Commentary on the Gospel of

George Butterfield-Creighton University's School of Law Library
In the first reading, the Apostle John uses the word "love" nine times. Love is of God - it comes from him. In fact, God is love. If we love others, we have been begotten by God and we know God. We have probably met grumpy, nasty people who treat others terribly in the name of God. Some even kill others in God's name. John says that they cannot possibly know God for whoever is without love does not know the God who is love. Love is not some warm, fuzzy feeling, although it may include that at times. No, to love is to sacrifice. God didn't leave it up to us to figure out what he might mean by "love." He revealed it to us; he sent his only-begotten Son into the world to give his life for us. He did this so that we might know him and have life through him, namely, that we might learn how to be like God and love others. Thus, perhaps the most famous words of the apostle are, "Beloved, let us love one another."

In his commentary on Galatians 6:10, St. Jerome tells a famous story about the Apostle John. After the death of the emperor who had banished him to the Isle of Patmos, John returned to Ephesus where he lived to a very old age. No longer able to walk, he was carried into the congregation in the arms of his disciples. He had gotten to where he couldn't speak for any length of time but they always asked him to say something. His homily was the same every time: "Little children, love one another." At last, wearied that he always spoke the same words, they asked: "Master, why do you always say this?" "Because," he replied, "it is the Lord's command, and if this only is done, it is enough."

The following is from St. Augustine's famous sermon on love where he reflects upon the Apostle John's words:

“This is how the love of God is shown among us.” The reason why the writer exhorts us, is so that we may come to love God. Could we love him, unless he first loved us? Though we were slow to love, let us not be slow to love in return. He loved us first. We do not even love in the same way as he. He loved the unrighteous, but he took away the unrighteousness. He loved the sick, but he visited them to make them whole. Love, then, is God. “This is how the love of God is shown among us: God sent his only Son into the world, that we may live through him.” As the Lord himself said: “No one can have greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” [John 25:13] This proved Christ’s love for us, the fact that he died for us. How is the Father’s love for us proved? By the fact that he sent his only Son to die for us. As the apostle Paul says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how will he not freely give us all things?” [Rom. 8:32]

To comprehend the love of which the apostle and the saint speak is to understand what St. Augustine, in this same homily, meant by "love, and do what you will." To love God and our neighbor is to will what is best for them. It is to sacrifice for them. It is to even take abuse, if necessary, for them or even from them.

If we love, it is enough. Love, and do what you will. It sounds so simple but may the Lord, during this season of Epiphany, pour the light of wisdom and discernment into our minds and hearts so that we learn how to do it. Amen.


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