6th Sunday of Easter 2006
FAQS: Do you know what that means? It’s not too hard to decode. It’s Frequently Asked Question. Do you know what one of the FAQ’s I’ve been asked over the past few years? Have you read the DaVinci Code? Yes. Did you like it? Yes, with reservations. What do you think about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and having a child? HMM
New FAQ. Have you seen the movie, the DaVinci Code? Yes, on opening day. Did you like it? Not really, It was so long and the plot seems even more implausible when you see it on the screen. What do you think about Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married and having a child? Hmmm.
Actually, while I was watching the film, words like “Bizarre, preposterous, absurd” came so often to my lips that the person I was with had to tell me to be quiet. But afterwards, I had to admit that the question that came up for me was “How did Jesus love?” Was the way in which Jesus loved always universal; he loved everyone equally, even his enemies or was his love sometimes for one person, like a Mary Magdalene or the one who is called “the beloved disciple in John’s gospel” As we hear from the evangelist john in his description of the last supper, (not davinci’s version) “one of the disciples- the one whom Jesus loved- was reclining next to him”. (In DaVinci’s Last supper there sitting at a table not reclining as was the middle eastern custom.)
How did Jesus experience love? Did Jesus’ heart leap for joy when he saw someone whose company he loved and cherished like a Mary or Martha or Lazarus? What kind of ‘lover” was Jesus? (I once received a letter from someone who was outraged when I described Jesus as a lover. For this person the word “lover” had a single meaning, only associated with physical intimacy. Has the word “lover” been so co-opted by culture that it has only one meaning? I hope not.
Since we believe that Jesus was like us in all things but sin, can we imagine Jesus’ “falling in love”. Isn’t that one of the most common human experiences that we share: “falling in love”, being drawn out of ourselves into the universe of the beloved. And would that experience of “falling in love” have opened Jesus up to the infinite possibilities of love; of giving himself totally, selflessly, and embracing the power of love in the universe. Or was Jesus’ first experience of falling in love that of “falling in love with God”, of knowing how unconditionally he was loved by the one he would call “Abba”, Father? So much so that this love opened him to the possibility of loving each and every person with a knowledge and intimacy that is almost unimaginable.
Of course I have no more knowledge of the interior life of Jesus than Dan Brown does. But I wonder if our scriptures today don’t ask us to reflect deeply on our experience of loving and being loved.
The scriptures today use the word “love” freely, perhaps more than any other Sunday of the year. Did you count how many times? 18 I counted. Do they tell us something that we need to hear about the way God loves, the way Jesus loves, the way we must love.
St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises refers to God as “lover.” In his meditation on attaining God’s love he describes the many ways in which God loves each person. He begins with two preludes. 1. love shows itself in actions more than words. 2. It is the nature of love to be self-less. Sharing with the beloved what he or she has or is. Ignatius goes on to show how God models what it is to love. God holds nothing back, but gives unreservedly, expecting nothing in return.
Jesus is the perfect embodiment of God’s love in the world. Jesus shows by his actions the love he bears for his disciples and for all. “No greater love than laying down one’s life for one’s friends” Jesus models for us what it means to love unreservedly.
And what about ourselves? Let’s be honest. So often our own need to be loved, affirmed, to be the center of another’s attention, becomes an obstacle for loving as freely and generously as Jesus did. How do we find the freedom to love as selflessly as possible? Perhaps if we touch within ourselves the divine love, the presence of the Holy Spirit, we might become more of who we are called to be as children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.
Another FAQ: What is the meaning of life? We hear it today: love one another as I have loved you.