Remember the two great commandments: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself? In today’s Gospel Jesus changed the 2nd one to: “Love each other just as I have loved you.” Jesus loves us with the ultimate love, agape love, unconditional love. As we all know, love is a special and complicated emotion which is difficult to understand. Although many people believe that it revolves around the heart, it actually occurs in the brain which generates chemical signals to experience love. In the English language we know that emotion only as the word Love but in the ancient Greek there are four terms for love, namely
eros: passionate and intense love that arouses romantic feelings, emotional and sexual love;
storge: family and friendship love like the love parents have for their children and members of the family have for each other;
phileo: affectionate, warm and tender platonic love, desiring friendship with someone; and finally agape.
Agape love: an unconditional love which sees beyond the outer surface and accepts the recipient for who they are regardless of their flaws, shortcomings or faults. That is the kind of love God has for each of us and the kind of love the apostles experienced.
Because of the love Jesus had for them, as we heard in today’s reading from Acts, they were willing to travel and evangelize extensively and were as well were to suffer to the point of being willing to die in order to spread Jesus’ message of agape love.
St. Francis of Assisi did the same thing and said only use words if necessary. There are many examples of people who did just that. A great example of doing that is Catherine Lawes who in 1921 was the wife of the warden at Sing-Sing prison in New York State, the toughest prison at that time. She was instrumental in helping her husband transform the prison into a humanitarian institution. Over the objections of many people she did her part by taking her 3 children into the prison gym, sitting with the prisoners in the bleachers watched the first prison basketball game held there. Her attitude was, “My husband and I are taking care of these men and I believe they will take care of me! I am convinced that I don’t have to worry.” Subsequently she became acquainted with the am prisoners and their records, and was able to teach a blind prisoner who was a convicted murderer, to read via Braille and as well helped a deaf prisoner learn to communicate use sign language. Many people said that she was the body of Jesus that came alive in Sing-Sing from 1921 to 1937. She was killed in a car accident away from the prison in 1937 and a large crowd of the hardest looking criminals went outside the prison walls without a guard and walked ¾ of a mile to pay final respect to her. Every one of them checked back in. They had learned the commandment of agape love as practiced by Catherine.
How can we individually spread Jesus message of agape love as Catherine did?
- First step: Let’s learn to love ourselves with agape love so we may learn to love each other.
- Second: Let’s learn to love others with agape love in our daily lives.
- Third: demonstrate our agape love for others in our daily lives.
In demonstrating our agape love it is always necessary that we remember a couple other things: that we cannot know the essence of agape love until we can love another, not because they deserve love, but simply because they exist and that having a Christian name or wearing a cross of crucifix will not make us Christians unless we practice the new commandment of love which Jesus gave us.
Love others as Jesus loves us.