As you probably know this coming weekend, I will finish my journey that started about eight years ago when I entered the seminary. A part of the ordination I will lie prostrate on the floor, or I will lie flat on the floor face down. During this action, the Church will be praying the litany of the saints. For me, this is one of the more profound elements of the ordination mass. First of all, it is a powerful moment because the entire Church is praying for the men to be ordained. Not only the people in the Church but also the whole body of saints and angels in heaven as we invoke many of them by name. Some of the saints I have a personal devotion to will be named. St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Timothy, St. Peter, and many others. However, this moment signifies something else. Laying flat on the ground with my face down is the ultimate sign of humility and trust. I give up complete control by lying in this way, and this sign shows love as well. I willingly lay down my life for the Church so that others may come to salvation. John and I, at this moment, will be imitating Christ by laying down our lives for our friends. I hope my entire priesthood is a sign of the love of God, and I begin my priesthood by showing this sign of love and humility.
Jesus speaking to his disciples at the last supper, calls them to love and humility. He tells them, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” We may have heard him before say to his disciples. “love your neighbor as yourself.” A challenging statement even for us today. There are certainly people easy to love that we love day in and day out, but there may be people we find hard to love as well. In the Old Testament, the central law they were called to follow was Love of God and Love of neighbor.
However, we just heard Jesus challenging us to go deeper. I don’t know about you but sometimes the love for myself isn’t always perfect, and sometimes we may be harder on ourselves than we are on others. Jesus takes his call to love even further with his disciples. Not only should we love our neighbors as ourselves, but we should love our neighbors, our friends, our family, even our enemies as Jesus himself loved us.
The love our Lord is talking about is not the passionate love that we typically associate love within our culture. The feeling of being in love, of the feeling of love you have for your spouse, your family, and many others is good and natural, but if you look at the original language, Jesus uses he isn’t only talking about the feeling of love.
You may have heard of the word before called agape. This is one of the three Greek words for love. I hope I’m not losing you but when we think about the love that Jesus has for us we don’t need to look further than our Lord on the cross crucified for us! The love Jesus speaks to us about is sacrificial love, a love that willingly gives up oneself for the sake of the other person salvation. The love we are called to have is the love Jesus had for us a love that willing died on the cross.
This love is not only shared by giving up our lives as martyrs but instead can be lived out in our daily journeys with the Lord. Parents I’m sure you know the sacrifice you are willing to make for your children daily, that is a sacrificial love. The love we may show when we go out of our way to help a friend in need. There are many ways we can love one another just as Christ loved us.
What Jesus tells us as well is that the way people will know we are disciples of Jesus is by the way we love one another. Many have left the faith or may not put as much importance on their faith as they once did. We may think a well-argued opinion would be the way to bring them back to the church, or maybe if some miracle would happen in their lives that would bring them back to the Church. However, I believe that the way millions have entered the Church is by the example of love other faithful Christians showed them.
In less than a week now, I will present myself to the Church, and by God’s grace become a priest of Jesus Christ. A part of that ceremony, I will lay prostrate before God before his people and the bishop. My hopes that in this action, I show love and humility. My prayer to God is that he, too, can give me the grace to live a humble life and show love through the way I live my life. I think of St. Paul’s words of all the great things I can do, but I don’t have love I am nothing. May we all show Love to one another and be an example to all of the Love Christ has for us.