“We become like that which we love. If we love what is base, we become base; but if we love what is noble, we become noble.” This quote comes from the servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “We become like that which we love.” In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a beautiful teaching on love, or charity. When we speak about love we can also use the word charity. Charity is often better because as Americans we are trained to think that love is really sentimentalism, love is tolerance, love is understood as a shallow and immature kind of “I’m okay you’re ok” sentimentalism. Authentic love and charity isn’t sentimentalism, it isn’t a thing, and it isn’t just a concept. Our faith tells us that love is a person; charity is incarnate in the person of our Jesus Christ. It’s Jesus Christ, love itself who tells us today, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we follow this commandment to love each other and love God with all our heart, mind and soul, we indeed become like that which we love: we become more like Jesus Christ, more like God. This is the end, aim and purpose of our spiritual lives, that we become more Christ-like, that we grow in our capacity to love, that we decrease so Christ can increase in our souls.
In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we hear that as Paul and Barnabas were spreading the Good News of the Gospel they give the other disciples some advice from their own evangelizing experience: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” We know this to be true as well, for if we really live out our faith and boldly proclaim the truths of the Gospel we are guaranteed to undergo difficulties and hardships. These hardships could be people not liking us because of what we believe, or maybe it means people mocking us because of the teachings of our Church guided by Jesus Christ. But when this happens, we’re in good company, because these same hardships we faced by Paul and Barnabas and many of the saints, and ultimately by our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified for witnessing and proclaiming without apology the truth about who He is. Jesus Christ is our example of love, for in the midst of the hardship of the Cross, and even as He’s being nailed to that Cross, what do we see? Love. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We show our love for God by going to Mass every Sunday and by praying every day. We show our love for God by being charitable in our speech and in our actions. We show our love for God by allowing His grace to transform us through the Sacraments. We express our love for others by striving to see Christ in them. The challenge for us is that while we will face hardships for the sake of the Gospel of love, we often times want the easy way out. We want a faith that is easy and not hard. We want a Church that is convenient and says you are fine no matter how you live, as long as it makes you happy, instead of a Church that challenges us for moral excellence. While we often try to avoid the Cross because it’s hard, the Passion, Death, and resurrection of Jesus shows that the Cross is the very instrument of our salvation, our embrace of the Cross is a sign of our love. If we wanted it to be easy we shouldn’t have become Christians. Easter shows us that there is no joyous Resurrection without the loving embrace of that heavy Cross.
A beautiful scene from the movie “The Passion of the Christ” is when Jesus is on the way of the Cross and bruised and beaten, He falls. Mary, the mother of Jesus, runs over to Jesus as He lay on the ground in pain, with the heavy Cross on his shoulders. The Blessed Mother of course looks distressed seeing her Son’s pain, but as Jesus rises from the ground He looks deep within her eyes and offers a word of hope as He says, “Behold, I make all things new.” He then stands up, picks up His Cross and continues on the way of the Cross. We hear that phrase from the Book of Revelation today in our second reading: “Behold, I make all things new.” The Paschal Mystery, Jesus’ Passion, death and Resurrection has indeed made all things new. Jesus has made us into a new creation and given us an example of how we are supposed to love. By emptying ourselves and serving others we too live out authentic charity.
We become like that which we love. When Jesus first visited His Disciples after His Resurrection He showed them the wounds on His hands, as if to say, “See how much I love you.” This Easter season we continue to celebrate the wonderful truth that Jesus rising from the dead shows us how much God loves us. Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead means that God has saved us from our sins, the gates of Heaven have been thrown open to the faithful, and we are offered God’s radiant and life giving grace in the midst of the Church. By loving God we become more like God, which means we become people of life, truth, joy, goodness, mercy and forgiveness – by loving God we become a people of love. Regardless of the hardships that we face for the sake of the Gospel, let us be open to how God can make us new through His grace, so that we become like that which we love, to be transformed more and more into the holy image of Jesus Christ.