First, love involves properly using the gift of sexuality. Considering the dismal news in our country - and our church - we need to remember Jesus' teaching. You can sum it up in five words: complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy.* No adult, as far as I know, finds that teaching easy or convenient. It' like the old joke about Moses coming down from the mountain with a long list of rules. The people complain so he goes back for forty days in thunder and lightening. When he comes down he tells the people: The good news is that I got the commandments whittled down to ten. The bad news - it still has the one about adultery.
For sure Jesus' teaching on sexuality is not easy - and we keep looking for loopholes. Almost everyone falls in some way but it keeps coming back to this: complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. This teaching is demanding - as are most things that bring human flourishing. The latest issue of Columbia (the magazine all our Knights receive) has a good article about a young man in college who discovers the positive meaning of chastity: read the article and pass it on to a young person in your family.
Now while we recognize the difficulty of living the teaching on sexuality, Paul has something even tougher. It's the second aspect of Christ's love: Remove "all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling..." Those things, says Paul, grieve the Holy Spirit. You can almost hear the gentle Spirit of God weeping as he witnesses things going on in our homes or social media. In our parish we offer a monthly Mass for the end to domestic violence. That will happen only when we remove bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling - that is, verbal attacks. Easier said than done. We need God's help.
This brings us to the third and most difficult aspect of love. Paul says to forgive one another as God has forgiven us in Christ. Regarding forgiveness many people fool themselves. They blithely talk about how they forgive everyone and don't hold grudges. I remember a guy telling me how lucky he is because he quickly forgets offenses. In the same conversation he started talking about something a person had done to him years ago. I knew it was coming because he had been gnawing that bone for a long time.
We all hold hurts. Sometimes a person will tell me he gets distracted when he prays.
What kind of distraction? I ask.
"Well, I start thinking about what this jerk did to me. And he was supposed to be some kind of Christian. I saw him for the louse he really is."
That's not a distraction. It's God saying, "Forgive as I have forgiven you in Christ."
"Well, what he did was unforgivable".
God replies, "So was what you did. That's why I sent Jesus. That's why you need his blood."
I'm not saying to tolerate abuse. Still, no important relationship can survive without forgiveness: siblings, close friends, parishioners, marriage. Live in love as Christ loved us. Not easy. To sum up:
1) Complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy.
2) Remove "all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling..."
3) Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ.
Next Sunday we will have a nice opportunity to put God's love in action as we have our annual outdoor Mass and picnic. It's a good moment to invite people who have distanced themselves. Whatever the reason I believe Sister Barbara will help them return. At 1 pm next Sunday we will dedicate a memorial to her. At the Mass St. Paul will tell us to give thanks always and for everything. Or as Sister Barbara would say, "God is good. He is so very good." That's for next Sunday. For today take home this message: Live in love as Christ loved us. Amen.