6th Sunday of Easter
In medieval times, the pelican mother was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood by wounding her own breast when no other food was available. Most of the time the pelican mother is depicted tearing flesh from its own flesh to feed the bloody chunks to her chicks. That is why the pelican mother became a symbol for Christ because he feeds us with his body and blood in the Eucharist.
The pelican can also be a symbol for mothers. It depicts the self-giving and sacrificial love of mothers. Moreover, mothers exemplify the kind of love which Jesus speaks of in today’s gospel passage: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Perhaps, you will agree with me if I say that mothers are the best example of a love which manifests itself in laying down “one’s life for one’s friends” – in laying down their lives for their children.
We thank God for giving us mothers whose love mirrors his love. In honoring our mothers, we honor God who created them and who gave them to us be a sacrament of his love, to be the greatest mirror of his self-giving love, to be the best reflection of Christ’s sacrificial love.
I thank God for my Mama whose unconditional love for me made me experience in concrete, discernible, and practical ways the love God has for me. I came to know God as kind-hearted, understanding, forbearing, generous, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, and loving because of Mama’s unconditional love for me. There is something so pure within a mother’s heart that it mirrors the love God has for us, that it reflects God’s loving presence on earth.
Love is very often understood as a strong feeling or emotion towards someone. When somebody is strongly attracted to someone or something, they “love it.” But is this love? Is this love in the truest sense? Not really. Love certainly will have an emotional element to it but it will not be based on emotions or feelings.
So, what is love? Love is a choice. Specifically, as Jesus identifies in the gospel: Love is a choice “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus is the ultimate friend. No love is greater than the love he offers. This is not an abstract love, but a divine affection that we can experience if we allow ourselves to.
Yes, Jesus laid down his life for us his friends – as the greatest manifestation of his love for us. But he did not stop there. Every day, he offers us gifts of his love. He offers us peace when we are troubled, anxious, and distressed. He offers us rest and repose when we are tired and burdened. He offers us gentleness and kindness when violence seeks to rage in us. He offers us patience and calmness when something or somebody irritates us. He offers us forgiveness and reconciliation when resentment and bitterness threaten to harm or destroy our relationships.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Mothers never stop laying their lives for their children. How about us? How do we lay down our life for one another? Laying down one’s life in love may sometimes involve real or physical death, as it did for the martyrs of our faith or heroes and heroines of our nation. But more often, it means a lot of little “laying downs” every day. It means laying down our selfishness – selfish wants and desires, selfish ambitions and interests – to attend to the needs of others. It means laying down our time for leisure and relaxation to visit a sick who needs our compassionate presence, or to listen to someone who needs unburdening. It means laying down our comforts and conveniences to serve our Christian community and our parishioners by getting actively involved in a parish ministry. It means laying down our over-spending for self-indulgence to be able to share more to the needy.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, You love us with a reckless, foolish love… with a selfless, self-sacrificing love. May we imitate Your self-giving love… may we learn to love without measure. Give us a heart like Yours, Lord Jesus… a heart that is able to love without asking anything in return. Amen.