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Loving Like Jesus

May 19, 2019   Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

May 19, 2019
John 13:31-33a, 34-35
Fr. George Smiga

The phone ran for the sixth time in less than an hour. Leslie knew who was calling. It was her mother—again. Leslie was having a difficult day. Her five-year-old daughter, Emma, had been a handful from the moment she woke up. And now another call from Mom. About a year ago, a stroke took control of her mother’s brain, leaving her dogged with paranoia and dementia. Every time her mother called, it was a challenge: the same conversation over and over again, the same reassurance that her mother would not be evicted from her apartment, the same insistence that she had just seen her mother the day before. For the first five times Leslie was able to hold it together. But when she picked up the phone for the sixth time, her patience abandoned her. She ended up yelling at her mother, or at the woman who once was her mother. Then she flopped on the couch, angry at herself for doing so.

It was then that her five-year-old daughter, Emma, came over. “Mommy,” she said. “I want to talk to Grandma Ellie.” So Leslie put her on speaker. “Grandma, It’s Emma.”
“Oh, darling,” said Grandma. “How nice to hear you. How are you doing today? Did you go to school today?”
“Yes,” she said. “It was share day and I brought my Wonder Woman bracelets.”
“I bet that was amazing,” Grandma said. “Everyone was certainly impressed. When will I see you again?”
Emma said, “This Sunday we are taking you to the carousel, and I am going to ride on the frog, and you can ride next to me on the horse.”
“Oh,” said Grandma. “That would make me very happy. I would have a lot of fun. But tell me, did you go to school today?” Grandma had just asked this, but Emma did not skip a beat.
“Yes,” she said. “It was share day and I brought my Wonder Woman bracelets.”
“How amazing,” said Grandma. “I bet you were the hit of the class!”

Leslie listened in disbelief as her five-year-old daughter handled her fragile grandmother with ease. Then Leslie realized that she had been spending so much time wishing that Emma had a real grandmother, that Emma would have known the woman who was once her grandmother, that she had not noticed that Emma did have a real grandmother and a real relationship with her. Emma was able to love her grandmother the way that she was, and not as Leslie wished her to be. When the phone conversation ended, Leslie held her daughter tightly. She was only five years old, but that day she showed her mother how to answer the phone as a grown up.

In today’s gospel Jesus asks us to love one another as he has loved us. And Jesus loves us the way that we are. He loves us with all of our faults and shortcomings. He loves us with all of our sins and prejudices. Even though all of us could be better people, Jesus does not postpone his love until we improve. He finds the goodness in us and loves us today, and then he asks us to love one another in the same way.

He asks us to love our spouse as the person he or she is, giving love today even though we wish that our spouse would be more confident or more sensitive. He asks us to love our children as the people they have become, reaching out to them in love even though we might wish that they worked harder or made better decisions. He asks us to love our friends with all their faults, accepting them even though often they are late and sometimes their stories go on much too long.

It would be easy to love people if they met our expectations, if they were the people we wanted them to be. But real love finds a goodness in the way that people are and loves them accordingly. To love in this way not only enables us to answer the phone as a grownup. It also shows that we are loving one another as Jesus has loved us.

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