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What it means to truly love

May 8, 2015
Deacon Michael Murphy

Even though it came out a while ago, I recently found myself watching the very popular movie called “The Hunger Games.”

The heroine is a young lady named Katniss Everdeen. Katniss lives with her mom and her little sister, a delicate girl named Prim. Katniss provides for them and is the strong glue that holds the family together. Early on, Prim is chosen to participate in the violent, futuristic Hunger Games. Horrified as she realizes that this means Prim will almost surely die, Katniss volunteers to go in Prim’s place, even though she knows the odds of her own survival are also very low. She makes this incredible sacrifice because the love she has for Prim is so great.

This is an example of what it means to truly love someone. We often tend to see love as sort of a soft, romantic thing. We link it with poetry, sunsets and quiet walks on a beach. This, of course, can all be true, but love is so much more than that. We often forget that love can also be an extraordinarily hard and difficult thing, requiring a lot of work and sacrifice. However, in saving her sister, it’s clear that Katniss knew this, and so, as we see, does Jesus.

Our readings this week speak of the love that God has for us and the love that he hopes we will share with each other. John reminds us that God so loved us, he sacrificed his Son so that our sins might be forgiven and that we might have eternal life. The Gospel goes even further as Jesus asks that we love one another in the same incredible fashion that God loves us, laying down our lives for each other. This week, the Lord gives us this tremendous challenge: That like Him, like, Katniss, we have the strength and the courage to give ourselves totally, without setting limits, as we love each other in the same unbelievable, overwhelming, all-consuming way that God loves each and every one of us!

We get so used to hearing the words “God loves us” that I think they sometimes lose their power. It would be great if we could take a second and remind ourselves of what it really means. God loves us so much that he created the entire universe for us; not for ALL of us, but for each and every individual one of us. God loves us so much that he knows everything about us, good and bad, yet still is totally and absolutely, unconditionally and completely, devoted and dedicated to us. God loves us so much that he made us an eternal people, people who can never be lost, who for all eternity will be surrounded and embraced by Him and by those we’ve always loved.

Yet all of this would be empty and meaningless, if God hadn’t already lived what love truly means. God loves us so much that he gave everything for us, he suffered and gave his very life for us. He’s been there, he’s made the hard choices, he himself has shown us what it takes and what it means to love, and so this week he’s able to ask the same of us.

Of course, the beauty of it, is that so many of you already know what love is, and that filled with faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, you’re living the Gospel, you’re living that love, right now. Whenever we give ourselves and sacrifice for another, knowing that it may be very hard and requires great courage, we are living as Jesus did, doing as Jesus asked, and bringing God, who is love, into the world and into our lives and the lives of those around us.

Deacon Murphy serves at St. Charles Parish, San Carlos, and teaches at Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton.

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