Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and you're listening to Season 4, Episode 18 for the Seventh Sunday of Easter: May 16, 2021.
Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 17 , verses 11b-19.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“God is Love,” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
God is love and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. God is love. It sounds so very simple, because at its core, it is simple. And sometimes we complicate our relationship with God. But opening up this very simple love relationship with our creator really requires that we understand as completely as possible what is meant by this word, love.
You see in our human language, our English language especially, we don't have other words for love. So for example, I can say to you this morning, I love chocolate. I love to take a walk. I love my mother. I love my son. I love the weather. All of the different things that are part of our lives that we say that we can love. All of those loves are different kinds of love. And so when we speak of God being love, it opens up a particular concept, and points us in a unique direction. Because the word love gets substituted for other words, it can become confusing to us in terms of what it really means. All of us have friends that'll tell you that they love you. A lot of folks even put that at the end of a salutation, but what do they mean by those words, I love you?
Very often, we confuse the word love for esteem. We'll see somebody who's struggling with a bit of depression, a little bit out of sorts in terms of how they perceive themselves, and we'll even remark, well, if they loved themselves more, they would feel better about themselves. Translated if they had a higher self esteem, they would feel better about themselves. But yet self esteem and God's love are two different things.
Or we sometimes confuse love with wants and desires. Things I feel drawn to, that I need to have in my life. And when we speak of God being love, it goes way beyond what we associate with emotion; way beyond ourselves to something bigger and something different. When we speak of God as love, it opens up a new door of understanding
As we consider God's love, we must start with its source, and it brings us back to the eternal oneness and sameness and all existing presence of this unconditional love we have come to know as God: eternal for all ages, never ending. And it is this eternal love of God that when it breathes forth for life and creates, especially the human soul, God places his divine self in that human soul through the gift of His love. It is that sustaining, creative, all- abiding presence that allows us to look at ourselves and say, I am. We can only be because of God. And when a human being realizes that their essence, their eternal essence, exists because of this Creator who has loved them into existence, they have a choice. You and I have a choice. All people have a choice of whether to love that God in return for the gift that has been given to you. And so when we speak of God's love, we're not talking about a love that fulfills our desires. We're not talking about a love that brings us self esteem.
It's not an inward glancing love. It's an outward seeking love, which is different. It's devoid of our self-concern and focused on the other. First, with the source of that love, who is God.. And the amazing wonder of God's love is that it is never unto itself. It always has to be given. It always has to be shared. It has to always flow over into a creative essence itself. And so we realized that the core of our being is love and that that love comes from this Creator who loves us, then I am called to share that love with my brothers and sisters; to recognize in every human being the same thing I see in myself: that beautiful soul created only by God, which gives me the uniqueness of who I am and sets me into being.
So my brothers and sisters with whom I share life in the world deserve my love simply because they are, as I am. It doesn't matter whether I like them or not. It doesn't matter whether I agree with what they're doing or not.
It doesn't matter whether they're short or tall, skinny, or fat, what color they are, what they believe, what they do not believe, what they choose, what they do not choose. Every human being is an opportunity to extend from me to them what God has given to me: love. And that's why Jesus is so adamant about forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive. Be merciful, be merciful, be merciful. Do not judge, do not judge, do not judge. It is out of this inherent relationship that we have with one another that those commandments flow.
Because as human beings, we can get very confused when it comes to love. We can quickly turn it around and make it about us. Whereas when we say God is love, it becomes something about others; about organizing our life together on this planet in line with what God is looking to achieve, not us. By putting the values of the Gospel into action as we set up housekeeping with one another. To make sure that justice and equity and all of those things that Jesus preached about that are so eloquently found in the beatitudes and beyond are put into place.
It's no wonder, then, that of one of the primary commandments is keep holy the Sabbath day. Why? Not just for our own self benefit so we can find our ticket to heaven, but so that we can be called back to who we really are and who God is; so that through listening to God's word again, and receiving the wonderful gift of God through the Eucharist, we can bring our love full center again and remember that we are because God is, and that I have to love brother and sister, because God is in them as much as God is in here. It connects the dots. And we can get so lost if we don't bring ourselves back - remember reflect, recenter - so that we can leave and love more perfectly.
Here's a little exercise we can do to take an assessment of our spiritual lives a bit. There's actually two questions that we can reflect with and answer in our lives. First one is this: take a look back over the last week or two of your lives, and just let your mind flow through some of the experiences you had over those two weeks. Maybe it's people you met, maybe conflicts that you encountered, maybe problems that you needed to solve. Maybe some experiences that surprised you. Feelings that you had. Whatever it is. As you look over those experiences of the past two weeks, what, during those times, distracted you from your glance at God's love, from your faith? What took you off track and caused you to move toward negativity or caused you to move toward doubt or despair, or brought you to a place of hopelessness? What, in those two weeks made you less of who you know, you could be, and brought you away from what you know you can be.
In trying to define those things that can take us off track, then we begin to have the ability to look out for them again. And do you all in our power to have those things lose their power over our tranquility, our peace, our joy, our sense of God and faith.
You see, because we live in a world, as we all know, where we meet those folks along the way, who are committed to the fact that God is love and that God loves them. And we also meet those folks along the way that are hostile to it. And so we live in this world that bounces us all over the place, and we are exposed to values and circumstances, ideas, and things that are contrary to what we have here. And we have to find our way through that. And some times we allow that stuff to get the best of us. So keeping on top of those things is important for remaining centered. Here's the second question. Think back over those same two weeks of your lives, think back over those experiences, you had people, you met things you encountered. Was there anything along the way that surprised you? That brought you to a place out of yourselves? Maybe you met a friend that you haven't seen in a long time, and you were able to connect on some significant points. Or maybe somebody came to you with a problem that really caused you to reflect and to think. Or maybe you encountered something you weren't expecting; a real challenge that caught you off guard, but in it also brought a beauty.
You see, the love that sustains us and the love that carries us; the love that keeps us, is also the love that wonders, that brings wonder, that brings awe, that brings joy, that reminds us that we're part of something bigger. And sometimes in those ordinary things of life, God uses those to remind us that we're connected beyond ourselves, that there's more than just me involved in this. And that there's something going on in our world that is holy, divine, sacred, wonderful, beautiful, joyful, and good. And when we're caught up out of ourselves, we're reminded God is love. That's what he does. Turns us away from ourselves onto something else.
And so in closing, it's no wonder that Saint Paul can so adamantly come to the conclusion and rightly so that in God we live and move and have our being. Once we get that straight within us it changes up our lives. And then as we listen to love of self, it's not a love of fulfilling our every desire, but a love that sees within to the truth of what God has placed within me, and then looks out and gives out, of that give back to God in love, and into my brothers and sisters as well. And in doing so love, becomes something tangible and real, and it becomes the source, of our decisions, and how we organize life together, and then brings us back, eventually, to the fullness of God's presence in eternity.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.