5th Friday of Easter
St. Catherine of Siena
Acts 15:22-31; Jn 15:12-17
Our Gospel selection this morning from St. John began with, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you,” and ended with, “This I command you: love one another.” That’s a very clear message – very direct; it’s hard to miss the point he’s trying to get across. However, it is easier said than done; it’s a life-long project to put it into practice.
Today we are celebrating the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church. In her work, The Dialogue, I came across a passage that may be helpful regarding this theme from St. John. In the voice of God the Father she writes:
I ask you to love me with the same love with which I love you. But for me you cannot do this, for I loved you without being loved. Whatever love you have for me you owe me, so you love me not gratuitously but out of duty, while I love you not out of duty but gratuitously. So, you cannot give me the kind of love I ask of you. This is why I have put you among your neighbors: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me — that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.
My Truth demonstrated this when Paul was persecuting me and he said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” For he considered Paul’s persecution of my faithful ones as persecution of me.
So your love should be sincere: you should love your neighbors with the same love with which you love me. Do you know how you can tell when your spiritual love is not perfect? If you are distressed when it seems that those you love are not returning your love or not loving you as much as you think you love them. Or if you are distressed when it seems to you that you are being deprived of their company or comfort, or that they love someone else more than you.
From these and from many other things you should be able to tell if your love for me and for your neighbors is still imperfect and that you have been drinking from your vessel outside of the fountain, even though your love was drawn from me. But it is because your love for me is imperfect that you show it so imperfectly to those you love with a spiritual love.
All this comes of the failure to dig out every bit of the root of spiritual selfishness. This is why I often permit you to form such a love, so that you may come through it to know yourself and your imperfection in the way that I have described. (section 64)
And so, this love for others, which we are commanded, must be gratuitous. We must give up any sense of entitlement to love in return. This spontaneous, free love with flow from us if we are drinking fully of the bounteous love of God for ourselves. It will be the litmus test of the maturity of our love for God.
St. John and St. Catherine, pray for us. Help us in this life-long endeavor.