6th Sunday of Easter  
Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; Gospel John 10:11-18
“Unconditional Love” – What kind of love do we have? 

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 6 May 2018

In today’s Gospel, Jesus very clearly proclaimed to His disciples and to us, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you.  Remain in My Love.  If you keep my Commandments you will remain in My Love . . . and your joy will be complete. This is My Commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.  A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends.” 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us first note that the “Love” that Jesus speaks of and proclaims is an unconditional love; it is a sacrificial love.  Jesus witnessed to such love through freely embracing His suffering and willingly died a cruel deal, all for our sake and Salvation.  As such, as disciples of Jesus, you and I are called to love like Jesus without limits and boundaries.  Is this possible?  Are we willing to live such a sacrificial love?

While we call ourselves “disciples of Christ,” and try to love unconditionally, we often find ourselves failing to love as we ought to love . . . For many of us, we confess the same sins over and over again, even though after each Confession we promise Jesus that we ill try to be a better person. 

There is a story of Jane a blind girl who had a boyfriend John who loved her very much. The Jane hated herself and everyone around, just because she was blind.  One day John asked Jane to marry him.  Jane then thought about the proposal very carefully for some days and eventually responded, “If I could see you, and see you and see the world, I would marry you“. 

One day someone donated a pair of eyes to Jane and after the operation Jane could see everything and was so happy at the success of the operation.  However, when Jane eventually saw John, she was shocked to find that actually John is blind.  John, then asked Jane, “Jane, my dear, would you marry me, now that you can see me and what the world is like?”  Jane paused and after a few days, broke John’s heart by saying, “Sorry, my dear, I can only marry someone who can see me and my beauty.”  John was deeply saddened and Jane left him, to enjoy the world that she could now see. 

Several days later, John sent a note to Jane, “Jane, my dear, I still love you, even though you may not love me anymore because I am blind, and cannot appreciate your beauty, the truth is that I am blind because the eyes that you now have are mine; I was never blind before, but because I love you so much, I chose to let you have my eyes, so that you can see instead of me . . . However, sadly Jane was too self-centred to see the deep and unconditional love John has for her. 

My sisters and brothers is Christ, while it is true that we find ourselves falling short and failing to love as unconditionally as Jesus has shown us, let us also not forget that Jesus is aware of our weaknesses and sinfulness, and thus, our habitual and continuous sinful living. 

In many ways, John’s love for Jane was like the unconditional love that Jesus has for you and for me.  Jesus continues to love us totally and unconditionally, and yet very often we respond to Jesus’ Love, in ways that are similar to Jane’s response to John’s love for her.  We so often take Jesus’ love for granted.  Jane’s new sight was because of John’s unconditional love for her.  Likewise, the gift of faith and the unfailing compassionate love and mercy that Jesus shows us daily is like having the “new sight” to live daily.  All that Jesus is asking of you and of me is to know and appreciate that He does not condemn us, even as we continue to fail to love Him as we ought to. 

Like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the loving father, who represents God our Father, even as his heart was deeply saddened by his younger son’s freedom to choose to do wrong, He waits in hope that one day his son would repent and return to him.  Such unconditional love is a deep love that dares to trust, even though the pain is immense.  Likewise, we can see in our story that John does not condemn Jane for her decision; his love for her is unconditional, and he would rather not impose his love on Jane.  In his deep love for her, he can only continue to long for the day that Jane would experience a conversion of heart and return to him.  

My brothers and sisters in Christ, there is no “perfect love” in any human person; we are all sinners.  As such, let us not be discouraged, if we like Jane are not able to appreciate and value fully the unconditional love that Jesus has shown us and continue to show us daily.  Saints are often described as sinners who kept on trying to love Jesus as much as they can.

Let us be consoled that if we want to live in the holiness of God’s Will and obey His Commandments, and remain in Jesus’ Love, as He proclaimed to us in today’s Gospel, then be assured that Jesus will always give us the divine strength that we need.  He never abandons us, and like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, He will daily wait in hope for our return, and as John waits patiently for Jane to respond to his love for her.  Ultimately, it is in the sincere trying to love one another, that the saints were able to gradually experience the increasing “complete joy” that Jesus promised them. 

Recently, one of my old classmates, Jack, (not his real name), shared that when, he handed his daughter to her in-laws during the marriage celebration, he told them, “I am really so sorry to say that my daughter actually does not know how to cook, or wash or clean the house or any house work.  Throughout her life, everything has been done for her by the maid and mother.  So, I will hope you will excuse her if she does not help out in your house.  The paused for a moment and then said, “Well, ur . . . it’s okay. . . our maids will take care of everything in the home.”  Then, Jack’s wife remark, “Jack, why were you tearing when you were walking our daughter down the aisle?”  To that Jack replied, “I was a bit worried for our daughter . . . and thought to myself, what if they bully her . . . and ask her to do house work?!  So how?!” 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, as I conclude, let us remember that the unconditional love that Jesus proclaimed in today’s Gospel is a “sacrificial love”; a love that is willing to make all the sacrifices that are needed for the good of others and for the Greater Glory of God.  However, Jack’s love for his daughter is not the “unconditional love” that Jesus speaks of.  Jack and his wife had simply spoiled her daughter.  Their daughter who is now married is probably too immature to face the challenges of married life. 

Even as Jesus continues to love us unconditionally and is infinitely patient and compassionate with us, let us too be reminded that the “unconditional love that Jesus wants us to live is the “sacrificial love” of the Cross that He has shown us, and not the “spoilt and immature love” of Jack’s daughter. 

The greatest form of sacrificial love is found in Jesus when He willingly laid down His Life for the sake and Salvation for all peoples.  Jesus in today’s Gospel says clearly to you and to me, “Remain in My Love; and if you keep My Commandments, you will remain in My Love . . . and your joy will be complete.  Do we desire to have such deep and “complete joy” that Jesus promises us in today’s Gospel?   If so, then Jesus would then say to you and to me, “This is My Commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.  A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends.” 

Adapted from: http://www.inspirationalstories.eu/stories-about-unconditional-love/story/

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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