One Sunday, in a Mass specially celebrated for married couples, a priest preached about marriage. At the end of the service he gave out small wooden crosses to each married couple. He said, “Place this cross in the room in which you quarrel the most and you will be reminded of Jesus’ new commandment “love one another” and you won’t argue much.” One woman came up and said, “Father, you had better give me ten crosses.”
No number of crosses on the walls of our homes or around our necks will make us Christians unless we practice Jesus’ commandment of love which is of course so very hard to follow. All of us struggle to put into practice this great teaching of Jesus. In his letter to the Romans (8:35) Saint Paul emphasises the apostles’ commitment and faithfulness to Christ. He says, “Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ – hardships, distress, persecution, lack of food and clothing, threats or violence; as scripture says: For your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered?”
The exhortation is a reminder to all Christians. Can you and I, courageously and willingly, go back to the place where we have been shamed, rejected, humiliated, defamed and beaten? Can we love someone who has offended us? Can we bear the suffering for the sake of Christ? Each of us, at some time or other, experience and will experience suffering and hardships for our belief in the Lord Jesus but we are called upon not to be cowed by them. In his book “The Way”, the founder of Opus Dei, Saint Josemaria Escriva writes, “If you accept difficulties with a faint heart you lose joy and your peace, and you run the risk of not deriving spiritual profit from the trial.” We may not be called to undergo the same kind of persecution for God’s cause as were Paul and Barnabas or the early Christians but we must follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be unselfish in our love for and service to others.
We can love others really like Jesus loves. But we may not be able to love perfectly as Jesus does. To love like Jesus loves, we must place others above ourselves and to empty ourselves daily and emulate the one who did so unconditionally, wholesomely and successfully is not easy. Even though we strive to be like Jesus, sometimes we fail. However, we can always rededicate our life to Christ by truly repenting for our sins and by honestly making
sacrifices in reparation for them.
That’s why we gather week after week to report and share with each other what God does for us and how he opens the door of faith to us. In time, as Saint Paul says in Galatians (5:22-23) we will reap the benefits of stronger “faith, peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and eternal life.” The more we sow in the Spirit, the more we will reap spiritual things.