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"Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine!" As a kid I sang this song with such fervor and spirit (mostly just so I could shout the word NO! in church...) and these words hit me now as I prepare for the summer ahead of me. Sometimes I feel like going back home is like approaching a trap set up for me. There is this giant bushel (just waiting to hide my light) propped up by a stick. Sooner or later, BAM. I hit the stick and my flame has been smothered by this giant bushel-trap. But how can I avoid this happening? Your guess is as good as mine, but let me tell you, this summer, I am going to try!
|This is what a bushel looks like if you were wondering... I was.|
(Who decided on a bushel for the song, anyways??)
"Love one another as I have loved you." We hear this phrase over and over again. But what the heck does it mean? It's not exactly something we analyze. We just sing along and look at our friends and family and say, yeah, I totally love everyone, just like you do, God! Watch, I'll even give a friendly smile to the random stranger sitting right next to me in the pew today. Golly, I'm so loving! No. Wrong. Just think about that request for a second. Love each other as I have loved you. Woah. That is crazy. How did God love us? Well, for starters, He died for us. Not just for the general "us" as in the collective group of humanity. No, He died for you. And He died for every other person specifically as an individual. He would die for you alone if you were the only person in the world to save, but He would also do the same for that person who cut in front of you during rush hour traffic, the guy who beats his wife, every single woman in a strip club (and man for that matter), the drug dealer on the corner, the mass murderer, the politician, the lawyer, the crazy cat lady, you get the point. He loves everyone. No exceptions. Not just loves as in I-will-cast-smiles-in-your-direction-to-let-you-know-how-holy-I-am. No, He loves with the kind of love that takes every single one of our sins and says, don't worry, I got this. You just stole a pack of gum from the store. My bad. I will take a lash in the back for it. You looked lustfully at one of my daughters? Put another thorn in my head. It's okay. I will take the blame.
Talk about setting high expectations.
Let's look at the humility of His love next. Jesus did not care about the standards set by society when it came to whom he loved. He treated every one with equal respect and dignity talking to them and spending time with them, no matter if they were a Jew, Samaritan, tax collector, woman, etc. How often will we refuse to even give someone the time of day if they are "socially inferior" to us. How embarrassing if people saw us hanging out with THAT person. Once again, God is setting the bar pretty high for us. He is asking us to throw pride out the window and simply LOVE others without any regards to social status, personal hygiene, political stance, etc. Because, let's be real, we in no way are worthy to chill with God, yet that's exactly what He asks us to do! If put on a social spectrum, He would be so far away from us, we wouldn't even be able to look in his direction. (He is the author to the most popular book written in the history of ever.)
Lastly, I want to bring up the whole forgiveness factor of God's amazing, undeserved love. He has paid the price for every single stinking sin we commit, but does He hold it against us? Never! As He hung on the cross, He knew every sin every person would ever commit. If someone treats me with disrespect and it really hurts me, I hold on to that. That person is blacklisted in my mind. They become a victim to countless cutting mental remarks and the object of a certain amount of passive aggressiveness. Would Jesus ever do that? No. In fact, the first thing He did after He was hung on the cross was forgive those who had put Him there.
"Father, forgive them, for they no not what they do."
So, let's think about this. They put Him through the most horrible death imaginable, mock him, fight over his clothes, and spit at His feet, all while He is thinking of every single sin that you will ever commit over the course of your lifetime and also bearing the burden of literally the entire world, but yet He looks at those who crucify Him with compassion and pity, asking God to forgive them. Wow. Seeing as some people would not even be so gracious if the offense was merely a missed appointment and their only burden was not having their Starbucks that morning, I think there is seriously something wrong with our grasp on the concept of forgiving love. We will probably never have to endure what He went through, but if we did, could we respond with forgiveness, the way God has asked us to so directly?
I'm with the Black Eyed Peas, where is the love? Love isn't just a feeling sought after by one too many poets and artists, it is something that we are all called to do. Love one another as I have loved you. That is our mission in life. We are called to love. I look around, even at my Catholic friends and family, and what I see is not the kind of love God is asking us to give to others. Every single day, He asks us to follow in His footsteps and just LOVE. Can we do it? Can we love as He loved us? If not, how can we ask Him to love us? This is His commandment, this is the rule that trumps all else. While it is such a simple, commonly heard phrase, it just might be one of the the most difficult things that will ever be asked of us.