1st Reading – Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19
Jeremiah is the Rodney Dangerfield of prophets, the man who invented the tradition that a prophet doesn’t “get any respect” in his own country. Jeremiah, during his long career as a prophet in Judah, faced a mob that demanded he be put to death; was whipped and put in stocks (20:2); was beaten and thrown into prison for ‘a long time’ (37:15); was thrown into a cistern with mud up to his armpits and left to starve (38:6); and was kept under house arrest (39:15). After the fall of Jerusalem, he wound up in Egypt where, according to tradition, his own people stoned him to death.
Jeremiah did not walk around with a smile button on his shirt. “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!” (15:10) Yet he carried out his mission with intensity. He always moved from anger and reproach to hope (US Catholic, Kenneth Guentert). Compare this with our upcoming Gospel reading. How might you move from anger to hope with the troubles in your life?
During Jeremiah’s ministry of 45 years, the world changed dramatically. When he began, Assyria was still the world’s greatest power (Northern and Southern Kingdoms have separated), but by the time he died in exile in Egypt, Babylon stood supreme (Boadt, L. Reading the Old Testament, 363). When there is division and chaos, it is often hard to be sure of what the right course of action is…Jeremiah had his work cut out for him!
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 12: 31- 13: 13
Re-read this passage replacing the word “love’ for ‘God’. How does it change for you?
From M. Birmingham, W&W, p. 355:
Paul’s community was experiencing internal strife and division. Some people (gnostics: matter bad/spirit good, Jesus not really human so no real suffering or physical resurrection), glorifying in their own manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit, had set themselves apart as the spiritual elite. Because of their self-righteous, emotional, and overt display of charisms, Paul wrote to them to remind them that God was the Giver of gifts and no one had reason to boast. Paul asserted that the gifts were for the uplifting of the community, not for personal edification. The gifts meant nothing if love was absent. He asserts that self-giving love toward one another should be the response of every member of the community. This passage is often read and preached during nuptial celebrations, but it has an ecclesial importance. The church is a community of love.
The Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
Jesus shocks and surprises the people of his hometown of Nazareth; has God ever surprised – shocked you? How does this gospel strike you? – challenge you?
Jesus, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, challenged people with an alternative to the reality of their lives. Jesus was certainly not a politician, as we see here in this passage. The good news that Jesus came to share is always good and always new, but not always comfortable. It would seem that Jesus would have been wiser to have quit while he was ahead. Rather, he pushed on to an inclusive message that ‘forced’ choices that were disturbing. That is what prophets do. This hometown crowd is angered to hear that Jesus will share blessings and wonders with others – even Gentiles. Apparently, they took this ‘good news’ for others as bad news for themselves. (Living Liturgy, p. 50 – 51)
From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”:
Remember: no one in Jesus’ culture was expected to improve on the lot of the parents. One was expected to safeguard the family’s honor. In today’s reading Jesus is seen by others in his village to be stepping shamefully beyond his family boundaries. Then Jesus seems to rub salt into the wound by his insulting behavior — preaching in his hometown and healing elsewhere. He does not minister to his own – but they have heard of him doing things in Capernaum, a place that was noted for having many Gentiles – people who were not of his own kind. To direct his healing activities to such a place rather than his own hometown and blood relatives was to transgress very seriously against family honor. Honor in the Mediterranean world was a matter of life and death.
3 themes found in Luke’s Gospel
- World Affirmation: God loves creation; God values and works in human culture and activities.
- The Great Reversal: The gospel challenges the status quo, affirming those who have been rejected and abused.
- Universal Salvation: Human values are reversed, not for punishing the wicked, but for saving the lost, poor, sick, downtrodden.
(taken from The Gospel of Luke, Luke Timothy Johnson, p.21-23)
The scriptures call us to see simply this: the trouble with fences and boxes is that God is never in them!” (Celebrations, Feb. 1998)
It was Jesus’ habit to go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day. There must have been many things with which He radically disagreed and which grated on Him – yet He went. The worship of the Synagogue might be far from perfect; yet Jesus never omitted to join Himself to God’s worshipping people on God’s day (Barclay, Gospel of Luke, 45).
1st Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
This reading from second Isaiah announces the end of the Babylonian exile and the return of the Israelites to their homeland. Those out in the desert are being called back (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 21). God makes it very clear that he wants every obstacle between God and God’s people to be taken away so that nothing keeps us apart. God wants to be fully in relationship with us. God wants to be with us in our journey, as hard as it may be. The path is paved with love. Richard Rohr says…
2nd Reading: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
In Jesus we get to see God’s power and mercy in action in our history at close range. And we need God close, because salvation that is far away can be hard to believe in. We suffer the ache of the particular, being born with this nose, these parents, this ethnicity and address, and no other. We’ve got to make do with certain talents and limitations. We’re stuck with the present generation, and can never return to the past nor fast-forward to the age to come. Hunkered down in time and place can be a terrible poverty when it comes to opportunity. And Jesus reveals to us that God is willing to share our poverty in order to save us from it. No other proof would do but to be here. What are some of the particulars of your life that are especially difficult? How does the revelation of Jesus speak to those? (Exploring the Sunday Readings, Jan. 2004)
Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
We might wonder why it was necessary for Jesus to receive baptism. We know that John certainly considered himself unworthy to perform the act, but Jesus insisted that he be baptized along with the rest of the people on the banks of the Jordan River. Through this baptism Jesus was able to link his ministry with John’s proclamation. Jesus is no longer just the carpenter’s son in Nazareth (The Word into Life, cycle C, p.22)
This is a moment of Trinity. Jesus being baptized with the Holy Spirit descending and the Father speaking His words of love…all come together to transform this moment of baptism as sacred.
What kind of human experience was this in which Jesus hears a voice from heaven speaking to him? Scholars note that it is an experience in an altered state of consciousness or an experience of alternate reality. On average, 90% of the world’s cultures regularly have such experiences and find them useful and meaningful in their cultural context (Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, cycle C, p. 20).
It is interesting to note that right after this section of Luke is a genealogy of Jesus. Right after the Father proclaims that Jesus is His Son, this genealogy cites one “son of” after another until it ends as Jesus being identified as son of Adam, son of God (Pilch, 20).
But all of this speaks to the heart. “God looking into the dripping face of Jesus and seeing the whole big picture of creation and life and heavenly hosts and the throne of heaven. God looking at Jesus and seeing it all – glory and honor and power and might. God watching as Jesus came up from his knees and seeing justice and kindness and compassion breaking forth like the dawn. God seeing in Jesus the very plan of salvation radiant in its entire splendor. God wrapping the soaking wet Jesus in the warmth of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the magnificence of God’s own mercy is shining back at that moment, glistening in the water of baptism,” (Hungry, and You Fed Me, Rev. Dr. David A. Davis, p. 45). What speaks to you?
The 1st Reading – Baruch 5: 1-9
This short, prophetic book was claimed to be from the hand of the famous secretary of Jeremiah, but theologians think it was more likely written later (between third and first century BC) as a work of encouragement to those Jews being forced to adopt Greek ways (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, 502-503).
A mitre, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is a headdress worn by archbishops, bishops and abbots. It is also a joint between 2 pieces of wood to form a corner. A cornerstone, in particular, is a stone at the base that binds 2 walls. The cornerstone must be strong and secure for the integrity of the building. God is in your corner! Do you wear God like a mitre, to advance secure in God’s glory?
The Greek word for justice more closely means doing what is right. If we try to do what is right, we will display God’s glory and splendor. What does that mean to you? Think deeply about that question. Doing what we feel is right within us is what is right with God. This is what brings joy and mercy into the world. What wonderful thoughts to have this Advent!
The 2nd Reading — The Letter to the Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11
Paul had established this church in about 50AD (the first Christian church on European soil). It was one of Paul’s favorite churches. Paul was in prison (probably in Rome) when Epaphroditus, an old friend from Philippi, arrived bearing more gifts from this church. Unfortunately, Epaphroditus became very sick. Later, he recovered and Paul was anxious for him to return home so that those who are worried about him will be relieved. Paul sent this letter with him. Despite the hardship and imprisonment, Paul’s letter is full of thanksgiving and joy, a very personal letter filled with strong emotions. (Serendipity, p. 375)
This is a love letter. Paul’s love for the people of Philippi is bursting in his words, and he wants that love he has for them to have an effect. Love is powerful! It moves people. It changes us. It makes us want goodness. And since God is love, of course it makes sense that love transcends and transforms all that is. When has someone’s love transformed you? When has it opened your eyes to something? How does love make a difference?
The Gospel – Luke 3: 1-6
Have you ever celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation privately? Most people admit that they are nervous on arrival but relieved afterwards…like a weight has been lifted. There is a freedom in knowing that God comes to us where we are. God takes us “AS IS”. Sometimes you may see items on sale “AS IS” and that usually means they are damaged goods or less than adequate. God makes us ready for to be full price again! And God’s love is the same no matter what condition we are in. We are beloved, which is what John the Baptist proclaimed LOUDLY!
From Living Liturgy, 2004: Salvation – the fullness of life that our God wishes to offer us – is revealed – or shows forth – in our repentance. To repent means to change one’s mind – one’s life. Our work of repentance is about turning ourselves toward God who wishes to embrace us in mercy, forgiveness, and love. Sometimes, mountains of work, or paths of indecision, or valleys of doubt and fear keep us from the Lord’s embrace – the Way of the Lord. It is a reading that seems more like a civil engineer’s road plans. But it is only this God who can give sure direction to our lives. Let God re-engineer our lives. This Advent may we take the time to rest in the security of God’s nearness. (p.6). Then our ‘tense hearts’ can be eased opened to receive Jesus, the true Good News.
Luke takes great care to situate the ministry of John the Baptist and thus Jesus in
the midst of human history. He mentions both secular leaders (Tiberius, Pilate, Herod etc.) and religious authorities (Annas and Caiphas). It is sort of like a “chronological drumroll.” He also chooses to include all of Isaiah’s directives (Isaiah 40:3-5) leading to the universal cry of “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (God’s universal and pastoral care for all peoples is a major theme of Luke’s gospel and his Acts of the Apostles.) When we dare to try to put someone or some group outside of God’s saving concern, we should remember this theme. This Good News of Jesus Christ is intended to disrupt and disturb us until it enlarges our hearts, enlightens our minds, and unclenches our fists to welcome the truth of God’s love for all human flesh. (Celebration, Dec.10, 2000)
God breaks into human history through the birth of Jesus. By the incarnation of the Word, God enters human life, history, the world. But the Incarnation also makes it possible for us to enter the very life of God. Through the Incarnation, God became part of our eating and drinking, our sickness, our joy, our delight, our passion, our dying, our death. But all this is for the purpose of drawing us out of ourselves, away from our own self-preoccupation, self-absorbtion, self-fixation, so as to participate in the divine life (Altogether Gift, Michael Downey, p. 79).
1st Reading: Acts 1: 15-17, 20a, 20c-26
The line in Acts that comes just before this passage states: “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”So what goes on in this upper room is not just a ‘male thing.’ It is a gathering of those who have known and loved Jesus in life and now through death and into the resurrection. It is a community that has grown out of this lived experience of Jesus. (Preaching Resources, 5/28/06) How might our church be like them and “be a witness to his resurrection”?
It is also important to remember that the number twelve was symbolic of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel, representing the fullness of the ‘people of God.’ So these Twelve had been appointed by Jesus to be a sign of this ‘eschatological community.’ That is why it was important to select another one to replace Judas who had died. These twelve must also be witnesses to the original saving history of both the earthly Jesus and his resurrection. They become this bridge between the earthly Jesus and the mission of the Church as a whole. The circle of the Twelve and the circle of the apostles (those sent out) sort of overlap. For all disciples are apostles – called to be sent out by Jesus to bring the Good News to the needy – and sometimes hostile – world. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy/slu.edu )
It feels good to be picked out, chosen. Imagine what Matthias may have experienced when he heard the lot fell to him. But we aren’t always picked. Poor Barsabbas. What do you think became of him? Can you think of times when you were like Matthias and Barsabbas? How did it affect your life after?
2nd Reading – 1 John 4: 11-16 and the Gospel – John 17: 11b-19
Let’s look at these readings together for they come out of the same author and community. What do you find important here?
God’s love for us and others compel us to also love one another. This is possible as God abides in those who love. God’s Spirit empowers them — lives in them. This is one of the main themes of the Johannine tradition. It is constantly being repeated. But let not its repetition deaden our ears and hearts to its truth. This mutual indwelling of this God of love is the essence of the saving event we call the Good News of Jesus Christ. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy/slu.edu)
Too often don’t we prefer to ‘earn’ our gifts and grace? Too often don’t we mistrust the ways of love? Freud said that this notion of loving another as we love ourselves is nonsensical and absurd. Anyone who does this will put “himself at a disadvantage.” Often we ourselves fear that if we really love in this way we might become a doormat – or worse. Just take a look at Jesus. “God so loved the world” to give us Jesus – yet the world did and does reject the Word-made-flesh. It happened in the Rome of the Caesars, in the Florence of the Medicis, in the Communism of Russia, in the oppression of military El Salvador – and in our secular culture today. But despite the rejection and threat we as Christians have been entrusted with this Good and Dangerous Word of Love. We are sent into this ‘hostile’ world just as Christ was sent. We share in the same Spirit. (J Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy/slu.edu )
We see Spirit as work through its fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Take time to consider where you see these fruits in your life. Take comfort in knowing Spirit is gifted to us so that God, and God’s love, remains with us.
We are consecrated with God’s truth. What does that mean to you? How does this relate to Mass? It is not only the bread and wine that are consecrated at the table. We are all made holy through the grace of God. We stand in truth, open to that consecration, knowing that we are being strengthened and nourished…so we can be sent forth into the world.
From Karl Rahner:
“Only the one who can be still and pray; only the one who is patient and does not drown out the frightening silence in which God dwells, and which comes to us, with the racket of everyday life . . . only that one can hear with ease and discretely appreciate something of the eternal life that is already inwardly given to us as the indwelling of God in us.”
Friends, today we celebrate Mothers Day. When we think of our mothers, we usually think of and remember their love, their many sacrifices, and then how they loved us, no matter what. How fitting that the theme of our second reading and of our Gospel is all about Jesus’ command to love. Today’s gospel goes straight to the heart of every thing, but you know, it especially goes directly to the heart of Christian life. It speaks to us about the commandment, the only commandment, the commandment of love. Love of God and love of one another. But, could love truly be a command, a law, or an order? Can anyone force us or order us to love? Certainly not! In truth, love is something that comes from within the person, not from an order received from someone else.
In the service, orders are given and executed and the same or similar can happen at work. But no one can order how or what we should feel for those around us. That is something different.
Jesus knows that this is something different. Jesus knows because he has experienced the love of God.
Moreover, Jesus has experienced that God is love.
Jesus’ presence in our world is the concrete sign of that love of God for each one of us, and that love is what gives us life. The love of God created this world and keeps it in existence despite the many abuses we commit against it and against one another. Jesus speaks about the commandment of love because he knows that God loved us first and because we are creatures of love. Love, as the second reading tells us, does not spring from ourselves, but from God.
God is the origin of love, God is the origin of that vital spring that none of us can live without.
There is no way to place barriers to that love that comes from God either. There are no Jews or pagans for God. That is why the Holy Spirit is poured out on all in the reading of the Acts of the Apostles today. God goes beyond norms and traditions. His love is stronger than any human law. God gives himself to each and every one of us.
Today’s readings do speak to us today about the great commandment of love. But in reality they invite us to look at the love with which God loves us and cares for us. For, it is out of that experience that our own love will spring forth, it is out of that experience that we get our capacity to love and to give life to those around us.
This could be compared with trying to convince someone that not attending Mass on Sundays is a sin.
It is far better to invite that person to come to our community, to help that person enjoy the celebration of the Mass with the wonderful music and our friendly community, and our great encounter with Jesus.
If that happens, he or she is likely to come back. However, if we threaten them with sin and damnation, they are likely to never come back.
Something similar happens with love. No one will love under the threat of a fine or punishment. But they are likely to love if they have felt loved and have been respected by those around them. My friends, today is the time for us to make those who live with us, those who work with us, those who worship with us, those whose lives we touch in any way, know about the great love that God has for them. Today is the time for each of us to share the love God gives us with each other. Once we have shared that gift of love, then we can say we have experienced love.
1st Reading; Sirach 15: 15-20
Sirach is the longest of the wisdom books with 51 chapters. It is a mixture of proverbs and lengthy essays on major themes grouped together. It was written between 190 and 175 BC. For many centuries it was thought to be only in Greek in the Septuagint. But a partial copy of the Hebrew original was found at the end of the last century hidden in a synagogue storeroom in Cairo, and another when archaeologists excavated Masada in Palestine in 1964. A few fragments also turned up at Qumran in 1947. Despite this evidence, it was never accepted into Jewish canon because it was not from the time of Ezra or before (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 487). It is in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant.
Sirach speaks of the choices we make in life and how we must trust in God when we make them. This will help us choose what is good and life-giving for us. We must have an openness to the working of God in our life. In Ignatian spirituality, we must look at the “pushes” and the “pulls”. Do you feel pushed to do something – I should do this, I should do that – out of a sense of crushing and lifeless obligation or a desire to please? Or do you feel pulled, like a gentle invitation in love? God pulls not pushes (The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Fr. James Martin, p. 329).
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 6 – 10
Paul is talking about the meaning of the cross in salvation history. The ‘mystery’ is that the crucified One, precisely as the crucified, is the Lord of glory. Many Corinthians thought otherwise. For them, the Cross was an unfortunate past event, the less said the better. All that mattered to them now was the risen Christ. He was now spirit, and as such, he could convey to them ‘secret wisdom’. Paul is using their terms in an ironic way, sort of turning them upside down to help them see where true wisdom is. By refusing to recognize the Lord of glory in the crucified One, they were in a sense aligning themselves with Pontius Pilate and Herod (the rulers of the day) who also did not recognize the One they were crucifying. Such blindness leads to horrible evil.
Why is God’s wisdom mysterious and hidden? What does this mean for us?
The Gospel: Matthew 5: 17 – 37
Now let’s take this gospel in parts to see what value and meaning we can gather:
First, what did Jesus mean by the law and its importance:
Jesus seems to say that the law is so sacred that not even the smallest detail (something as small as an apostrophe) should be discarded or ignored. Yet, again and again Jesus broke what some Jews called the law: handwashings, healing on the Sabbath, picking grain to eat on the Sabbath etc. In Jesus’ time it was popular to call the ‘scribal law’ the law along with the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. Scribes were people who made it their business to reduce the great principles of the Law into thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations. God’s Law was to rest on the Sabbath. They, however, spent hours arguing about whether it was work on the Sabbath to move a lamp from one table to another, if one could bandage a wound with or without salve, or could one lift a child? Their religion was a legalism of petty rules and regulations. Jesus was highly critical of this. What Jesus was upholding here was the real meaning of God’s Law: to mold our lives on the positive commandment to love. Love that is filled with respect, reverence and compassion is the permanent stuff of our relationship to God and to our fellow humans. Our righteousness in this way must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. This law of love to fill our hearts and minds; it must be our sole motivation. We need to be people of gratitude that God has first loved us – and then people who generously give of that love to others. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, p.126-131)
Second, Jesus then gives examples of the kind of law and righteousness he means – that the law of love must penetrate to our hearts, our core. The only way to safety and security in society is not to even desire what is wrong. It also shows us just how much we need God’s help in this. We need God to transform us to be able to live up to this standard of love. For example Jesus says that any one angry with a brother is liable to judgment. The word that is used for this anger is an anger over which a person broods and will not let go of –an anger that broods, that will not forget, that seeks revenge. It is an anger that insults and shows contempt. Raka meant an imbecile; a word of one who despises another with an arrogant contempt. This type of anger leads to a hurt that is like a murder; we can ‘kill’ a person’s spirit and take his good name and reputation away from him or her. This makes us liable to fiery Gehenna, a garbage dump where rot burns and pollutes. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, p.136-141)
In fact, here is an interesting piece of information from Jesus’ time:
“The fires of Gehenna” had become a metaphor for divine judgment on evil. The inferno was actually the city refuse dump located southwest of Jerusalem. It was a gehinnom that some of Judah’s kings engaged in the heinous practice of burning their children as sacrifices (see 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31; 32:35). Condemned by Jeremiah and King Josiah, the valley was used, thereafter, as a site for rubbish. (Celebration, February 14, 1999)
The third point to consider is that when we come before to pray or to bring gifts to the altar to the Lord we must consider not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with others. A breach between a human and God could not be healed until the breach between humans was healed. Jesus emphasizes this: one cannot be right with God until we are right with each other. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, p.136-141)
Then Jesus deals with lust – looking at and thinking about another person as an object (not a person) of pleasure, an object to be used. Jesus is not talking about what is normal human instinct, human nature. He is talking about lust, where a person uses his eyes and thoughts to stimulate wrong desire – a desire to use someone even if it destroys their personhood and value. If we allow such desire to grow in us the most innocent people and things can become ‘used’ and abused. Jesus is vehement here using hyperbole (extravagant exaggeration, a very common teaching tool in this culture) to get his point across. When something is deadly, destructive – surgery is needed. In other words, to let such evil grow in us is worse that losing an eye or a hand. For such evil leads us into a garbage heap of burning refuse: Gehenna!
(Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, p. 147-148)
Jesus then warns of the abuse of divorce. Ideally, Jews abhorred divorce. Marriage was seen as holy and as fulfilling God’s positive commandment to be fruitful. But by Jesus’ time the practice itself had fallen far short of this ideal and women were the victims of this abuse. In both the Jewish and especially the Greek culture of the day, women were at the absolute disposal of the males, her father and then her husband. She had no legal rights at all. A woman could be divorced with or without her will. All that had to be done was to hand a degree of divorce to the woman in the presence of two witnesses. The reason was to be for some indecency which could be serious – or just that she put too much salt in the food, or she spoke disrespectfully, or she was troublesome, or unattractive. Because of the ease of divorce at this time, basic family structure was threatened. (Wm. Barclay, the Gospel of Matthew, Vol.1, p.150-153)
Jesus was for loving and caring relationships. This we must keep in mind. He was not for upholding abuse or condoning it. As disciples we must go that extra mile to repair fractured relationships and live according to God’s plan of love and life. Here is a caution to note: While this teaching points out God’s will for unity and love, there are times when a marriage is no longer real – or because someone is incapable of such a relationship – it never was a marriage. While every effort should be made to redeem fractured marriages, some must be acknowledged as beyond repair. In such cases divorce may be not only the lesser of two evils from the point of view of God’s ultimate will which is love, but also a positive step. (M. Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook, Year A, p. 391.
The last section of this gospel deals with our ‘public’ behavior. “Oath-taking” had greatly deteriorated into misuse in Jesus’ day. Some resorted to frivolous swearing, by constantly ‘taking oaths’: “by my life…” “May such and such happen to me if…” Still others used evasive swearing to avoid the truth. According to this questionable practice, oaths which contained the name of God were considered binding and were rigidly kept; oaths that did not mention God were not considered binding and were easily changed. Jesus advocated simple integrity in speech. (Celebration, February 14, 1999)
As Jesus’ disciples we need to live in such a way that falsehood and infidelity in our families and workplaces is eliminated. The Law of love is the only thing that works.
Do you remember this song by Sting: If You Love Somebody Set Them Free? I think the premise of the song is we need to love freely and without condition. The minute we put conditions or controls on that love, we’re in trouble. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.
According to the Linns’ book, Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life, God’s will is always for me to give and receive more love. We should love freely. There should be no conditions on it. I get that, but in reality, this is not always easy. Oh, we hear in church how we should just love everybody, and we nod in agreement. Yes, of course. Love. Got it. But what happens when love is hard? Or it isn’t returned? Or it is returned but not in the way we wish it was? What if we put ourselves out there with our love, and it flops? What then? Does this make any sense?
Maybe an example will help. I have a friend who recently moved away. She is having trouble keeping in touch with the friends she still has here. Suddenly, her friends are too busy to call or put the effort in that it takes to keep a long distance relationship going. She is debating what to do. Let go of the friendship (set it free) and see what happens? Or hang in there and continue to work at it?
I don’t know if there is an easy answer. Fear gets in our way. Love can be a scary business. There is trepidation when we put ourselves out there and don’t know what will happen. We could get hurt. So it’s easy to let fear creep in and make our decisions. But it doesn’t leave space for God’s help. We are called to let God in and love. A free life is one where we give and receive more love. It’s loving as we are free to love. Gratitude when it is returned. Not fearing the outcome of that love. Risking the vulnerability and loving anyway. This is no easy task, but there is comfort knowing God is there in the midst of it.
How do we do this, to love so freely? It seems like prayer goes a long way with matters of the heart. If God wills for us to be these love machines, inputting and outputting love freely, then God will help us do it. Trust that. Whatever we decide in our relationships, the loving choice seems to be the right choice. Even if it’s the hard one. Sometimes the loving choice is letting go and seeing what happens. Sometimes it means hanging in there with love, even if it’s not the way we imagined it to be. Maybe the loving choice is waiting. Waiting for an answer. Waiting for a peace to be felt. Waiting for God’s answer to come. I believe it always comes when love is involved.
What do you think? Talk it over with God. See if Sting sings true for you!