love.
They have been injured,
scandalized by the absence of true love in those who claim to live with love:
spouses, parents, family members, priests, Christians.
There has been a great deal of liberty taken with the word “love”.
So much so that the word is almost meaningless. It has become cheap, trite.
People doubt the existence of and the power of love.
The sad thing in all this
is that we are created to love. Love is our created purpose.
The Baltimore Catechism said is well “we are made to love God”.
People hunger for love.
And when they don’t find authentic, genuine love
they seek to fill their hunger with any number of substitutes.
Do you know what hell is? It’s the absence of love.
This should concern us.
Not to be a fear monger….but a world without love is doomed,
a family without love is doomed. A marriage without love is doomed.
It should also concern us
because as Catholics, as Christians, our mission, our apostolic calling,
is to win others over to the love of Jesus Christ.
Our words alone won’t do this.
Even our behavior is suspect of selfish motivations.
In today’s gospel Jesus calls his disciples beyond legal rules and humanitarian motives.
Jesus proclaims a new way of living.
He provides a strategy for winning: love.
Don’t be indifferent to evil, to hatred.
Don’t be defensive in the face of evil so as to resort to physical violence and damaging behavior.
But don’t resign either.
Go on the offensive. When you encounter what is evil, don’t morally run away from it.
Face it. Run toward it.
Evil, hatred, violence, animosity, vindictiveness….these come out of a hard heart,
a twisted heart, a dark heart, a poisoned heart.
And the only remedy for such a heart is love.
Only love can bring about the change of heart necessary for salvation.
And it you remember, Jesus was cautious about the effects of his miracles.
He did not want to leave his disciples with the impression
that they had to convince others through miracles.
They were to persuade and convince others to embrace the Gospel through love.
The greatest act as far as Christian discipleship is concerned
is not feeding the poor, or clothing the naked, or sheltering the homeless, or visiting the sick.
The greatest act is loving the poor, loving the helpless, loving the homeless, loving the sick.
When it comes to our Church, when it comes to our land, our country
people want laws. Laws have their place. They protect and sustain order.
The Pharisees wanted laws…and they used laws to measure their faithfulness to God.
When it comes to our Church, our country…. I want love.
This is what Jesus tried to get the Pharisees and scribes to see, to accept.
Our faithfulness to God is measured in and by love, not laws.
By teaching our children laws without teaching them the greater good of love
we make them Pharisees.
Here’s the clincher:
mediocre love won’t do.
Christian love is and needs to be heroic.
And heroes aren’t born. They are made.
The power of the Gospel lies not in words, but in love.
The mystery of Christ is the mystery of love.
Good intentions, without love, are stones that pave the path that leads to Hell.
I’m looking for volunteers.
I’m looking for heroes, Christian heroes,
not to walk around the local neighborhoods
singing songs and carrying signs that say “God loves you.”
I’m looking for volunteers
to learn about love, to re-commit to love,
to embrace love, to live in love,
and to go out into the world,
with all its violence and evil, all its selfishness and greed…
to go out into the world and to love….to love as Jesus loved.
Your task, your mission, is not to win approval, not even to win respect…
your mission and task is not to indulge in satisfying your own interests.
Your mission and task it is to win the hearts of others by loving the hearts of others.
This isn’t so much a matter of doing something different; it’s being something different.
Love isn’t something we do as Christians. It’s something we are. Be a loving person.
Be a hero. Be a champion of love.
Our prayer for today: “O Lord, may my belief in You become belief in the reality and power of love. I open my heart to receive the spirit of Your son Jesus Christ, that I might experience the fullness of love, that I might understand the meaning of love. Help me to trust that love is the answer, that love in the antidote to what poisons the human heart. Grant me the courage to live in faith by being love in the midst of evil, by being a light shining in the darkness. Amen!”