19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 9th 2015.
1Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51
The power of imitating Christ
“I will raise him on the last day.”
A man received a text message during Mass from a neighbor that read, “Return home immediately. You do not have your family anymore.” After the Mass, he rushed home to find that his wife of over 25 years marriage had left him along with his two teenage kids and moved abroad, taking along with them all their personal belongings. The abandoned man, with deep sorrow, said to me about his marriage, “I knew we had problems in the marriage but we were working on it and I was hoping we could wade this storm together.” For whatever reason, the mending work was obviously too late or too little. After over a quarter of a century together in marriage, the man found himself alone and without his family.
I do not know the full story of the relationship or which spouse is responsible for this painful separation. It is also sometimes necessary for some estranged spouses to separate. But I could not help but wonder why human love could be so intense and fickle. Why do we love intensely for so long and then suddenly give up and walk away from our relationships that we have invested so much in? There are obviously many possible reasons but one factor that we should pay attention to is the question of model. Who is our model and example for loving? The answer will determine how enduring our love for others will be.
In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul addresses the divisive forces in the Ephesian community – “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice” – by calling them to imitate God as His children, “So be imitators of God as beloved children.” Since this invisible God has taken on visibility in Jesus Christ, they are to look to Jesus Christ as the sole model of love, “Live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Jesus Christ “loved His own to the very end,”(Jn 13:1) and died for us “while we still sinners.”(Rom 5:8) If Jesus Christ becomes the ultimate example and model of the disciple in all things, they will experience the power of His Spirit to love others to the very end just like Christ has loved us.
Besides, the Spirit is given to us to be and to do what Christ is and what He did. In short, we are to be children of God who love God and others to the end. We will not “grieve the Holy Spirit” as long as we allow Him to lead us in the same path of enduring love that Christ walked. But if Jesus Christ is not our ultimate model of love, we both grieve the Holy Spirit and our own love will lack the needed endurance for loving others to the end.
Jesus Himself looked to the Father as a model of love and thus drew from Him the power to love till His last breath, “The Son can do nothing on His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever He does, that the Son does likewise.”(Jn 5:19) The Father was both His example and His source of energy in His mission of selfless love. Our love for others will die when if we too do not look to the God-man Jesus Christ as our ultimate model example of love and our support in enduring love.
Every vocation in the Church is a call to love God and others like Christ did. Sometimes we can feel like Elijah in today’s First Reading who is so discouraged with his own weakness and the level of evil before him that he begs for death, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He feels he cannot keep on loving God and serving Him in His rebellious people. Through the angel, God reveals to him the power hidden in hearth cake, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” By heeding the words of the angel, he has enough strength to walk to the mountain of God. It is God who alone reveals to him the way to persevere in his service to God.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus responds to the murmuring of the Jews by revealing the stages of the journey to eternal life. They have to first of all desist from all murmuring among themselves and listen to the Father who leads us all to Jesus, “the Bread of life,” so that we too can love like Jesus to the very end of our lives, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.” The second stage is to seek to model our lives on Christ. Our coming to Jesus or our love for Him is not complete or concrete unless it leads us to closely imitate His attitude and acts of love towards His Father and others. Lastly, Jesus will raise on the last day those who humbly listen to the Father, come to Him and look to Him as the ultimate model of right living. Because this eternal life is a perfect participation in the divine life of Christ, we cannot hope to have any share in it if we do not love God and neighbors to the end just as Jesus did.
I understand how difficult it is for us to die to self and to imitate Christ Jesus in the daily events of life. We are faced with numerous occasions when the last thing that we want to do is to ponder what a Christ-like response will be. Maybe there is an injury to forgive, an insult to bear with humility, a prayer to pray for one who has hurt us, a battle with sin to face with courage, etc. Murmuring is useless and is only the first step to rebellion. Instead of dwelling on the costs of imitating Christ, let us recall the numerous reasons that move us to imitate Him. We must recall the Father’s loving impulse and invitation to us to draw closer to Christ; we must recall the price that the Son has paid for this life we are called to share with Him. We must remember the presence of the Spirit within us who cannot wait to fill us with His power once we are determined to do the Christ-like thing. Then we have the sweet but strong impulse of the Mother of God urging us to heed the prompting of grace in the words that she spoke at the wedding of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” The Father, the Spirit, and the Apostle St. Paul all point us to Jesus as our supreme guide so that our love will endure like His. We have the Mother of God to both inspire and help us to imitate her Son Jesus as she did too so that His life will blossom within us. Surely we cannot lose out in this battle to love God and others to the end and so gain the life that Christ has won for us.
In every Eucharist we share ever more deeply in Jesus’ unending love for His Father and for us. Let us approach this Eucharist today with the mindset of being ready to imitate Jesus alone. He is the one we must imitate if our love for God and others will not fade away. If we approach Him today with an attitude that says, “Jesus, I want to imitate you in all things, in all times and in all situations,” our love for Him and for others will never die and He will surely keep His promise to us and raise us on the last day.
Glory to Jesus!! Honor to Mary!!