Who was the first person on earth to know you in your lifetime? Upon reflection, you realize it was your mother. Your mother knew you long before you knew her. And I would wager that she loved you as herself, even willing perhaps to lay down her life for you with the greatest love.
An unborn baby’s understanding of things, of its mother and of itself, is limited. But the mother surrounds the baby. She is responsible for and behind the child’s entire universe. The little one is totally dependent upon her, and experiences everything in the midst of mom. Though the sound is quiet and somewhat muffled with distracting noises, the listening little child can hear the mother’s voice and feel her pulse. Imagine an unborn baby doubting and asking, “Does Mom really exist? Is there really a mother at all?”
It is right that we love our mothers, though we ought not to make them into idols. When Cornelius met St. Peter, the Roman centurion fell at his feet to do him homage, but Peter raised him back to his feet, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” Only one mother in human history has been perfect, but our parents present us with our first living image and icon of God.
As much as a baby receives from his or her mother, the Son of God receives still more so from his Father. How does God the Father give life to his Son? The Son is eternally begotten of the Father; “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” The Father gives his whole being to the Son, and his Son, so loved, receives everything with joy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” How does God love you and me like the Father loves the Son?
For starters, God loves us first. The Father and Son are coeternal, but the self-gifting of the Father is the source of the Son, who then loves the Father, self-gifting himself in return. Likewise, God loves us and gives himself to us first, before inviting us to do the same. “In this is love,” St. John writes in our second reading, “not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” And St. Paul tells the Romans, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Another way we are loved like the Father loves the Son is in how we receive every good thing from God. Like an unborn child receives from its mother, and the eternal Son receives from the Father, you receive everything from God through Jesus Christ. St. Paul speaks of the importance of the Son to the Colossians: “In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible… all things were created through him… He is before all things, and in him everything continues in being.” For us, Jesus Christ is the one through whom all good things come.
Now would it make any sense for an unborn child, who is cherished by its mother, to see his or her mommy as an enemy? Or could God the Father and God the Son ever be rivals? Of course not! And yet we are guarded against Jesus. We hesitate to share our time with him, we hesitate to give our money for him, we hesitate to forsake our habitual sins for him. So I challenge you, I dare you, to trust more in him who loves you.
When Jesus says, “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,” he is not threatening to stop loving us. No—we must keep Christ’s commandments, doing his loving will, to fully receive everything he wants to give us. Jesus, who is first loved by God, who receives everything from God, who does God’s will, who rejoices and remains in God, who loves God and self-gifts himself fruitfully in return to God, desires you and me to experience the same blessedness. “If you keep my commandments,” he says, “you will remain in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete. … It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”
This Sunday, let us love, honor, and pray for the mothers from whom we were born on earth; while we love, honor, and trust all the more the eternal Son through whom we are born again from above.
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