Loving is Your Gift

Jon 3:1-5, 10 / 1 Cor 7:29-31 / Mk 1:14-20

A young man was walking along the beach when he stumbled on a magic lantern. He rubbed the lantern and a genie popped out with a hearty greeting, “Have I got good news for you! This very afternoon you will receive three gifts: a miracle cure for all ailments, a huge diamond, and a dinner date with a famous movie star.”

Of course, the young man was elated, so he rushed right home where he was greeted at the door by his mother. “Some odd things have being happening this afternoon,” she said. “At noon someone delivered a barrel of chicken soup.  A half hour later, a telegram came saying a long lost relative has left you a minor league baseball stadium, and just a few minutes ago, MGM called inviting you to dinner tonight with Lassie!”

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So much for good news! As with much of life, that fellow was raised up for a moment and then let down fast. We know the experience well: a hungry longing for something more, a momentary hope that it’s within our grasp, then disappointment and back to hungry longing.

It is to all of us who know that hungry longing that Jesus is speaking his invitation, “Come with me! Follow in my path.” Many of us are ready to say “yes” to him, but we still have a question: how do we follow him? What is his way? We know the generic answer: Jesus’ way is the golden rule: “Love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.”  But how does that translate into the concrete? How do we actually put together a life out of that?

We begin by remembering that love is never in the abstract. In general good feelings are nice but they aren’t love. Love is always in the concrete. We give our love and care to this specific person or that one at this specific moment or that. Furthermore, we love and care with what we have and with what we are and not with what somebody else has or is.

The specific shape of the loving and caring to which we are called individually is defined by the specific gifts that God has entrusted to our personal care. That means, on the one hand, that you are very probably not called to be Mother Teresa, and I am definitely not called to be our parish organist. But it also means we have to work very hard at seeing, naming, and developing what are our own special gifts so that we can share those gifts with those who need what we have to give.

The deep and hungry longing for joy, which we all know so well, will never be fully satisfied in this life. But if we see, and name, and develop our own special gifts and then share them open heartedly with all who need them, we’ll begin to experience the joy we’ve always longed for. We’ll begin to know the peace for which we were made.

That’s the Good News we’ve been waiting for! Joy and peace can be ours here and now!  Thanks be to God!