Gospel: Matthew 11: 25-30
The heart has always been a symbol of love, just think of all the hearts that are seen each year on Valentine’s Day, or in engagement and wedding announcements. The heart sums up the depth of a love relationship. It is no wonder that this image is used to depict our relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus is a love relationship. This is told to us with eloquence, simplicity and depth in the three letters of John. In his first letter John reminds us several times of the reality of God’s love. John tells us that love is of God and central to our relationship with him even to the point that if someone is without love they do not know God. God is love and to be without love is to be without knowledge of God.
Once John establishes that God is love he moves to the next truth of our relationship with God. God’s love is not a reward to us because we love God, but rather it is God who loves us first. God initiates the relationship with us at great cost. It is the love of God that moved him to send his son Jesus into the world and die for us so that our sins would be forgiven. This echoes the popular verse in the Gospel of John “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son….so that we might have life.” (Jn 3:16) We are called to accept the love of God and to allow this to fill us and transform our lives. The person who recognizes that God is love, and who receives this love has a different view of themselves and of the world around us. If we are loved by God, we should be able to see and appreciate who we are, and ultimately to have a healthy love of ourselves. This is a love that should lead us to let go of negativity, self-hatred and a lack of self-confidence. For being able to acknowledge that God is love and his love is freely given us leaves no room for attitudes that go against this.
The final part of John’s teaching in this reading is on how to achieve perfection. This teaching follows from the first two of identifying God as love, and receiving God’s love. These two are beautiful and might challenge us in some way to shift our world view from our self-centeredness to that of being God centered. This shift takes prayer and surrender on our part. This third step, however, can be much more challenging. It is that if we truly believe that we are loved by God, then we must love one another. This is a shift from accepting the infinite, unconditional and perfect love of God, and extending it from our finite, imperfect lives that tend to be cluttered with conditions. But it is necessary to take on this challenge and grounded in God’s love to move to imitate God’s love in the way we look at and treat others. May we begin to imitate the love God has for us in our lives. This will most likely take humility, work and a lot of prayer. But it is worth it if we truly want to strive for the perfection that John writes about.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus gives us the beautiful image to help us visualize and accept the beauty and greatness of God’s love. May this image help us to deepen our relationship with God, and to share the beauty of it in the way we love one another.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.